Chinese Americans and Rituals of Filial Piety

December 14, 2002

Source: The New York Times

On December 14, 2002 The New York Times reported that "they are immigrants, or immigrants' children, who want to combine the hectic reality of American life with the ancient Chinese practice of filial piety... They want to take care of the souls of their ancestors but cannot frequently visit their loved ones' distant graves in the mountains of China or even among the woods in upstate New York... So on Sunday mornings or on their way home from work, they go to [the] Mahayana Temple on the eastern edge of Manhattan's Chinatown to light incense in front of little plates symbolizing the souls of their forebears... At one corner of this ornate temple painted in rich yellow and red, more than 300 yellow plastic plates hang neatly in rows. Each plate, about two inches wide and five inches long, bears the name of a deceased person in Chinese script and sometimes a passport-size photo as well."