Essay 1

Submitted By shaybops
Words: 563
Pages: 3

Before 100 CE, the concept of filial piety was already present in China, though it was merely seen as
conditional. In 100-600 CE, however, filial piety became absolute and unconditional. Among others,
there are three main reasons for this change: the decentralization of the state, the fear of losing
authority, and the practice of shengfen.
During the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), the state was losing more and more power. Part of the
reason for this lies with the influence of powerful, non-royal families. These families usually sustained
troops that were trained to be ready for battle at any time; they also kept reserves of workers needed
for agriculture. It is easy to see how the state came to rely more and more on these families, thereby
losing more of its own influence with each passing year. As it got weaker, the state lost its power to curb
the families' influence. Thus, when the Han dynasty collapsed, many of these families were able to seize
power. In order to keep this newly acquired political power, the heads of the families made sure that
their members were cohesive, united, obedient to their elders, and able to support the family in the
political arena. It was even expected of children to treat their parents as lords. In short, family heads
demanded absolute loyalty from their members in order to stay strong politically in light of the newly
decentralized state.
The second reason for the rise of filial piety lies with the family head's fear of losing the loyalty of his
children/familial subordinates. When the family head would grow old and physically unable to
contribute to the family, it was likely that his children would abandon him. Consequently, narratives of
acts of complete deference to elders were often circulated so that younger generations would be
encouraged to continue to treat their elders with respect. These stories would often consists of offspring
being willing to lay their own lives down in order to ensure the happiness and well-being of their parents
and grandparents.
Finally, there was the practice of shengfen, or the splitting of the family heritage. Around the early
medieval period, it was common practice for offspring