Fil­ial piety fund emerges to help make virtue thrive

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

ZHENGZHOU — On a bulletin board in Li­cun vil­lage, He­nan prov­ince, hangs a list of all res­i­dents aged 70 or above, fol­lowed by the names of their chil­dren and the con­tri­bu­tions each child has made to a spe­cial fund. For cen­turies, Chi­nese peo­ple have highly val­ued the way they treat their par­ents, called fil­ial piety. Nowa­days, au­thor­i­ties in ru­ral ar­eas have even turned to a fil­ial piety fund.

Vil­lager Li Zheng­cai, 70, re­ceived 550 yuan ($87) of funds in Jan­uary.

“Five hun­dred yuan came from my five chil­dren, and an­other 50 was from sub­si­dies from the lo­cal gov­ern­ment and pri­vate do­na­tions,” Li said.

Li­cun is one of 388 vil­lages in Luon­ing, an im­pov­er­ished county that pi­loted the vol­un­tary fund in 2017 to en­cour­age chil­dren to sup­port their aging par­ents.

Luon­ing is home to more than 16,000 res­i­dents aged 70 or above. As of mid-Jan­uary, its fil­ial piety funds had re­ceived 3.87 mil­lion yuan, mostly from the 40,000-plus chil­dren of the county’s el­derly.

Ac­cord­ing to Li Chun­guang, head of Luon­ing’s pub­lic­ity de­part­ment, those whose par­ents are 70 or above are ex­pected to con­trib­ute 100 yuan to the fund each month. The county gov­ern­ment and pri­vate donors add a sub­sidy of up to 50 yuan for each se­nior.

There were about 230 mil­lion peo­ple aged 60 or over in China at the end of 2016, close to 17 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion. More than half of them were “empty-nesters”, who live apart from their chil­dren.

For thou­sands of years, the Chi­nese have re­lied on their chil­dren to take care of them in their old age. The Chi­nese say­ing, “Of all virtues, fil­ial piety is the first” demon­strates the pri­macy of re­spect­ing one’s el­ders in the cul­ture.

As times change in China, along with the rest of the world, tra­di­tional virtues are af­fected.

Yi Jianbo, di­rec­tor with Luon­ing’s poverty re­lief of­fice, said one of the rea­sons for es­tab­lish­ing the funds is to elim­i­nate poverty caused by un­fil­ial be­hav­ior.

Some el­derly peo­ple live in poverty be­cause their chil­dren are either un­will­ing or un­able to con­trib­ute to their well-be­ing.

“The coun­try’s poverty re­lief ef­forts should not pay the bills for adults who are able but un­will­ing to sup­port their aged par­ents,” Yi said.

Many places in China have started pi­o­neer­ing ways to put an end to un­fil­ial prac­tices. The Wan’an county peo­ple’s court in Jiangxi prov­ince lists un­fil­ial chil­dren on a black­list and makes their names pub­lic to shame them into com­pli­ance.

This year, China is set­ting spe­cific tasks for the coun­try’s ru­ral vi­tal­iza­tion, em­pha­siz­ing civic-mind­ed­ness in ru­ral ar­eas, in­clud­ing fil­ial piety among farm­ers.

Dai Songchan, 80, does not have to worry about money any­more. Her chil­dren are reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tors to the piety fund in Gaowan vil­lage, through which she re­ceives 550 yuan each month.

“Be­ing poor should not be­come our ex­cuse for fail­ure to ful­fill fil­ial du­ties. We should set a good ex­am­ple for our chil­dren and let the tra­di­tional virtues pass down to the next gen­er­a­tion,” said Yang Feng­ping, Dai’s daugh­ter-in-law.

ZHOU GUANGXUE / CHINA NEWS SER­VICE

Fish­er­men har­vest near the Yel­low River in Dongy­ing, Shan­dong prov­ince, in Jan­uary last year. The river flows into the Bo­hai Sea at the city.

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