Mother’s Day foot-washing stokes controversy

By Yuen Yeuk-laam Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-11 1:08:02

While families in Western countries celebrate Mother's Day with flowers and cards, some people in China have begun teaching children to wash their mother's feet to express their gratitude. The practice, however, has been seen as dubious by some observers.

A primary school in Bozhou, Anhui Province, launched a program teaching children to wash their mother's feet on May 7, wherein students washed their mothers' feet and gave in-classroom massages to express their love for their mothers.

Another community in Changsha, in Hunan Province, also did the same on May 6, four days before Mother's Day, arranging for more than 20 children from a kindergarten to wash their mother's feet publicly.

Zhang Yiwu, a sociology professor from Peking University, told the Global Times that the practice of children helping their parents' to wash their feet is indeed a Chinese tradition. The practice teaches children to express their gratitude for their mothers' love, care and support.

The practice however, has been subject to controversy and doubt, with many believing that love can also be expressed in a number of different ways. A survey conducted by Children's Palace Guangzhou in Guangdong Province found that very few children like to express their love by washing parents' feet, with "bowing to parents" the least popular way of expressing love. Instead, the children surveyed preferred to share housework with their family, local newspaper Information Times reported. 

Zhu Dake, a professor of literary criticism at Tongji University, said that the practice of foot-washing ignores the dignity of the younger generation, saying on his Sina Weibo account that it is more about obedience than demonstrating a filial attitude.

However, Zhou Xiaozheng, a Beijing-based sociology expert, disagreed, saying that the practice causes children no harm and should not be questioned.

"Washing parents' feet has been a Chinese tradition for thousands of years. People should respect diversity in the way others celebrate [the Mothers' Day holiday]," he said.

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