It is perhaps well known that filial devotion had been considered a cardinal virtue unique to Chinese culture in pre-modern China. Understood as such, it was then often translated into various cultural and even political practices. In early China, parents were generically glorified for giving birth and raising the children. Typically no concrete details about their hard work or sacrifice were given. In return, filial children were expected to take good care of their living parents; specifically, they were expected to make a name for themselves often in a political career and bring honour to the family. Filial sons were obliged to continue the bloodline of the family; inability to produce male offspring was deemed the gravest violation of filiality. When their parents died, children observed rigorous mourning rituals and continued to pay regular sacrifice to them thereafter.
This changed when Buddhism was introduced to China. Buddhist converts would now serve their living parents differently and ironically, a new ideal of filiality overrode indigenous norms of filial conduct. Filial devotion was also given new expression as karmic reincarnation was believed to affect the post-mortem destiny of deceased parents. How to fully repay filial debts became a critical concern. In time the Buddhist influence even inspired religious Daoist conceptions of filial devotion that would work in tandem with the erstwhile foreign religion to change Chinese filial practices for good. This talk will outline the evolution of filial practices as a case study of cross-fertilization and mutual accommodation between Chinese culture and Buddhist religion in early medieval China.
About the Speaker
Dr. Lo Yuet Keung is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore. He specializes in Chinese intellectual history and religions covering Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism and their interactions from the classical period to late imperial times. He authored six books in Chinese, including Intratextual and Extratextual: Interpretations of Classics in Chinese Intellectual History (National Taiwan University Press, 2010).He edited two books and co-edited four others, including Philosophy and Religion in Early Medieval China and Interpretation and Literature in Early Medieval China. He also published about 100 book chapters and articles in English and Chinese. Professor Lo is interested in making classical Chinese philosophy and culture accessible to the general public. Since 2014, he has been writing a weekly column (every Thursday) on the Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi for a local newspaper; some of the essays were published as a book called Divining Dreams in a Dream: Essays on the Daoist Master Zhuangzi) [Singapore: City Bookroom, 2016]. Moreover, Prof. Lo was often invited to give public lectures on Chinese philosophy and religion.Currently, he is completing two books on early medieval China, one on Buddhist storytelling and one on Buddhist influence on female virtues.
About the Chair
Prof. Patricia Uberoi is currently Honorary Fellow and former Chairperson of the Institute of Chinese Studies (Delhi). She has long been engaged in research on family, kinship, marriage, gender and sexuality, and on aspects of popular culture and social policy, in reference to both India and China. Some of her well-known books include: Family, Kinship and Marriage in India (ed., 1993); Social Reform, Sexuality and the State (ed.,1996); Freedom and Destiny: Gender, Family and Popular Culture in India (2006); Anthropology in the East: Founders of Indian Sociology and Anthropology (co-ed., 2007); Rise of the Asian Giants: Dragon-Elephant Tango (ed., 2008); Marriage, Migration and Gender (co-ed., 2008); and India's North East States, the BCIM Forum and Regional Integration (with Kishan S. Rana, 2012). In collaboration with Professor Emiko Ochiai (Kyoto University), she has produced a series of books under the general title of Asian Families and Intimacies, comprising papers that are mostly newly translated from various Asian languages (2021).
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