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The 60th Birthday Celebration: Respect for Seniors

China Today,October 26, 2017 Adjust font size:

The Origin

As to the origin of the huajia banquet, there is a story called “Goryeo burial.” According to an encyclopedia on ethnic culture published in Korea, in the Goryeo period (918-1392) in Korea, people who reached 60 years of age were thrown into the mountains to starve to death. A son, who did not want his father to die cruelly in this way, hid him in the mountains and brought him meals every day.

Later, a Chinese emperor heard about this inhuman tradition, and gave the then king of Goryeo three puzzles to solve: First, to distinguish between two identical horses which was the mare and which was the foal; second, to distinguish between two identical sticks which was the tree top and which was the root; third, to distinguish between two identical snakes which was male and which was female.

The king gathered his ministers to discuss the puzzle, but no one could come up with the answers. Neither could any of the people throughout the whole country. The dutiful son talked about it with his father, who told him: Give the two horses a little food, the mare would give it to the foal to eat; put the two sticks in water, the root side would sink while the top side floated; Put the two snakes on a soft piece of silk, the restless one must be the male while the quiet one is the female. The king was happy with those answers and promised him a big reward. The son then disclosed that his father had solved the puzzle. Upon hearing it, the king felt ashamed. He realized that old people had wisdom that young people did not possess. He then immediately abolished the old customs. As a result, the huajia banquet replaced the “Goryeo burial” and people were encouraged to be filial towards the elderly family members.

The story of the “Goryeo burial” is similar to the story of “abandoning the aged” in the Chinese translation of a Buddhist scripture Miscellaneous Treasures and ancient China’s A Biography of Dutiful Sons.

Early in the first and second centuries, the Chinese language was publicly used on the Korean Peninsula. A large volume of Confucian classics was then introduced under the reign of the Koguryo Kingdom, which later unified the peninsula. Buddhism had unprecedented development with the support of the government, and so did Confucianism. After the establishment of the policy of decrying Buddhism and valuing Confucianism in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Confucianism became predominant. As a result, the Classics of Filial Piety and other Confucian works thrived in Korea, and huajia banquets were born.

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