Father Knows Best

An insight into the Confucian values fundamental to Asian culture and life
By Georgina Lionatos

In a famous 1994 interview around Foreign Affairs, the late Lee Kwan Yew spoke of the advantage of leading a country based on “Asian Values”.

As Australia becomes increasingly intertwined with Asian culture due to mass migration arrivals, it is more important than ever to understand these values. Especially because, the same values underpin the life of a new Asian arrival into Australia or the life of an Asian individual or family that have been here for 20 years or more.

The Asian individual holds a very family-relationship-community-centric approach to life vs. the more self-centric mindset of Western culture.  Lee said, “we use the family to push economic growth. We were fortunate we had this cultural backdrop: the belief in thrift, hard work, filial piety and loyalty and the extended family, and, most of all, the respect for scholarship and learning.”

The deep-rooted respect for elders in the community, or filial Piety, was founded in the Confucian philosophy that age gives all things their wealth. With this in mind, parents and grandparents are highly revered, not only due to their age, but also because they are seen as the source of life.

In my 8 years working in the multicultural space, I have seen countless cultures (including my own Greek heritage) where there is a sincere esteem and affection for the family elders. In the Asian culture however, this innate reverence for one’s elders is cemented not only through early school education, but also through live examples at home and within the community. It is seen, heard and felt – everywhere.

Understanding this sacred relationship within a family is the first step to gaining an insight into the cultural DNA of the Asian audience, regardless of how long they may have lived away from home. Forbes Magazine sites this understanding as pivotal to success with the Asian market, “linguistic fluency is one thing, intercultural fluency is another. Other than speaking the local language, to succeed…you need a real understanding of international cultures and ways of working”.

Whether in politics, business or the simplest human interaction, the Confucian backdrop that Lee spoke of over a decade ago is still intrinsic to the lives of Asians across the globe. While other philosophies and educational positions have been adopted, and in some cases eventually rejected in China, Confucianism has been woven into the very fabric of the Chinese and the wider East Asian culture.

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