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Kowtowing to parents a welcome tribute

( China Daily ) 2015-01-15

It was a spectacular scene, although it looked alien to modern Chinese society: a large number of students in a Shanghai school kneeling down in front of their parents in a traditional “ritual of worship”. With solemn playing in the background, more than 800 teenage students kowtowed or went down on their knees in a spacious hall of privately run Binxin School in Shangahi’s Jiading district to pay obeisance to their parents and then listen to their “edifying words” in a show of filial piety.

The school authorities said the ceremony was held to carry forward traditional Chinese culture and revive Chinese virtues and ethics that are disappearing from society.

But the event has sparked a debate on the Internet, with critics saying the move is tantamount to forcing youngsters into humility and defending “feudal hierarchy” which prevailed in imperial China. The practice, they say, is against the modern concept of “mutual respect” and “equality”. Some even claim that forcing children to go down on their knees against their will is a violation of the Law on the Protection of Minors and educational laws and regulations.

As a matter of fact, every time Chinese people try something similar in order to spread or preserve traditional culture — such as organizing a group “adulthood ritual” with participants dressed in long robes — it draws criticisms. A set of photographs circulated on the Internet in November showing students of a reputable college in Beijing dressed in long gray gowns kowtowing to teachers at the start of a new semester created an online storm and invited criticisms from many netizens. Most of such events have been described by netizens as attempts to catch eyeballs.

China has made unprecedented economic and social achievements since the launching of reform and opening-up in the late 1970s. It also has integrated itself into the global system. However, there are growing concerns that a modernizing China is losing many of its excellent traditions. The lack of minimal mutual respect and tolerance is becoming common in society. And an increasing number of people are becoming cynical or apathetic to what they believe is not their business, as indicated by passersby ignoring the calls of senior citizens or accidents victims for help.

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