Filial piety fund emerges to keep Chinese virtue alive

Updated 2018-02-17 10:50:04 Xinhua

On the village's bulletin board in Luoning County, Henan Province, has hung a list of all residents aged 70 or above, followed by the names of their children and the contributions each child has made to a special fund.

For centuries, Chinese people are proud of the way they treat their parents, which is called xiaodao, or filial piety. Nowadays authorities in rural areas have even turned to a filial piety fund to help maintain China's most treasured virtue.

Villager Li Zhengcai, 70, received 550 yuan (87 U.S. dollars) of funds in January.

"Five hundred yuan came from my five children, and another 50 was from subsidies from the local government and private donations," Li said.

Luoning, an impoverished county, piloted the voluntary fund program in 2017 to encourage children to support their elderly parents.

Luoning is home to more than 16,000 residents aged 70 or above. As of mid-January, its 388 villages had set up the filial piety funds and received 3.87 million yuan, most of it from the 40,000-plus children of the county's elderly.

According to Li Chunguang, Luoning's publicity department head, those whose parents are 70 or above are expected to contribute 100 yuan to the fund each month. The county government and private donors add a subsidy of up to 50 yuan for each senior.

There were about 230 million people aged 60 or over in China at the end of 2016, close to 17 percent of the population. More than half of them were "empty-nesters," who live apart from their children.

For thousands of years, the Chinese have relied on their children to take care of them in their old age. The Chinese saying, "Of all virtues, filial piety is the first" demonstrates the primacy of respecting one's elders in the culture.

As times change in China, along with the rest of the world, traditional virtues are affected. Villager Yang Guoping said that some unfilial behaviors are found in parts of the country.

Another purpose of the fund, as Yi Jianbo, director with Luoning's poverty relief office, explains, is to eliminate poverty caused by unfilial behavior.

Some elderly people live in poverty because their children are either unwilling or unable to contribute to their wellbeing.

"The country's poverty relief efforts should not pay the bills for adults who are able but unwilling to support their aged parents," Yi said.

Many places in China have started pioneering ways to put an end to unfilial behavior. The People's Court of Wan'an County in Jiangxi Province lists unfilial children on a blacklist and makes their names public to shame them.

China's "No. 1 central document" for this year sets specific tasks for the country's rural vitalization strategy. It emphasizes civic-mindedness in rural areas including filial piety among farmers.

Dai Songchan, 80, does not have to worry about money anymore. Her children are regular contributors to the piety fund in Gaowan Village, through which she receives 550 yuan each month.

"Being poor should not become our excuse for failure to fulfill filial duties. We should set a good example for our children and let the traditional virtues pass down to the next generation," said Yang Fengping, Dai's daughter-in-law.

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