(This Is China-43) March 2, 2019 – Chapter 44 from THIS IS CHINA


PERSONAL NOTE: I decided to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order a copy from USA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, steve, usa, march 2, 2019   stephenehling@hotmail.com    blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com


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Chapter 44

I grew up with many Indian friends in Malaya. Many were brought over from India to work in the rubber plantations by the British administration. I did not know much of their culture or traditions until I came to study, work and live in America. Many Indians are working in America in high tech companies. And one thing most educated Indian men would tell you is, no matter if you have a PhD or not, you will marry the woman your parents have arranged for you. I never heard of “filial piety” among my Indian friends in America. It is true in India today, a son from a rich family might avoid marrying someone coming from a lower caste in India. The caste system continues to govern Indian social life till today. In the famous American movie, Love Story, the wealthy American father told his son to give up his “poor” girlfriend though they both studied at Columbia University. The son chose to disobey his father. Americans claim we do not live in a caste society, but a classless society, though we often hear American women tend to marry “up” while men may choose to marry “up” or “down”. The problem with Jason is not about up or down…he could not find the girl to suit his taste. So I guess he will remain a bachelor or forced to marry the girl of their parents’ choosing.

Eventually Jason will join many other men in his generation…too busy with work, family and children, to have time for his parents.

From my students, I found out some fathers do not come home regularly. They spend time with the businesses and workers and travel a lot. These men might have other women for sexual relationship and they are not taking care of the development and health of their own children. So forget the time for their parents.

We know in China in the past, most parents lived with their son and daughter-in-law. TV news reported many cases of family disputes. There is now a Chinese law which encourages children to go back home and take care of their aging parents. Will the law bring the children and parents together in modern China?

Students tell me they want to be independent after they grow up. And many of them feel too restricted by their parents growing up. So after growing older, especially going to college, work and getting married, they do not want to live with their parents anymore. “My parents and I have nothing to talk about,” a common remark. Some think there is a generation gap between their parents and them. Their opinions are always different, so they do not want to live with their parents even to see them. It is unfortunate that this is happening in China.

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It is understandable that many young adults leave their families or their hometown to seek a better opportunity for a successful career and a descent lifestyle. They know if they stay with their parents in rural China, there is no future for them to develop a career. And in this case, choosing a career means paying less attention to their parents. Maybe if they are successful, things will change for them in the future.

In modern China, there are many unemployed people. The competition is fierce. If a young man wants to find a good job, he must leave his parents to find a good job in another city far away.

Statistics are showing that some men are actually very poor. They left their hometown and their parents to earn a living. But their wages are low and they cannot afford the train tickets, and so they cannot afford to go home to see their parents. Maybe the government should pay more attention to this problem. What parents really want is for their children to spend some time with them. One solution is to try to find a job that is near your home. We are only a small part of this world, but we are all to our parents. While it is also true many parents don’t want to be a burden to their children. Unless they suffer a serious illness, they do not want to ask their sons for help.

It is also true that some families or men do not want to let their children play with their grandpa and grandma. They think their parents teach their children bad habits. How sad this is in modern China. Statistics do show some grandparents are responsible for the rising obesity among young children. And they blame it on their grandparents for allowing children to eat what they want.

Government should take more measures to tackle this social problem of neglected parents in the society, such as building more old people care centers, providing more pensions to the old. And also the society should spread more information on the virtue of caring for our parents when they need our company and presence in their lives. Caring for our parents has always been a part of our tradition and culture. This is China. In the future, more young men will choose to work in international cities, leaving their parents to live in small poor towns far away. If the government is not going to do something, the consequence will be serious.

China is no different from people in America. We know of cases where the adults continue to spend parents’ money even though they are adults. We also have parents still working hard to buy a house for their adult children. They should take care of themselves more and enjoy life. Let the children work hard for their own money. But some parents continue to slave away for the sake of their adult children.Also many women don’t have a job and the husbands have to earn more to support their families.

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I learned from my students many fathers continue to work hard for the families but their mothers are not doing anything to make some money. “So what does your mother do, now that you are in college?” You are the only child in the family. You are now living in the campus. My mother? “She loves to dance and sing and play mahjong with her friends.” I could not believe my ears. From others I did learn something about why the mothers are not working. “Steve? You have to remember, many mothers grew up at time when most families could not afford to send them to schools. And so because of that, many could not find a decent job in their community.” This is true all over the world: many females do not have the same privileges, attention and care like the males in the society.

In fact, many parents encourage their children to go to big cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai to work to make money. The young adults also think their parents can get money from the government and so they need not give money to them. Chinese people seem to be more concerned with the next generation rather than the old or former generation. In addition, some may think their parents do not need them due to lots of neighbors and relatives around. Modern education barely touches on the importance of respecting and caring for parents. Instead they teach their children to seek for wealth and money. What can the government do? A lot. If people could get what they want, a stable job, enough money, less pressure, they will lead a happy life and then they will have more time and more relaxed minds to pay more attention to their parents rather than jobs. On account of the one-child policy, a couple usually has four parents to pay attention to. They may feel stressful sometimes. On the other hand, the picture of some parents’ generation is different. A mother can have 6 siblings and a father can have 4, so grandparents can be looked after well and get more attention.

The cases concerning old people being driven out of their homes by their sons and daughters are quite common in some parts of the Chinese society. This is an example of the extreme in how people have become heartless and merciless. Today many people view material gains as the symbol of their success, losing their conscience for the important things in life, like taking care of their parents. Filiel piety is not relevant anymore in their modern lives. I heard the news that a man called his parents many times and there was no answer. He came home and found his parents had died and nobody knew about it.

Another possible solution? Some of the leaders of big companies should give workers more time to spend with their parents instead of focusing on making more profits. The government should do more to improve the health insurance and care system in order to help the old people in our society. The community can organize more activities for entertaining the senior people. Young people should not leave their parents to live

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alone, maybe they can live next door or in the same community.

During my seven years as a visiting professor teaching in China, I had avoided talking about filial piety because I had to fight against my mother when I was a teenager. I refused to obey her because she wanted me to be a farmer. In fact I left the ancestral home before I had finished my high school to chase after my own dream, because I could not stand any longer her persistent demand that I should pay more attention to the farm, and less time spent on my books. Yes, I had shared my tragedies with my students, but avoided filial piety in my personal stories. I had to do what was good for me, and my future, and had marched to my own tune. Following in her footsteps would mean denying myself the opportunity to develop my potential and talents to become the man I am today, a writer and a college professor. The farm was not for me. I was a maverick, in her eyes, not a dutiful filial son.

Filial piety is still very much alive in China, in the thinking of many young adults, who continue to care for their parents, but are unable to find the time to see them or visit them or call them. The Chinese government is trying to encourage young adults to call their parents, or to visit them if they have the time. But at least try to talk to them when they have time in their busy working lives in the cities. While the government cannot legislate how to love our parents, but they can encourage the young adults today to call their parents to let them know they are ok and doing fine in their busy working lives. It is only a phone call away.

As a Chinese myself, we are mindful of “karma” and that means we will never escape the consequences of our own behavior. And that means beware of what we are doing because our children are watching our every move. The Chinese has a saying…”our children will do to us what we are doing to our parents”. And that is the essence of karma in our lives.

This is China.


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