Free Essay - The Role of Filial Piety in Confucianism

Published: 2023-10-09
Free Essay - The Role of Filial Piety in Confucianism
Essay type:  Cause and effect essays
Categories:  Philosophy Family Asia
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1985 words
17 min read

Leaders of the nation require the people they lead to obey respect and follow them the same way they obey, care for, and respect their parents and their elderly relatives or family members. Confucianism is well-defined as a system of ethical and social philosophy, and it is not more of a religion. This concept of social and ethical philosophy system is built on the foundations of an ancient religion to establish the institutions, social values as well and transcendent ideas of the traditional society of the Chinese people. The reason why Confucianism was coined and or developed was to make sure that the people of Chinese society were influenced to offer respect and obey the rules of their leaders based on the moral values of the society.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Filial piety (孝 xiào), a foundational virtue within the Confucian ethical tradition, was originally written by the Chinese philosopher Confucius. As a teacher, Confucius instructed the young in ideals that were different from those of the world around them. Confucianism (one of the most influential philosophies in Chinese history) revolves around main concepts such as family, humanity, ethical cultivations, traditions, and rituals that have been passed down through generations. Confucian family values regarding filial piety, family harmony, and gender roles have influenced both ancient and modern Chinese family values, ethics, and morals. Discussed in this paper is the role of filial piety is the enormous role that filial piety plays in shaping the ethos of Confucianism by upholding peace and respect within families, maintaining moral order in societies, as well as teaching individuals to be loving and affectionate; benefitting all individuals.

Discussion of the Role of Filial Piety in Confucianism

As stated earlier in the introduction, filial piety is the religious practice of people respecting, obeying, and honoring their parents, relatives, and the elderly as a way of creating harmony among the people. Filial piety plays an important role in the leadership system of Confucianism, which is mainly used in Chinese countries. Filial piety promotes harmonious relations in the households by upholding peace and respect within the family members. Therefore, this means that the members of the family are only interested in doing good to all the other members of the family at all times, and this is the case with both the elderly and the younger. The creation of harmonious relationships of the family is a responsibility of all the family members, and it works to create a very strong bond between them. Where there is a good relationship of members in a family, there are various things that are manifest within that family, which include reverent, self-sacrifice as well as unconditional love and care for one's parents during the time they are alive up to the time they are dead.

First, “In a family set up or rather family life, the relationships between husband and wife, father and son, brothers and sisters are all based on the central concept of filial piety” (Yu-Wei 1959, p.1). In other words, the way that the members of a family interact with each other strongly relies on their understanding and practice of filial piety. It is the binding factor that puts all the family members together through peace, harmony, care, and love. The cohesiveness of the family provides a firm foundation on which societies can be built, and this is mainly because society is made up of many families who are brought together under one leadership. For these leaders of society to be respected by society; therefore, the family, as the basic unit, must make use of filial piety before Confucianism can. Societal or political leaders who lead the people from families who understand how filial piety works can enjoy a good relationship between them and their people because the same way that all these families respect each member in the family, the respect and harmony are extended to the other societal members as well as the leaders themselves.

Filial piety is a “root of perfect goodness,” so that once “the root is well established, the Way will flourish” (Confucius 1971, 1.2). As a root, filial piety sets the attitudinal and characteristic patterns of an individual as applied towards familial relationships. Confucianism places emphasis on treating each other with compassion. Through filial piety, all the members of a family can build a positive attitude towards one another and develop the characteristics which work to do good for them at all times. As the base of perfect goodness and all good things, filial piety applies in Confucianism to allow the members of the whole society to have a special connection with one another such that they treat each other well. Every good thing that a societal member does for the other in Confucianism is stepping stone for strong relationship building, and all these work together to promote unity, love, and respect among the societal members, thus making the work of the leaders easier in uniting the people.

“Filial piety prescribes the ideology of devotion by the grateful child to the parent, and also places debt and obligation at the heart of the discourse on parent-child relationships” (Ikels 2004, p.182). Parents have spent time raising their children; thus, children should do their duty to be grateful to their parents by being there for their parents in return. With this ideology promoted by filial piety, it is easy for the duo to establish unending connections between them. Each one of them has to play his or her role in ensuring the welfare of others. The main idea which is brought about by this point is that filial piety allows the leaders and the people to be led in Confucianism to ensure that they take their obligations with seriousness, working on them to make sure that everyone in the society is going on well. For example, the leaders take part in all the things that are intended to make the lives of the societal people better, like making laws which are to govern them. For the laws and other leadership policies to function as planned, the leaders have to do their part and then leave the people they lead to do their own. This devotion and gratefulness ideology creates a great bond between the two parties, making it easy for the leaders to lead their people and the people respecting and honoring the things that the leaders do for them and thus following them with respect as a way of giving back.

In the Confucian Analects, it was written, "The Master said, ‘A youth, when at home, should be filial, and, abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the good" (Confucius 1826, 12). For a harmonious society to exist, children must practice filial piety by being respectful to their elders. Filial piety is the determining factor in all areas where the respect of the elderly and others in the community has to be ensured. It should be carried wherever one goes, and they should make sure that in everything they do, they establish a good relationship with all the people they meet. The respectful friendship created through filial piety extends to the leadership through Confucianism. The duty to bring peace and harmony among the people of society strongly depends on the youths and young people. They all have a big role to play as far as ensuring this is achieved is concerned, and they do this by being good examples, mobilizing other youths around them to display such characteristics of love and care to all the elderly people they come across.

Secondly, filial piety is mostly observed as the central component of maintaining moral order in the Confucian societies based on political authority in relationships. Various things can prove this filial piety as a central component of maintaining moral order in the societies that use Confucianism as the basis of their political leadership. The filial piety concept is obtained in a sacred dimension because it was considered to be the main guarantee for maintaining a well-ordered family, a well-ordered state, and, most importantly, a well-ordered world. The “Zhongxiao 忠孝” (“Loyalty and Filial Piety”) chapter of the Hanfeizi 韓非子 states, “Ministers serve rulers, sons serve fathers, and wives serve husbands; if these three relationships are followed, the world will be in order; if they are disobeyed, the world will be in disorder. This is the constant way of all under heaven, which neither a wise king nor a worthy minister dares to change” (Chen 2000). From this, it can be observed that giving authority to the head of a family contributes to social order. Confucianism was, therefore, a belief system that was distinctly political, focused on maintaining order in relationships at many levels. In other terms, everyone has to understand his or her role well and do that role without looking at what the others do. Through obedience and commitment to the responsibility that one has to undertake as a member of the society, everything about this society will be in order, and thus governing the people by the political leaders will be an easy process.

In the second passage in the Analects, the disciple You Ruo 有若 says, “a person who behaves with filial piety to parents and siblings (Xiao and di 弟), and who avoids going against superiors, will rarely disorder society” (Confucius 1971, 1.2). Family ethics are important to keep social order indicating that filial piety is the main step to take in maintaining order in the family system. The point given by this disciple is very true because it is a rare thing to find a person who has been raised in a family that follows filial piety going against the law. For the political authority to carry out its duties well, the filial piety of every member has to be a contributing factor. Respect to authority, the elderly, or each other begins with the individual respect within the family set up. According to this, the family set up is like an image of the governmental and political leadership, and whatever happens within the members of a family is what is likely to occur in the whole society. For example, moral decay and lack of peace, respect among the members of a family will automatically result in a society with corrupted morals, and disobedience to the governance policies of the political leadership will not be evadable.

According to Confucius in The Classic of Filial Piety, “Filial piety is the constant of Heaven, the righteousness of Earth, and the practical duty of Man” (Confucius 1826, 7). It is observed that filial piety is the vital connection between man, Heaven, and Earth, thus, necessary to maintain order not just in Confucius societies, but in the universe. Filial piety itself is based on order, respect, and love for one another. All the people in different religions believe in the existence of a supreme being who is known to be full of order, care, and love for his people. The religious belief that man is made in the likeness of that Supreme Being makes man adapt all the characteristics associated with this being. Therefore, observing order has a big connection between man and heaven thus man is called to ensure that all that he does is meant to bring order and love to the other people and this makes the creation of good relationships and order duty of man at all times whether within the family or societal settings.

Thirdly, in Confucianism, an emphasis is placed on teaching individuals to act with love and affection based on the concept of filial piety. Love is an important value in the social life of all the people, and thus every society is well built where love is advocated for. Motivated by affection, the carrying out of filial piety can be observed when children return the care they received from their parents.

Cite this page

Free Essay - The Role of Filial Piety in Confucianism. (2023, Oct 09). Retrieved from

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism