Posts Tagged ‘xiao jing’

Xiao is not Just Duty   孝不限于义务

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

People ask me why I translate xiao as being good to parents and not being dutiful to parents or being dutiful as a son or daughter. It’s because xiao is more than just duty; it is a whole way of living one’s life. Xiao Jing, the first and most authoritative Confucian work on xiao, says that the xiao of people occupying various positions in society, such as emperors, ministers, officers, commoners, and so forth, is to be good at their callings. Xiao Jing also says that to be xiao, one must not only serve and provide for one’s parents well, but must also engage in good conduct both inside and outside the family.

有人问我,为什么把孝翻译为“对父母好”而不是“对父母尽义务”或“执行子女的义务”呢?这是因为孝不单是义务,孝是整个生活的方式。《孝经》是孔教解说孝的最早和最具权威性的经典;它说,社会不同地位的人,例如天子、大臣、吏士、庶人等,他们的孝,都是要把自己的职责做好。《孝经》又说,要孝就不光只是供养侍奉父母好,还须要家庭内外的行为都好。

Also, being dutiful often conjures up grim-faced carrying out of some painful task or of some sort of sacrifice, but xiao also includes the normal day-to-day life, the normal day-to-day interactions with parents, some of which may be joyful, like playing and not drudgery. One example is keeping parents up-to-date on one’s activities and situation, which is one of the demands of xiao (see verse 12, p.7 Xiao Jing : often truly xiao offspring have such a good relationship with the parents that updating them means enjoyable and relaxing conversation that all parties look forward to. Another example is respectfully listening when parents teach: offspring should have a relation with parents healthy enough that offspring realize the teaching from parents are greatly beneficial and something to look forward to. Teaching by parents can be fun and enjoyable: I remember well myself looking forward to and greatly enjoying the Sunday afternoon teaching of Chinese classics by my father to my brothers and me as young children.

另外,“尽义务”令人联想起辛苦的事务或某样的牺牲,但孝也包括普通的日常生活,跟父母普通的日常相处。这些都不一定是劳工,亦有愉快、好像是玩游戏的。例如孝要求子女对父母报道活动和情况:很多时候真正孝的子女跟父母关系很好,报道就是个很开心、很轻松、双方都盼望的会话。另一个例子就是孝要求,父母教导时要恭敬会心地听。子女跟父母的健康关系应该达到这个程度:子女们知道父母教导是非常有益的、应该欢迎的,而父母的教导,是可以有乐趣的,令人愉快的。我记得小孩子时,爸爸每星期日教我和我哥哥学古文,我那时觉得这教导多么好玩、多么令人盼望。

Therefore, I feel xiao is better translated as “being good to parents”.

所以,我觉得把孝翻译为“对父母好”比较适合一些。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Xiao 孝 Has Never Meant Blind Obedience or Blind Submission

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

There is a totally unfounded idea among a lot of people that xiao means blind obedience. Why, just the other day someone came up to me and said, we can’t just say xiao; we’ve got to say xiao for modern people, because nowadays you can’t have just blind obedience. Goodness! Does xiao mean blind submission to authority? Is that what the sages have taught?

No, definitely not. As we can see from just Di Zi Gui (“Rules for Students”) alone, even such a text, meant to be a primer for children, teaches that parents may be wrong sometimes. Moreover, Di Zui Gui teaches that when parents are being unrighteous, xiao requires offspring to remonstrate and dissuade. Di Zi Gui (see P. 9) actually spends a lot of time on how to remonstrate and dissuade, and on persisting in doing so even if one incurs wrath and punishment from one’s parents.

One of the most important Confucian works, the “Annotations to the Thirteen Classics (十三經注疏)”, says that there are three things that are very un-xiao, and one of them is to blindly obey one’s parents even when there is error and thus to entrap one’s parents in moral unrighteousness. (於禮有不孝者三,事謂阿意曲從,陷亲不義,一不孝也。)

In Xiao Jing (孝經), when Confucius is asked whether if a son is obedient to his parents, then he should be considered xiao, Confucius says, “What kind of talk is that? What kind of talk is that? (是何言歟?是何言歟?)” Then he goes on to explain that having a son who will remonstrate and dissuade keeps a father from falling into moral unrighteousness.

Thus, no, xiao has never meant blind obedience and blind submission, not in the old days, and not now.

Feng Xin-ming


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Being Xiao 孝: One Should Frequently Update one’s Parents on one’s situation

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Di Zi Gui says that one must “always tell the parents when one goes out, and always see the parents face-to-face when one returns.” Di Zi Gui, p.7. One tells one’s parents when one goes out so that parents wouldn’t worry so much. One always sees one’s parents face-to-face when one returns so that parents could see that one is alright.

Why must one do that? The reason is that parents love their children deeply, and worry and fret about them when their condition is uncertain. Yes, the kindness of parents! As the classic Xiao Jing says, there is no greater kindness than this. So one must lessen their worry and their anxiety, and to do that one must tell one’s parents about one’s condition, including, when one is living at home, reporting to parents when one goes out and when one returns. One must update one’s parents frequently about one’s condition. That is one of the important ways to carry out xiao.

Feng Xin-ming


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Xiao` (孝), or Being Good to Parents and Ancestors

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

In Traditional China, 孝 xiao`, or being good to parents and ancestors, is considered the foundation of civil society and the guarantee of moral behavior. (See Xiao Jing, “The Classic of Xiao.”) The idea is that when one is brought up being good to one’s parents and ancestors one will be conditioned to be good & respectful to all the other people that one deals with outside the family. Also, one will diligently fulfill the duties pertaining to one’s station in life, so that one will make one’s parents and ancestors look good, and so that one will maintain the means to support one’s parents and make offerings to one’s ancestors. Thus, the Emperor or Son of Heaven will rule well and be kind and respectful to his subjects, because he has been conditioned that way by xiao and because he wants to bring glory to his ancestors by winning praise from his subjects. Likewise, the Dukes, the Ministers, the Officers, and the Common People, i.e. all the classes of people in society, will also diligently fulfill their duties and be good and respectful to all people they deal with. Thus great order reins, and moral conduct is guaranteed.

Unlike most traditional societies, Traditional China has basically been a secular society. Organized religion has not been the dominant force in Traditional China. At the foundation of morality is not divine commandment but secular xiao`, taught by the secular philosophy of Confucianism. In order to understand the Traditional Chinese worldview, it is essential to understand xiao`.

Feng Xin-ming


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