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Ice Cream and Filial Piety

“Xuegao Bridge”,located across “Pingjiang River”, is 5.8m in length, 3m in width and 2m in height. The exact date that it was built has remained unknown but this bridge was documented as far back as in Song Dynasty in “Pingjiang Map”.

The name “Xuegao” comes from a story that demonstrates filial piety.(“Xuegao” means ice cream) In ancient times, there was a really pious man named Zhang who lived on Pingjiang Road. His family was in extreme poverty and hunger due to the government’s oppression. To feed his dying mom,. Zhang picked up snow and made it into the shape of a cube. He and his mom had this illusive meal together. Later, this story was heard by one of the ancient gods in China, Guanyin. She then turned the snow cube into actual ice cream to really feed the mother and the son. When Mr Zhang died, his neighbors built a bridge near his grave and named it “Xuegao Bridge.”

Honestly, judging the story from a contemporary perspective, it seems a bit weird and unreasonable. The snow could not have satisfied their hunger and that “Guanyin” had never existed, not to mention the various diseases that could be caused by eating snow. However, in ancient China, such story played a key role in building the concept of “filial piety ” As demonstrated in a book named “24 kinds of piety”, ancient Chinese tended to illustrate this kind of piety in a rather extreme and radical way, for example, it depicted a kid who was buried alive by his father, as unreasonable as how Zhang fed his mother with snow. Yet, if we keep in mind that “filial piety” has been the most essential and important part in Chinese’s perception of morality, we may understand why stories like these were told again and again. The logic behind the stories goes like this---If such extreme and radical forms of piety were accepted and practiced, then regular ones would be undoubtedly followed. So, the reason why the origin of “Xuegao Bridge” shows such a seemingly unreasonable story can be explained by its historical context.

Though in modern times, the concept of filial piety has changed tremendously, its core remains the same. As a result, the story of “Xuegao Bridge” can still be a useful tool to teach people such concept. Moreover, in today’s society where has been increasing amount of people exploiting their parents for their own lives or sending their parents to nursing homes regardless of their personal wills, the extreme and radical story of “Xuegao Bridge” may also serve as a reminder or warning to those who have ignored the most basic form of filial piety.


Ice Cream and Filial Piety
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