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孝、孝顺,孝道、孝敬 all talk of filial piety which is a huge part of Chinese language and culture.

愚孝 on the other hand means "stupidly filial" and is defined by Taiwans Ministry of Education as, “昧於事理的孝行,如割股醫親之類。” which roughly translates as “filial acts without judgement, things such as cutting off the flesh from one's thigh to make a medication for one's sick parent."

abc dictionary defines 愚孝 as, “blind devotion to one's parents,” while cc-cedict says, “unquestioning filial piety.”

Years ago there was a compilation of works called “二十四孝” (the 24 examples of filial piety (selected by Guo Jujing of the Yuán 元 Dynasty) but many of these, so-called, “exemplars” are considered 愚孝 by today's standards, see:

However, in modern times, some stories in The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars are regarded as examples of blind filial piety that should not be learnt from. These stories include: Guo Ju burying his son for the sake of his mother; Wu Meng allowing mosquitoes to suck his blood, believing that they would not bother his parents if he did so; Wang Xiang lying naked on ice in the hope of thawing the ice with his body heat so that he could catch the fish beneath the ice.

There are also some stories which were heavily criticised and even regarded as contradicting Confucian principles. One example is the story of Cai Shun being rewarded by the Chimei rebels for his filial piety: The story paints the rebels in a positive light when they were actually being disloyal to their country[6] by rebelling against the government. Another example is the story of Laolaizi behaving in a childish manner to amuse his parents: The writer Lu Xun mentioned that Laolaizi's story is an insult to the ancients, and has a bad influence on future generations.[7]

So, The Questions:

What was 孝 originally meant to mean?

At what point does 孝 stop being 孝 and become 愚孝?

What does 孝 mean today?

What does 愚孝 mean today?

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This is a good question, but to me it is too deep into cultural/social/judgmental/personal area to be suitable for Chinese Language Q/A. –  NS.X. Jun 1 at 10:18
+1 Because while I don't like the question, I agree with your right to ask it and you did so in a reasonable way. –  Tommie C. Jun 3 at 14:35

3 Answers 3

是(Confirm)是(right thing)非(deny)非(wrong thing)谓之(is)知(smart), 非(deny)是(right thing)是(confirm)非(wrong thing)谓之愚 是:肯定、赞同、承认。 非:否定、摒弃。 第二个为形容词性,即 是:正确的,对的,积极的。 非:错误的,不好的,消极的。 总体上翻译为;能够肯定正确的、否定错误的才是智慧的表现。把错的认为是对的、把对的认为是正确的,那就是愚昧的表现。 孔子 think “仁义礼智信” is the right thing, So if a man doing a wrong thing and think he is do the right for 孝. it's 愚孝

and the rule of the right thing changes with the time.

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Can you give some specific examples of what 愚孝 is in the past and today? –  user3306356 Jun 4 at 6:18
Do anything good for your old man is 孝,it's for past and today, although you do 愚孝, you will also admired, just have pity for you. Chinese think 孝 is one of the best thing in a people. sorry for my English , wish you can get it. –  ztana Jun 4 at 6:27
I think your explanation is fascinating just hoping for some specific examples of what would constitue 愚孝 –  user3306356 Jun 4 at 6:41
like there is one person say bad words to your parents and you are so angry and kill that person. it's maybe good to your parents(as you think). but kill is a bad thing. so that's a 愚孝.but if you do like that people might not think you as a 愚孝, they may think you out of mind.so bad thing,and not so bad like kill a person. –  ztana Jun 4 at 6:51
  1. A young person helps an old person. (http://zidian.kxue.com/zi/xiao16_ziyuan.html)
  2. So far, they are different. 孝 is still a commendatory word. But the concept of 孝 has changed over time, and your cited examples (considered as 愚孝) aren't promoted or encouraged by the society.
  3. Filial piety.
  4. “unquestioning filial piety” as you cited.
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Doesn't answer any of my questions. –  user3306356 Jun 1 at 1:30

Tough Question

This is a difficult question to answer since I have conflicts with the very premise that you've noted (there, I have put my emotion on the table, so now I will try to stick strictly to the answers).

What was 孝 originally meant to mean?

What struck me immediately about this character is that it shares the same radical (耂) used with 老 lǎo (old). Add the 子 zǐ (son, child) and the meaning appears to be connecting the abbreviated character for old with the child (to mean filial piety), (McNaughton & Li, 1999, Reading & Writing Chinese).

At what point does 孝 stop being 孝 and become 愚孝?

This seems like a personal question or maybe one of societal nature. So it's subjective in nature and I can give my opinion.

孝 never stops being 孝 and never, ever becomes 愚孝. Never. I believe in respect for one's parent's and I hope the rest of society agrees. Life is already too short (only 32,650 days if we are lucky). Too short to disrespect the people who created you.

What does 孝 mean today?

The question is a bit unclear because you might be asking about what does it mean in society versus what it means in the dictionary. Here is the dictionary meaning (and I hope societal meaning as well):

孝 xiào
do one’s filial duty
→ 孝顺, 孝子
observe a period of mourning
be in mourning
go out of mourning
②(指服饰)mourning dress
→ 披麻戴孝

(Simplified Chinese - English Dictionary)

What does 愚孝 mean today?

None of my dictionaries give a definition for this idea. I think my opinion is clear that these two characters should never be seen together. To me, they mean absolute chaos or just void. I find it incomprehensible.

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So if your parents ordered you to jump off a building you would be 100% obligated to do it according to the concept of 孝? No back talk? No disagreements? –  user3306356 Jun 1 at 4:18
@user3306356 I think I've answered the questions you've presented. You are now asking three more. If I cannot agree with my parents, I would hold my tongue. With Respect. –  Tommie C. Jun 1 at 4:21
This is called clarification, Tommie. You did answer the questions - but to what extent I wasn't really sure from your answer. –  user3306356 Jun 1 at 5:28
@user3306356 Just doing the best I can on this answer. I am still not sure why those two characters seem so offensive to me (I'm not even Chinese!). Maybe this topic crosses cultural boundaries so I am giving as much information and (my opinion, where noted). –  Tommie C. Jun 4 at 11:33
Much appreciated! –  user3306356 Jun 5 at 0:44

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