chapter  9
Does xiao come before ren?
ByALAN K. L. CHAN
Pages 22

The concept of xiao, commonly rendered “filial piety” or “filiality,” occupies a privileged position in Chinese thought. It is not limited to the Confucian tradition, although as an ethical concept it develops largely in a Confucian framework. Specifically, the meaning of xiao is related closely to that of the cardinal Confucian virtue ren , “benevolence” or “humanity.” Often, xiao is understood as a concrete expression of ren. This suggests that ren is more basic, forming a deep moral presence that pervades and informs the fundamental nature of human beings. From this perspective, ren takes on universal ethical significance and moves beyond the confines of “benevolence” understood as a particular virtue, whereas xiao gains meaning from ren and can be said to be a function of it.