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Abstract 摘要

China’s citizens are growing old at an alarming rate. The increase in the country’s elderly population has created profound social and economic complications that can be solved only by appropriate policies and moral decisions on caring for aging people. Who will take care of the elderly? Should elderly people depend on their families or on the government? The author of this paper shows that filial or familial piety—the Confucian ideal of moral responsibility for one’s elderly relations—is intrinsic to the traditional Chinese value system, and should continue to shape Chinese society today. The author contends that filial piety is the key ethical principle of Confucianism based on its metaphysical foundation of the Dao. Instead of talking about the rights of elderly people, we should emphasize the moral duty of their adult children.

However, the traditional emphasis on filial piety has been challenged by social changes in the last few decades, especially since China’s economic reform. There are fewer and fewer households with “three generations under one roof,” due to China’s urbanization and one-child policy. More and more people are choosing to invest in institutional care (such as nursing-home care and residential care) as an alternative to traditional familial care. Despite these changes, the author maintains that filial piety, as the core value of the Confucian ethical system, should play an important role in modern Chinese society. Supporting one’s elderly relations (both emotionally and financially) offers not only a practical solution to the problem of elderly care in China, but also an ethical way for family members to fulfill their moral duties and maintain family solidarity. Although Western approaches to community care that combine formal and informal sources of support may in some cases help to meet the welfare needs of vulnerable elderly people in China, a complete rejection of traditional filial piety is far from appropriate. The author concludes that commitment to the traditional ethical value of filial piety enables people to live together in peace and harmony.

儒家的養老觀念具有深刻的思想根源。它有形上根據,也有現實原因。從表現形式上看,儒家的養老觀蘊含在儒家的“孝道”思想之中,由於孝道在儒家那裏既有著形上的天道根源,亦發揮著宗教性的功能,這使得蘊含在這一孝道思想中的養老觀念也兼具了這兩種思想特徵,即儒家養老觀既是形上的天道的要求,同時又具有宗教性關懷的內蘊。基於血親的自然情感因素和人對老年生活狀態的憂慮則構成了儒家養老觀念現實的、直接的緣由。這種由孝道維繫的養老觀念決定了儒家對“老人”界定的特殊性和養老方式的特殊性。在家庭中,“老”是相對於盡孝的義務而言的,而社會層面的“老”則需要加以特殊規定,以便於社會層面的養老實踐。而在養老方式上,這種由孝道維繫的養老觀也決定了家庭或子女是主要的、基本的養老場所和主體,但國家或政府在宣導、維護這種養老觀念上,以及為家庭養老創造必要的物質條件和保障方面,則負有絕對的義務和責任。

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