Warp, Weft, and Way

Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學

Distant from his son

This topic contains 4 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Bill Haines 1 week, 3 days ago.

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  • #133835 Reply

    Bill Haines

    Long ago when I was an undergrad, a fellow undergrad who was from Korea told me that a traditional Korean gentleman would not speak to his sons until they reached a certain age (8? puberty? I forget).

    I haven’t found any other reference to such a practice.

    I’m curious as to whether anything in Chinese (or Korean) Confucian texts would suggest such a practice. (Aside from Analects 16.13, which doesn’t go very far in that direction.)

    #133885 Reply

    Andrew Lambert

    You might take a look at Mencius 4A18, where Gongsun Chou asks Mencius why mean of virtue do not teach their sons. Mencius’ reply hints at some limitations in the way fathers and sons are expected to interact.

    #133887 Reply

    Bill Haines

    Thanks Andrew! That passage harmonizes in a way with Analects 16.13 in suggesting distance in specific connection with professional training, but I wonder whether that connects with the alleged Korean practice.

    4A18 seems to value a close personal relationship between father and son, and avoiding occasions for offense. I suppose a mutual understanding that the reason for not speaking would be one way to try to avoid occasions for offense, but I wonder if a young child would be capable of sharing that understanding. And I think both passages may be contemplating a son who is already past 8 or puberty or whatever.



    #134599 Reply

    Paha Sapa Press

    Hi. Just found your forum. We published a book last year (but not naming it here to honor the forum’s policy of no advertising). It’s an historical novel during the time of the Taiping Rebellion of the 19th century. Philosophy ranges from Daoist to Confucian to Buddhist thoughts, with a portion relating to the protagonist’s encounter with a Western missionary. Anyway, I hope we can contribute to some of your forums. We’d also like to start a topic concerning China as the “Middle Country.” But, here’s what was written by the author, S.E. Brandenburg in the book we published last year. We know he did extensive research, and when asked about this topic, he said this knowledge probably came from a book, sort of a memoir from around 1905, and had a title that reflected something like, “Life i China.” Hope this helps. Here’s the excerpt:

    “Completely alone, stunned and shaken, Li Chao sat. He felt ambushed. Abandoned. It was not unusual for a family bereft of sons to adopt from a relative. Among the ancients, it was even the custom to swap sons. According to their beliefs, fathers ought to refrain from admonishing or reproving their sons. Provoking a son could result in disharmony and alienation. The exchange was a way to preventing the kind of guilt that arises when emotions cause a loss of composure. It was an attempt to promote peace within families. The Confucian Analects and Rules for Propriety supported this practice, stating that the superior man should maintain a distance from his sons; as planets around the parental sun, they orbit—but don’t touch. At that moment, Li Chao understood that he might never . . . fully embrace his real father.
    Knowing ancient customs helped to muffle the shock. When his eyes surveyed what would soon be a mix of colored flowers, he thought of Bing. Raised by an uncle, Bing had no qualms about calling his uncle, “father.” There were others. One unfortunate boy had been adopted into a family without any bloodlines at all—that was a fate without honor. Shi Lu’s adopted brother/husband fell into that category too. Lucky was the person who’d been nurtured by

    ps. we bolded and italicized the text, giving it html characters. Hope this reads okay.

    #134613 Reply

    Bill Haines

    Thank you! That is fascinating. I would be curious to know if the reported tradition was ever carried out to any significant degree; and if so, when.

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