The Ancient Chinese People's View of the Importance of a Harmonious Family Life
(Clearwisdom.net) Promoting affection within the family is, in the narrow sense, to take care of one's parents. In the broad sense, it includes affection between siblings, harmony between husband and wife, as well as harmony between other family members. Confucianism believed that "regulated families" is the prerequisite to "well-governed states." It was said in Zhouyi (The Book of Changes): "[When the] Family is rectified, the state is stable." The Classic of Rites says: "Regulated families bring about well-governed states." A father is kind and a son is filial, brothers are amicable and a wife is her husband's echo. These have been family guidelines upheld by Chinese people for thousands of years. They are principles of morality and justice which people should believe and obey.
"Piteous parents, you work so hard to raise me!" is a poetic excerpt from "Laoe" in the chapter of "Xiaoya" in the Book of Odes, expressing a son's appreciation for his parents. It repeatedly describes how hard parents work to raise and take care of children; and how, when the parents are old, one should pay back their grace.
In addition to this early poem that mentioned respecting parents and cherishing the memory of parents, there was a book in the Classic of Filiality in the Confucian school's works. In it, it can be seen that ancient Chinese people paid much attention to "filial piety." Filial piety is part of traditional morality. The Chinese nation has traditionally respected the old and cherished the young since ancient times. The chapter entitled "The Son of Heaven" in the Classic of Filiality says: "One who loves one's parents does not dare to hate others' parents; One who reveres one's parents does not dare to spurn others' parents." It promotes harmony among people.
In the chapter "Xue Er" in Lunyun, Confucius said: "One should try one's best to respect and take care of one's parents." The Confucian School believes that basic human virtues include respect for parents, love for siblings, devotion to one's country and keeping one's word. Filial piety is most important. Since ancient times, there has been a saying: "Filial piety is the first among a hundred good deeds." If a person has filial piety, he will bring harmony to the family and handle other relationships well. This is why the ancient Chinese people said: "If the family is harmonious, everything will flourish" and, "Family is rectified and thus, the state is stable."
Yet this great affection is not unprincipled. In the Spring and Autumn Period, Yan Zi said to Qi Jinggong, the king of the Qi State: "As long as the father is amicable, the son is filial, brothers care for each other, the husband is kindly and the wife is gentle, the family will be harmonious. Society will function normally by way of courtesy." A father should love his children, but he also must pay attention to their education; a son and daughter should respect their parents, but they also should give advice to them as the occasion requires. In a harmonious family, people should understand and respect one another.
Promoting affection within the family is a moral tradition for the Chinese nation. We can see profound affection expressed in many poems which have won universal praise. Meng Jiao's "A Poem by a Traveling Son" reads:
The thread in the hands of a fond-hearted mother,
Makes clothes for the body of her wayward boy;
Carefully she sews and thoroughly she mends,
Dreading the delays that will keep him late for home;
But how much love has the inch-long grass,
For three spring months of the light of the sun.
This poem expresses the poet's appreciation for the mother, who's love is so selfless and grand that it compares with the sun's grace towards the tiny spring grass. We can never thoroughly repay it.