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Three Confucian Values:
Filial Piety (Xiao)

Robert Oxnam :: Respect for one's parents, filial piety, is considered the most fundamental of the Confucian values, the root of all others.

Wm. Theodore de Bary :: Almost everyone is familiar with the idea that filial piety is a prime virtue in Confucianism. It's a prime virtue in the sense that, from the Confucian point of view, it's the starting point of virtue. Humaneness is the ultimate goal, is the larger vision, but it starts with filial piety.

[Excerpt from the Analects of Confucius]

Few of those who are filial sons and respectful brothers will show disrespect to superiors, and there has never been a man who is respectful to superiors and yet creates disorder. A superior man is devoted to the fundamental. When the root is firmly established, the moral law will grow. Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity.


Robert Oxnam :: Filial piety derives from that most fundamental human bond: parent and child. The parent-child relationship is appropriately the first of the five Confucian relationships. Although the child is the junior member in the relationship, the notion of reciprocity is still key to understanding filial piety. The Chinese word for this is xiao.

Image of the character xiao

Irene Bloom :: The top portion of the character for xiao shows an old man and underneath, a young man supporting the old man. There is this sense of the support by the young of the older generation and the respect of the young for the older generation, but it's also reciprocal. Just as parents have looked after children in their infancy and nurtured them, so the young are supposed to look after parents when they have reached old age and to revere them and to sacrifice to them after their death as well.