The Chinese character 孝 (pronounced xiao) expresses the traditional Chinese concept of filial piety—respecting, honouring, and caring for one’s parents.
孝 is often used in conjunction with the Chinese character 顺 (pronounced shun). The term 孝顺 refers to demonstrating filial piety toward one’s parents as well as complying with the commands and teaching of parents.
In particular, the character 顺 has the same pronunciation as the name of Emperor Shun (舜). It is fitting since it can be said that Emperor Shun is the greatest exemplar of the virtue of filial piety in history, and it was because of his exceptional filial piety that he became emperor.
From a young age through to adulthood, Shun suffered a great deal of mistreatment by his stepmother. Yet he never developed any resentment toward her.
Shun remained true to the principle of filial piety even upon his rise in position in society, after being recognized by Emperor Yao and after taking the emperor’s two daughters as his wives.
孝 also has a number of broader meanings. It may be used to refer to the loyalty that ministers have toward the monarch and the country. It may also be used to refer to harmony between brothers, and integrity and faithfulness between friends.
Such an environment of harmony, integrity, faithfulness, and absence of conflict provides comfort to parents and thus represents a form of filial piety toward one’s parents.
On a broader level, loyalty and allegiance toward the monarch, which allows for peace and justice in the country and a life of joy and order for the people, is another form of filial piety toward parents.
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