China Opens $1 Million Museum of Filial Piety

Huang Rui, Chai-na/ China, 20041 - Silkscreen and oil on canvas, 127.5 x 154 cm © the artist, courtesy of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery

A new $1 million museum of “filial piety” (or devotion to one’s parents) has opened in China’s province of Sichuan, the Guardian reports.

The Modern Filial Piety Culture Museum is part of a government scheme to renew the nation’s focus on traditional family values, as young Chinese people are increasingly leaving their parents behind to seek employment opportunities in towns and cities.

The traditionally designed grey brick museum features exhibits focusing on stories of individuals who have displayed extraordinary servitude to their parents.

One example is the story of policeman Wang Chunlai, who gave medical care to his bedridden parents for decades. The museum is now displaying their dilapidated bed frames and bedpans. “This man is a classic example of filial piety,” Zeng Yan, a museum volunteer, explained.

Despite being a cornerstone of traditional Chinese values, respect for elders is being eroded by unprecedented economic development. Suicide attempts amongst the elderly in rural areas are steadily rising, and the trend is being blamed on family neglect.

When a law which required children to regularly visit their parents turned out to be too difficult to enforce, the government launched a series of awareness campaigns. However, critics have pointed out that the efforts may be based on an attempt to minimize the state’s responsibility to provide far-reaching medical care to the elderly.

“If the government is promoting the filial tradition, people can be cynical and see it as the government’s effort to find an excuse of not doing its job,” said Hong Zhang, a researcher at the US-based Colby College.

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