Support our Elders

More specifically, I learned how and why children take care of their parents when their parents start to get old. I asked half a dozen students about this and gathered not just their knowledge about the tradition but also their opinions about it and personal relationship with it. There was a common thread amongst their responses. The responsibility didn’t just come across as a tradition – instead, it started to sound like a feeling.

One student mentioned a wildly used Chinese idiom to describe the feeling. It goes luò yè guī gēn (落叶归根) or "falling leaves return to their roots." This student, in particular, talked about how he wanted to live abroad and that he loved western culture, but his loyalty remained with his family. His mother recently was diagnosed with cancer as well, so for emotional and physical support, he has decided to remain in China for his post graduate studies. The decision didn’t seem to discourage his morale or crush his dreams though. Instead, it was a responsibility that he had at the top of his priorities all along.

Another student talked to me about how much they missed their parents and friends from their home town. Although she moved to the northern region from the southern region of China, she still wanted to travel back for post graduate studies. "It will help me stay close to my parents when they get old," she said, "they are healthy now, which I am very lucky for, but this won’t last forever."

Compared to the western belief in the power of individuality, China prioritizes solidary. Especially solidarity amongst family members. If one is sick, we help. If one is prosperous, they help those who are not. If one is working hard on a dream, we all support him or her.