The Words of the Hwang Family

Promoting Filial Piety in China

Kathleen Hwang and Eve Lau
May 2008
Hong Kong FFWPU

Chinese culture is based on a strong sense of family. Filial piety, a deep sense of respect from child to parent, is a central concept of Confucian tradition, which underlies Chinese culture. Yet nowadays many Chinese families, like those everywhere in the world, are suffering from poor parent-child relationships.

In mainland China, of course, Confucian values were ridiculed under the leadership of the Communist Party, especially during the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976. Now, however, the government is aware that the people lack an ethical and moral foundation and is trying to construct one based on "socialist values." In fact it is drawing on Confucianism, especially with the new slogan promoting a "harmonious society."

With the one-child policy in China, the parent-child relationship is under even greater strain, as parents put all their hopes in their one child. At the same time, children are dependent on their parents to help them get a good education and find a good job. External forces bind families together, but internal content is often sadly lacking.

Hong Kong is different, as people here have not been subject to Communist Party rule until the last ten years, and even now they live under the "one country, two systems" formula. But Hong Kong is a very frenetic society, and most families spend little time together as parents work long hours and children study late into the night to pass exams that will determine their placement in a rigorous school system.

Hong Kong's problems are like those in big, developed cities anywhere in the world, and children's interests are more in their friends and computer games than in their families.

Macau, though it is much smaller, has similar problems, with the added complication that big casinos from around the world attract teenagers to work late at night in an unhealthy environment. The city has become the biggest gambling center in Asia since it opened up to foreign investment in its casinos, which ironically started out as a one-family business.

Reviving a traditional virtue

In this environment, for the past three years, Hong Kong FFWPU has sponsored an annual writing contest to promote filial piety in the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau. Our chairman, Prof. Thomas Hwang, selected this as a central component of our character education in Hong Kong, along with promoting pure love. The response has been very exciting, from students, parents, educators and community leaders.

This year we sent letters to all secondary schools in the two territories, inviting students to submit essays on the theme "How can modern youth express filial piety?" Within two months time, we received more than a thousand essays from Hong Kong and a few hundred from Macau. The contest was divided into two groups; students in Form 1-3 (middle school) and those in Form 4-7 (high school). Six winners in each group were selected from Hong Kong and three in each group from Macau.

We approached a number of educators asking them to be judges for our contest. Prof. Leung Tin Wai, head of the Department of Journalism and Communication at Hong Kong Shue Yan University and Dr. Cheung Kwok Chung, associate professor of the Department of Chinese Language at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, graciously agreed to do so.

We then called upon a group of CARP members who are students at the Chinese Language Department of Hong Kong University -- the city's top university -- to do an initial assessment of the essays. They volunteered their time to read and evaluate all the essays, selecting twenty-three from each age group, which were then sent to the final judges.

Rewarding youthful efforts

On April 19, we held the third Filial Piety Writing Contest Award Presentation and Pure Love Seminar in the theater at the Olympic House, a large building that houses many sports associations and was named to reflect Hong Kong's participation in this year's Olympics. (The equestrian events will be held in our city.) This link to the Olympic spirit was a nice touch.

More than twenty prominent members of society and an audience of about two hundred attended the two-hour program. Legislative Councilor Ms. Choy So Yuk came to officiate for the awards ceremony. Other dignitaries included Ms. Lau Sau Chun of the Confucian Academy, representing the academy's president, Dr. Tong Yun Kai; Mr. Tommy Wan, a businessman and donor to many philanthropic programs in Hong Kong and China; and two district counselors, Dr. Jennifer Chau and Ms. Li Kwai Fong.

Representatives of the Lan Fong Women's Association, Tin Shui Wai North Association and some other social leaders came to support the event. The Hong Kong Family Welfare Department and Hong Kong Federation of Women sent congratulatory messages. The Agency for Volunteer Service provided two volunteer photographers, who took photos and video of the whole event. FFWPU-Macau, Hong Kong Youth Federation for World Peace and World CARP also sponsored the event.

Miss Chung Jah Ying and Mr. Michael Ma, both university students and CARP members, served as MCs and opened the program by introducing FFPWU. They explained that FFWPU promotes families of three generations, ideally living together in one house, filled with true love. There wouldn't be any lonely elderly people or unattended children in such families.

In his welcoming remarks, Prof. Hwang asked the audience, "Who is the most important person in the world?" From the audience came responses such as "parents" or "family members." However, he said, "You. You yourself are the most important. Because you are so important, you should do your best to be a devoted son or daughter to your parents, to reward them for giving you such a valuable life." The audience, including our special guests, appeared inspired by this observation.

In her congratulatory remarks, Ms. Choy So Yuk, the legislative councilor, praised FFWPU for promoting filial piety all over the world and pointed out that no one else was doing this. She also found our Pure Love Pledge impressive. She said she would propose to the Hong Kong government that it support such activities to promote filial piety.

Dr. Cheung Kwok Chung spoke on behalf of the judges, saying he was inspired by the heart of students who expressed filial piety to their parents in the essays. He said the most important element in writing a good essay is the truth; a student who does not embody filial piety toward his or her parents in daily life cannot write a true essay. He regrets that people in the modern secular world have all but abandoned the most basic but important virtue, filial piety.

He added that he felt honored to be the judge in such a meaningful contest.

The heart of happy families

The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the prizes. One by one, eighteen prominent citizens presented certificates and trophies to the eighteen winners from Hong Kong and Macau. Those bestowing the prizes praised the winners for devoting their time and heart in preparing such sincere essays.

Mrs. Ramona King, chairperson of the Hong Kong Women's Federation for World Peace and Ms. Teresa Wakui, the organization's president, presented each winner with a copy of a book by Li Ran, Twenty-four Xiao Tu Shuo (Twenty-Four Drawings and Stories about Filial Piety), which WFWP donated. After which, Prof. and Mrs. Hwang gave souvenirs to the special guests, expressing their heartfelt thanks for their support and encouragement.

The program concluded with a Pure Love presentation by Mr. Lai Fook On, director of education for FFWPU-HK, and his wife, Lillian. Together they gave a very lively and interesting presentation about pure love, updated with recent examples of social problems in our own local community. At the end, they invited everyone to stand for the Pure Love Pledge. A nicely designed Pure Love Credit Card, with the pledge written on it, was given to all the attendees. Many people expressed appreciation for this after the event.

At the end of the ceremony, Mr. Tommy Wan gave FFWPU-HK a check for HK$5,000 [U.S. $640] to help sponsor the activity. The Lan Fong Women's Association also gave HK$1,000. Many of our special guests expressed interest in working in partnership with us for the next contest.

The strong point of this event was that it was a cooperative endeavor between FFWPU-HK, our related organizations and the local community. We discovered that our efforts to serve the community are appreciated and there are many people eager to work with us to promote strong family values, including filial piety and pure love. We plan to continue expanding this event in the years to come, to remind Chinese people of the preciousness of filial piety and that it is essential to a happy family. 

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