The Value of Virtue in Chinese Culture – Part 1 of 2

I was born in the United States, and when I was a child, youngsters were taught to be seen and not heard. It was expected that we treat our elders and teachers with respect.

After the birth of Disneyland, instant and unhealthy fast food thanks to McDonalds, the Internet, smart phones (I turned mine in for a dumb phone) and the iPod generation, a cultural cancer crept through much of the United States. That cultural cancer killed ‘respect’ for those who are older and for teachers.

In China, that respect, that virtue, is called piety, and piety is very much alive there and in most of East Asia in spite of an invasion of Christian missionaries due to the Opium Wars in the early 19th century, the Korean War (1950 – 1953), the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975), and Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966  – 1976) .

In 1999, I married a Chinese woman who was born in Shanghai, China. She grew up during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. I learned that if you marry a Chinese woman, you marry her family and are expected to treat the family’s elders with respect. That’s when I learned first-hand the importance of filial piety in China.

In fact, when I visit China, my white hair is a symbol that earned me respect. In China, I have never heard, “Hey, old man,” but these are disrespectful words I’ve heard in the United States more than once.

For instance (from an actual event), “Hey, old man, you can’t stop us.” Those were the words I heard after dark one night during the summer of 2008 from a pack of kids taunting me as they raced in and out of our steep, hillside driveway on their bicycles. The reason I didn’t want them playing on our driveway was because if one of those children was injured, we could end up in court.

I called the police, and the next day walked the neighborhood door-to-door asking for support to stop the harassment that had gone on for two years during school holidays and the summer.

When I talked to the mother of one of those rude children, she challenged me. “What was your reason for not letting them play on your driveway?”

I’ve read ‘any damn fool can be a parent’, and that helped me think of something I heard too many times when I was a public school teacher (1975 – 2005).  That phrase is, “kids will be kids” and it is often accompanied with a shrug of dismissal by the parent/guardian, but I refuse to accept that excuse for rudeness and unruly behavior in children.

Continue with Part 2 on May 17, 2017

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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