The Four Categories of Literature
The Xiaojing 孝經 "Book on filial piety" is a Confucian text focusing on social relationships, especially that between father and son. It is traditionally attributed to Confucius 孔子 (d. 479 BCE) himself, but this attribution has been doubted since the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279). It is assumed, instead, that it was compiled by disciples of Confucius or by Confucian scholars at the end of the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE) or the early Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE). The received version is a product of the Song period and includes the commentaries of Emperor Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (r. 712-755) from the Tang period 唐 (618-907), the zhu 注 commentary, and the Song period scholar Xing Bing 邢昺, the shu 疏 commentary. Although it attracted attention already in earlier ages, it only became part of the Confucian Canon during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126). The Xiaojiang is divided into 18 chapters.
The central term of the book is filial piety (xiao 孝), which is seen as the core concept of the Confucian social system. Filial piety is, according to Confucian philosophy, a social guideline established by Heaven and an appropriate principle of society codified by the Earth. Filial piety is the foundation of all other virtues, and of all actions taken by humans, nothing is of greater importance than filial piety. With the help of piety, a ruler is able to govern his country justly, and through it all people will bring order and harmony into their families. Filial piety, the relation between father and son, is equally in the sphere of the state by the relationship between a ruler and his ministers. In this respect, loyalty (zhong 忠) is the analogon to the principle of filial piety used in the private sphere. In the relation of two brothers, it can be compared with the love of the younger brother for the older (ti 悌).
The Xiaojing gives concrete instructions for the exhibition of filial piety. It has to penetrate all points that father and sons share and all social interactions where both sides are involved. The body is given to a son by his parents, and filial piety means not to harm the own body, i.e. suicide or shaving one's hair, like a Buddhist monk, are expression of poor filial piety. The concept also implicates that sons have to revere and to honour the name and the commemoration of their parents, as expressed in ancestor veneration. The highest form of venerating the own parents is to achieve a high position and a high social standing (li shen 立身). The own position will have an impact on the fame of the ancestors. Of course, physical care for parents is also included in the concept of filial piety, an aspect of great importance also in the modern society, where the social welfare of elderly people is often not secured by the state but has to be shouldered by a younger generation. Filial piety even includes the rituals and mourning rites to be performed on the death of a parent. In traditional China one had to leave office at the death of the father and had to pass through a three years long phase of mourning, in the case of a deceased mother two years.
The own social position also has an impact on how filial piety is conducted. The emperor, as Son of Heaven, did not only have to be filial to the personal parents, but also had to venerate Heaven, and to take care for the people, his virtual children. The Xiaojing defines the requirements for each rank of nobility, the feudal lords ( 諸侯), the grand ministers (qing dafu 卿大夫), and the lower nobility (shi 士). The common man (shuren 庶人) had to follow the path of Heaven, to share the fruits of the soil with others, to be sincere and economical, and to nourish the parents.
Missing filial piety should, as the Xiaojing suggests, also be punished by criminal law.
1. 開宗明義 Kaizong Mingyi The scope and meaning of the treatise
2. 天子 Tianzi The Son of Heaven
3. 諸侯 Zhuhou The feudal lords
4. 卿大夫 Qing Dafu Ministers and high officials
5. 士 Shi Inferior officials
6. 庶人 Shuren The common people
7. 三才 Sancai Filial piety in relation to the three powers (Heaven, Earth, and man)
8. 孝治 Xiaozhi Filial piety in government
9. 聖治 Shengzhi The government of the holy ruler
10. 紀孝行 Ji Xiaoxing An orderly description of the acts of filial piety
11. 五刑 Wuxing Filial piety in relation to the five punishments
12. 廣要道 Guang Yaodao Amplification of the all-embracing rule of conduct
13. 廣至德 Guang Zhide Amplification of the perfect virtue
14. 廣揚名 Guang Yangming Amplification of making our name famous
15. 諫諍 Jianzheng Reproof and remonstrance
16. 感應 Ganying The influence of filial piety and the response to it
17. 事君 Shijun The service of the ruler
18. 喪親 Sangqin Mourning for parents
Source: Chen Ying 陳瑛 (1987), "Xiaojing 孝經", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhexue 哲學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, pp. 1006-1007.
July 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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