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Lessons in Filial Piety Rooted in Chinese Culture Through Confucianism

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Sarah Lee-Park
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Lessons in Filial Piety Rooted in Chinese Culture Through Confucianism

Lessons in Filial Piety Rooted in Chinese Culture Through Confucianism


  1. A rationale for the proposed unit
    This Unit will be taught in 12th grade level English, Modern Literature and Expository Composition.  Students will read an excerpt from The Joy Luck Club and learn about filial duty as it is performed in the Asian culture and its roots.  In doing so, students will be given an opportunity to compare and contrast this idea of filial piety to their culture and home of origin.


  1. Skill and content objectives 

-Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.


- Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

      Speaking and Listening

 -Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-                                                                    one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


  1. Detailed lesson plan


Day 1 (1.5 hour class)


TEXT: Excerpt from The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan


Here is how I came to love my mother. How I saw in her my own true nature. What

was beneath my skin. Inside my bones. 

It was late at night when I went to Popo's room. My auntie said it was Popo's dying

time and I must show respect. I put on a clean dress and stood between my auntie and

uncle at the foot of Popo's bed. I cried a little, not too loud. 

I saw my mother on the other side of the room. Quiet and sad. She was cooking a

soup, pouring herbs and medicines into the steaming pot. And then I saw her pull up

her sleeve and pull out a sharp knife. She put this knife on the softest part of her

arm. I tried to close my eyes, but could not. 

And then my mother cut a piece of meat from her arm. Tears poured from her face

and blood spilled to the floor. 

My mother took her flesh and put it in the soup. She cooked magic in the ancient

tradition to try to cure her mother this one last time. She opened Popo's mouth,

already too tight from trying to keep her spirit in. She fed her this soup, but that

night Popo flew away with her illness. 

Even though I was young, I could see the pain of the flesh and the worth of the



-We will read the entire chapter “An Mei-Hsu: Scar” from The Joy Luck Club. 


-After reading, students will have a discussion about what they have read and write down some questions or comments they have. 


-Students will then read about filial piety in Confucianism, and define the important characteristics of filial piety and why it is important for keeping order in society.


-After reading about filial piety, students will discuss the meaning of the excerpt from the Joy Luck Club.


-students will analyze the filial act described in the Joy Luck Club and deconstruct the ways it shows filial duty.  Then students will be invited to discuss ways that the concept of filial piety can be applied to their own familial and cultural experiences through the following categories:


   -physical care 






Even though there are significant differences between Eastern and Western Cultures and even between modern Asian cultures, there are still fundamental aspects of filial duty that transcends the cultural barriers.  Students should be able to identify at least 2-3 ways they have experienced this philosophy in their lives.


Writing prompt: What are your thoughts on the Confucian principles of filial piety and duty contributing to the stability of society?  What aspects of this are familiar to you and what do you find unfamiliar?  Give your insights as to how these principles are useful in stabilizing relationships in society.  


Day 2 (1.5 hour class)


-Read Shim Cheong, Korean folktale


-Discuss the ways that Shim Cheong displays filial piety and the cultural expectations that are shown in how children are supposed to care for their parents.  Discuss the use of reward to convey positive reinforcement of filial piety in this folktale and contrast to how it is absent in The Joy Luck Club.


-Graphic Organizer: Using a three column chart, compare and contrast the ways that filial duty is shown and rewarded in The Joy Luck Club excerpt and Shim Cheong folktale respectively.


Writing Prompt:  Students will write a response journal about your thoughts and reactions to the ways Eastern culture expects children to honor and respect their parents.  Compare your own experiences with showing respect and duty to the parents and elders in your own family with the way it is shown in the two stories.  


HW- Read Chapter 1 of  Like Water for Chocolate

Think about “the De La Garza family tradition that the youngest daughter is to remain unmarried so that she can care for the matriarch in the matriarch's old age.”  How is this tradition similar to the Asian concept of filial duty?


Day 3 (1.5 hour class)


Warm Up: Even though Like Water For Chocolate is a Mexican novel and does not follow the traditions of Eastern culture, even in the first chapter, there are clear similarities that show the parental authority over grown children that can be compared to the parental power and expectations that are showcased in Asian culture.  Discuss how the De La Garza family tradition echoes the principles of filial piety.


Class discussion: Have an open discussion using examples from literature, history, personal experience to discuss the ways that a person’s worth/value/purpose are shown through their devotion to family and especially to parents or authority figures.  Write examples on the board  and tally votes to see how students identify with the brainstormed exemplars.


Writing Prompt: Write a detailed narrative paragraph that describes a way you have experienced or learned about filial duty in your culture or family of origin that relates to one of the following categories: physical care, love, service, respect or obedience. 250 words minimum