Earlier this week, a man was captured on camera kowtowing in the middle of a Shandong railway station to his elderly parents. After details of his story leaked out, netizens have been hotly debating the man’s act of filial piety.
According to Sina, 46-year-old Zhang Jinli is a worker at a pharmaceutical company in Beijing. Apparently work has kept him pretty busy, because this Spring Festival was the first time that he had returned home in four years. Moreover, he had to take a overnight train back to Beijing on Wednesday to return to work early.
Zhang’s octogenarian parents accompanied him to the Zibo train station where he was apparently overcome by emotion and prostrated himself on the floor, feeling that he was an unfilial son and unworthy of them.
Of course, fellow Shandong-native Confucius was a famous advocate for respecting one’s elders and his beliefs have gone on to greatly influence Chinese society for more than 2,000 years, though some believe that his teachings have been overlooked of late.
The story has gained more than 25,000 comments on Sina News and thousands more on Weibo. Most have cast shame at Zhang and questioned the efficacy of his display of filial piety.
“Go ahead and leave, young man! But your old parents don’t have many more four years to wait,” commented one netizen.
“You’re over 40 years old and you never help your parents? Is work that important? That you could stay four years away from home? Is Beijing really that far from Zibo? And another thing that you don’t want to hear, how many years do your parents have left? Instead of kowtowing them, why not just visit home more often,” wrote another netizen.
“A kowtow is a symbolic act, you need to do something real for them,” agreed another Weibo user.
“He’s just totally overdoing it, kowtowing in a crowded place like,” commented one netizen.
While some saw it as fake, others couldn’t help but be moved by Zhang’s public act.
“What is wrong with feeling overcome with emotion? Don’t just act like other people’s filial devotion must be fake. You’ve never bowed like that to your parents in your life!” argued one web user.
“To kowtow like that, right out in public, takes a lot of guts. I respect this man,” commented another netizen.
Meanwhile, other commenters have tied the man’s story into larger themes in modern Chinese society.
“Our economy may be improving, but our morals are rotting,” explained one netizen.
“Filial devotion is no longer important to people anymore. Money is,” wrote another web user.