Is filial piety a virtue? A reading of the Xiao Jing (Classic of Filial Piety) from the perspective of ideology critique

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1184-1194
Journal / PublicationEducational Philosophy and Theory
Issue number12
Online published16 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


The recent revival of Confucianism in the PRC raises questions regarding the legitimacy of cultivating Confucian virtues such as ren (仁 benevolence), li (禮 propriety) and xiao (孝 ‘filial piety’ or ‘family reverence’) in an educational context. This article is based on the assumptions that education is an ideologically laden practice and that moral virtues have the potential of functioning to sustain hegemony and other forms of social control. By focusing on the Xiao Jing (孝經 Classic of Filial Piety), a lesser known Confucian classic, it offers the Confucian account of filial piety a charitable reading which then proceeds to examine the ideological dimension of filial piety. By employing concepts such as naturalisation and the public–private distinction in my analysis, I argue that filial piety should be understood through a critical lens. While the question ‘Is filial piety a virtue?’ cannot be answered in a simple, straightforward manner, the discussion on filial piety presented in this article has the potential to shed light on the relationship between politics (understood in a broad sense) and moral education.

Research Area(s)

  • Confucianism, Filial piety, ideology, moral education, xiao