The Classic of Filial Piety, also known by its Chinese name as the Xiaojing, is a Confucian classic treatise giving advice on filial piety: that is, how to behave towards a senior such as a father, an elder brother, or ruler.
The text was most likely written during the early Han and claims to be a conversation between Confucius and his student, Zengzi. The text was widely used during the Han and later dynasties to teach young children basic moral messages as they learnt to read.
This document probably dates to the 4th century BC. It is not known who actually wrote the document. It is attributed to a conversation between Confucius and his disciple Zengzi. A 12th-century author named He Yin claimed: "The Classic of Filial Piety was not made by Zengzi himself. When he retired from his conversation (or conversations) with Kung-ne on the subject of Filial Piety, he repeated to the disciples of his own school what (the master) had said, and they classified the sayings, and formed the treatise."
As the title suggests, the text elaborates on filial piety, which is a core Confucian value. The text argues that if a person loves and serves their parents then they will do the same for their rulers, leading to a harmonious society. For example,
As they serve their fathers, so they serve their mothers, and they love them equally. As they serve their fathers, so they serve their rulers, and they reverence them equally.
The Classic of Filial Piety occupied an important position in classical education as one of the most popular foundational texts through to late imperial China. The text was used in elementary and moral education together with the Analects, Elementary Learning, and the Biographies of Exemplary Women. Study of the text was also mentioned in epitaphs as an indication of a person's good character. It was a practice to read aloud the text when mourning one's parents. The text was also important politically, partly because filial piety was both a means of demonstrating moral virtue and entering officialdom for those with family connections to the imperial court. The text was important in Neo-Confucianism and was quoted by the influential Song figure and Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi.
Many Japanese translations of the Xiaojing exist. The following are the primary Western language translations.
- Legge, James (1879). The Hsiâo King, in Sacred Books of the East, vol. III. Oxford University Press.
- (in French) de Rosny, Leon (1889). Le Hiao-king. Paris: Maisonneuve et Ch. Leclerc. Republished (1893) as Le morale de Confucius: le livre sacré de la piété filiale. Paris: J. Maisonneuve.
- Chen, Ivan (1908). The Book of Filial Piety. London: J. Murray; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.
- (in German) Wilhelm, Richard (1940). Hiau Ging: das Buch der Ehrfurcht. Peking: Verlag der Pekinger Pappelinsel.
- Makra, Mary Lelia (1961). The Hsiao Ching, Sih, Paul K. T., ed. New York: St. John's University Press.
- Ames, Roger T.; Rosemont, Henry, Jr. (2009). The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence: A Philosophical Translation of the Xiaojing. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.