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Home  /  Inside China  /  老吾老 – 'Caring for the Old' Vocabulary
老吾老 – 'Caring for the Old' Vocabulary print version
Here are some of the terms that appear frequently in the media and public discussions when it comes supporting China's elder population. Traditional virtues and modern limitations are often in an intense clash.

The Confucian value of 孝 xiào (filial piety) has survived thousands of years as a building block of Chinese family relations, and although times are changing and families are becoming smaller, it is still stressed upon in internet portals, TV shows and also by politicians. The latter are doing it not only as a way to revive the 'struggling' tradition, but also since they are aware that the financial support that the country provides to the elders is very limited.

This brings us to the second term here, pension - 养老金 yǎnglǎojīn or 退休金 tuìxiūjīn (literally: Money for supporting the elderly and retirement money, respectively). With the overall amount of pension consisting less than 7% of the annual GDP, no wonder that traditional values are also called in to assist the old people in their late years.

Although the general objective of raising the pension rates is agreed upon everyone, a more modern phenomenon as 养老院 yǎnglǎoyuàn 'a facility for elderly support', retirement homes) is considered as controversial, as many regard it as the easy solution for spoiled offspring who wish to neglect the responsibility of taking care of their parents. Still, with only one child in every family, could the '80后' (Chinese born between 1980-1990) generation make it without such 养老院?

Here we find an inevitable clash between the traditional 养儿防老 yǎngérfánglǎo (raising children as an insurance for old age) idiom and the new '月光族' yuèguāngzú slang term, referring to the group (族) of youngsters who cannot manage not the spend all their money (花光) of their monthly (月) income. Nowadays raising children is not an efficient enough insurance for the elders (老保险 lǎobǎoxiǎn).

The new modern lifestyle experienced in Chinese cities, and the Single Child Policy result in what is called '四二一家庭' sì èr yī jiātíng, that is to say, every couple produces only one offspring, hence new grandparents will also enjoy only one grandchild (4-2-1). The population is becoming older 老龄化lǎolínghuà and the burden on the shoulders of the newer generation is getting heavier.

'老吾老' lǎo wú lǎo means respecting one's parents (吾 means 'I' in ancient Chinese), taken from a famous saying by Mencius 孟子: 老吾老以及人之老 (treat all elders as if they were your own parents), 幼吾幼以及人之幼 (treat all children as if they were your own children). How will China integrate between moral principles and concrete policies when it comes to the future of its elderly, and as well preserve the 尊老爱幼 zūnlǎoàiyòu (respect the old, cherish the young) saying as more than an empty principle.

Assisting source: 年轻人身陷“月光族” 未来中国谁来赡养老人? (China Daily)

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