Filiality as the Root

Youzi said, “A young person who is filial and respectful of his parents and elders rarely becomes the kind of person who enjoys defying their superiors. And a person who does not enjoy defying their superiors does not create chaos. “A noble person tends to the roots first. With the roots taken care of, the Way naturally grows. Isn’t filiality and respect for parents and elders the root of humaneness?”The Analects

In this passage, Youzi, one of Confucius’ most accomplished students, discusses the importance of filiality, a key concept in Ruism. Youzi uses an agricultural image that would have been familiar to his audience: tending to the roots of a young plant to ensure it grows strong.

According to Youzi, filiality is the root of humaneness (human goodness or virtue). If a person learns to treat those within his or her family with respect, love, and dutifulness, he or she will naturally tend to treat those outside the family in the same way.

Take some time to think about the roles you play in your own family. In what ways are you filial and where do you need to make more of an effort? If you have children, nephews, or nieces, are you tending to their roots by teaching them to be filial?

About the Author

Ben Butina, Ph.D.
Ben is the President and co-founder of the Ruist Association of America, Inc. and Friends from Afar, an English-speaking Ruist discussion group on Facebook. He's also the creator of Stone Chimes, a modern English adaptation of the Analects of Confucius.