Friday, 3 April 2015

Chinese museum devoted to promoting filial piety

The Straits Times, 31 Mar 2015

GUYI (China) - What makes a good son or daughter? At China's first museum dedicated to the topic of filial piety, the answer seems to be: almost superhuman levels of devotion and sacrifice.

The Modern Filial Piety Culture Museum, situated on a riverbank in the backwater town of Guyi in the south-western province of Sichuan, is part of government-backed efforts to "pass on the value" - as a banner over the entrance exhorts.

The museum opened four months ago and the local authorities provided at least a quarter of its 8 million yuan (S$1.8 million) construction costs, said its businessman founder, Mr Liao Lin.

In a grey brick courtyard building inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, slick panels and exhibits in gleaming glass cases tell of more than a dozen modern- day filial role models.

An introductory panel features equal-sized portraits of Confucius and President Xi Jinping, with a quote from Mr Xi urging officials to read the Standards For Being A Good Pupil And Child, a collection of Confucian sayings.

One featured role model is policeman Wang Chunlai, who gave his bedridden parents years of medical care, injections and blood transfusions. "This man is a classic example of filial piety," said museum volunteer Zeng Yan, standing in front of the Wangs' tattered beds and discoloured bedpans donated after their deaths.

Among the artefacts are a cart in which two sons pulled their mother to more than 600 towns and cities across China to fulfil her dying wish to travel, wearing out 12 pairs of shoes in the process - several of them on display.

Filial piety was the core value of Confucius, and outlandish tales have been used for centuries to spur readers to show parental devotion. But China's three decades of rapid economic growth have put families under unprecedented strain, with millions leaving their parents behind as they migrate to find work. The "one-child policy" family planning rule also means the burden of care will usually fall on a single offspring.

"People will see these perfect examples, and be inspired to do even better," Mr Liao said of his exhibits. "They may feel guilty that they don't care enough for their parents, and return home... That's the kind of result we are hoping for."


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