Father's Day 1915, Korea
"There are many ways in which a son is to serve his parents. If their bodies itch he is to scratch them" and other pearls of Filial Etiquette.
Ah, the challenge of celebrating Father's Day! When we want to honor dear old dad, is there something more substantial than buying him another tie? "Yes!," the color ads inform us - "Honor Dad Better" by giving him some store's gadgets.
Perhaps honoring one's father meant more in another time in another culture. Exodus 20:12 says, "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you."
A century-old set of instructions called FILIAL ETIQUETTE: A KOREAN CONFUCIAN TRACT details the Korean past's propriety toward parents. This document was translated at the time by Rev. C. T. Collyer and published by "The Korea Mission Field" in 1915. It is presented unabridged without comment for your Father's Day pleasure:
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The Emperor U-Jai-sun (2255-2205) gathered his disciples together and as follows taught them the principles of Filial Etiquette.
Father and son must be on good terms. Sons must rise at cockcrow, bathe themselves, comb their hair, put on their kwans, dress themselves and put on their big belts. When properly dressed they must present themselves before their parents and inquire of them whether the room is warm and everything is to their comfort.
There are many ways in which a son is to serve his parents. If their bodies itch he is to scratch them. When they wash, to hold the bowl so that the parents may bathe in comfort and when ready for it to hand them the towel. To respectfully inquire what they will take to eat, and then with honor to serve the meal, to wait until a portion of the food is eaten so as to ascertain whether it is to their taste and then to retire. After the meal both son and daughter-in-law should go to the parents to learn from them whether there is anything they wish done or errand to run.
When nothing has been given them to do, to remain where the parents are so that they may receive their orders. When spoken to, always to reply in humility and never to "answer back." If sent on an errand to go quickly. In all matters to be obedient and faithful as well as respectful.
When parents desire to lie down, to prepare the place for them after inquiring in which direction they will lay their feet.
The young people are to receive their clothes and fold them, to place their shoes and walking-stick in such places as can easily be found, and where there is no danger of the old people stumbling over them.
There are a number of things that must not be done in the presence of a parent, - to yawn; to peep about; to blow the nose; if the body is cold not to don extra clothes before them; however ones body may itch, not to scratch it; and never to laugh at anything unless the parent laughs.
Nothing belonging to the parent to be taken or used without permission. If a neighbor comes to borrow anything, to ask permission to lend it before actually doing so.
Etiquette requires that a son shall neither sit on a higher level nor in front of a parent; that he shall not stand or walk immediately in front of them.
The daughter-in-law, because she is the son's wife, is to serve just the same as the son. She is to wrap her head in a black cloth and to wear a hair pin. She is to sleep in the house with her parents-in-law and be careful to make no noise. Always to be obedient to them. Frequently to ask after their comfort and their healthy, and in all respects to honor them.
It may be said that the reverence of parents is similar to the carrying of a bowl full of water, unless much care is exercised the water will be spilt. In like manner unless much care is taken in doing all things respectfully and correctly an offense against the parent is comitted [sic].
If told to do a thing that may seem imnpossible to perform, it is nevertheless necessary that the attempt should be made. "When there is no voice, not to listen, and when there is no presence not to look."
One must always be dignified and do all things in the spirit of respectfulness.
Confucius has said that during the lifetime of the parent the child should go no long distance away, and should never refuse to obey an oder, to which may be added, - "No matter how busy one may be or even if eating one's rice, the call of a parent is to be immediately responded to."
Chung-cha says, "do not forget to be happy if your parents love you, if your parents hate you do not complain. Even though your parents say that which is offensive to you, reply meekly."
-- Dave Hackett