Happy Father’s Day! 父親節快樂

Father's Day 父親節 (Dummy PY: Fu Chan Jit) is coming very soon. 父親節快樂(Dummy PY: Fu Chan Jit Fai Lock)。父親 is father, 節 means festival, 快樂 means happy. 父親節快樂. This episode I will be sharing some stories with you, and at the end I will let you know a couple of things you can say to your father on father’s day in Cantonese.

Every Father, 爸爸Ba Ba or 爹哋Daddy, plays a different role in a family. Fathers are definitely not any less important in a family than mothers or anyone else. Traditionally speaking, fathers, 爸爸Ba Ba or 爹哋Daddy, are a symbol for power and respect. Although the lines between the gender roles are seemingly becoming more and more blurred in families. In Hong Kong, we have this interesting balance of being modern and yet preserving the traditions. Not going to lie, perhaps being a traditional dad is getting increasingly hard in the modern world, and I am acknowledging it. Kudos to my dad my 爸爸Ba Ba, my 爹哋Daddy who spent years accepting me for who I am. You might have heard similar stories from other Asian communities, my dad had a very hard time accepting that I have tattoos, they are actually very hidden but still.

First I want to explain a little to you of why some Hong Konger dads including my own have a difficult time accepting their children in modern day Hong Kong. So we have a better understanding of why the world views crashed between the younger generations and the older generations, not saying who is right or who is wrong. In our Chinese concept, they often quote this line 身體髮膚受之父母, meaning literally “Body, hair and skin were given by fathers and mothers”. This line is quoted from 孝經 (Dummy PY: How Ging)in English it’s the Classics of filial piety. Filial Piety 孝 (Dummy PY: How) as I explained probably in the “How to call your immediate family members” episode, it’s basically the respect that children should have for their parents. In this Classics of Filial Piety, dated all the way back to the 4th BC, is a confuscian writing explaining how to behave towards seniors such as your father, elder brothers, and the ruler etc. The longer version I will translate here:


“Body, hair and skin were given by fathers and mothers”

(Dummy PY: San Tie Fat Fu, Sow Ji Fu Mo)


“Not dare to harm or damage, it’s the beginning of filial piety”

(Dummy PY: But Gum Why Sheng, How Ji Chi Ya)


“When you can stand on your own and walk the right path, shine through and be significant to the next generations,”

(Dummy PY: Lap San Hang Dow, Yang Meng Yu How Sai)


“To show the glory and honor of your parents, it’s the goal of filial piety” (Dummy PY: Yi Heen Fu Mo, How Ji Chong Ya)

So in essence, it’s kind of like living your life carrying your family legacy. For easier comprehension, it's similar to back in the days, when people used to say something like “I am John, the son of Adam.” or the origins of last names like Johnson, meaning “Son of John”, or Samson “Son of Sam” etc. For myself growing up, the selfish me would think this is such a terrible way of thinking. Because I would think that it made the concept of filial piety sound like all my work belongs to my parents and that I am constantly bound to act a certain way so as to not embarrass my parents. Of course now I understand why they think the way they do, with more understanding of each other and the history it becomes apparent these learnings are deeply ingrained in us. Even though we might not strictly follow these guidelines in modern day life. Sorry dad, I did neglect your feelings when I was younger.

It is quite an interesting dynamic between fathers and their children, definitely not representing all Hong Kongers but many do face similar challenges when it comes to their relationship with their fathers. Typically speaking, usually either the mother is super loving, or that some mothers are tiger moms, some are a balance of the 2, some are different. Because in modern day Hong Kong, usually both parents will need to work, fathers are sometimes in such awkward positions. Some more traditional dads have a hard time expressing their love. There is an interesting saying in Chinese, 無仇不成父子 (Dummy PY: Mo Sow But Ching Fu ji) literally means, without hatred, cannot be fathers and sons. Back in the day, the reading of it was fathers and sons, now we can interpret it as children regardless of gender. Since the dynamic is way different now, as you might already know, back in Confuscian time, they preached that 女子無才便是德 (Dummy PY: Nui Ji Mo Choi Been See Duck), meaning that Women without talents or skills is a virtue in itself, which is totally no longer applicable in modern day Hong Kong or most places in the world now.

So where did this saying 無仇不成父子 (Dummy PY: Mo Sau But Ching Fu ji)without hatred, cannot be fathers and sons come from? One of the the earliest mentions could be traced back to one of the very famous legendary stories, 封神榜 (dummy PY: Fung San Bong) there are many English names, according to Wikipedia it’s “The Investiture of the Gods”, first published between 1567 and 1619. Good story, if you have time check it out. It’s been made into TV shows and movies as well. Long story short, the story was set in Shang dynasty in 2second millennium BC, this legendary character 哪吒Nezha was supposed to be one of the deities but he did something wrong and got punished to live in the normal people’s realm. He was in his mother’s womb for 3 years, when he was born he was like a fireball like creature. His father thought he was an evil entity, and because he was particularly naughty when he was young, he killed the dragon king of the East sea. He was banished from home, and later he learned from the teacher that he had got to be responsible for his own actions. In order to repay, he did this thing called 削骨還父,削肉還母 (Dummy PY: Sherk Guet Wan Fu, Sherk Yolk Wan Mo), sorry for the graphic imagery here, the literally meaning of this will be “Shaving off the bone to repay his father, and shaving off the flesh to repay his mother.” Eventually Nezha told his mother in her dreams to build a temple for him, so he could get his body back. Turned out, after he got his body back, he was still continuously fighting with his father. Bare in mind, this is a story meant to be some kind of allegory. So anyway, you can find out a little more about this yourself. But I am trying to say here is, this kind of love hate relationship is fairly commonly depicted in many Chinese stories. I guess in the western ideologies it can be common as well, which is usually explained by Oedipus complex where the envy is often aimed at the father and the affection is aimed at the mother. If you are one of those fathers or you are a partner of another person that has a complicated relationship with your children, don’t worry, you are not alone.

So far it seems like I am not even mentioning anything that is positive about dads. XD But I guess what I am trying to say is that in the chinese thinking, which might align with other cultures as well, father is often the symbol of power and respect, which can be a pretty tough position to be in. In the ancient famous literature, 三字經 (Dummy PY: Sarm Ji Ging) the Three character classics or Trimetric Classics which I have mentioned in one of previous episodes, there is one line in there that says “子不教,父之過" (Dummy PY: Ji But Gow, Fu Ji Guo) meaning when the child or children are not taught, it is the fault of the father. Phew! That sounds like a whole lot of responsibility. Why isn’t it also the mother’s responsibility as well? Because in the ancient Chinese conception, the mother is usually the softer one, and without paying too much attention, the child or children can be easily spoiled. Now in modern day Hong Kong, like I have mentioned, the lines of the gender roles have been blurred and not as cut and dry now. But bare in mind, these concepts are deeply rooted. So there is a tendency there.

Can I just share one more story of fathers with you? From this story, you can perhaps understand more about Father and child relationships in the Chinese culture a little better. This story is about this very famous Calligrapher 王羲之 in English Wang Xi Zhi, in Jin Dynasty, 266AD to 420AD, so he had a couple of children. The 7th of his children, 王獻之 Wang Xian Zhi, who later also became a famous Calligrapher. So this son started learning calligraphy when he was 7 or 8, but since his dad was such a famous calligrapher, the way he taught his son was a little special. When the son used to practice with lots of concentration, the father would sneak behind him and took his feather pen away to test whether or not his son’s grip was strong enough. Once he asked his mother when he could finish practicing calligraphy, his mother said to him “as long as you finish up all these 18 giant jars of water, your writings will be strong and beautiful.” The son turned around, and his father was standing in the back, sternly watching his. Therefore, he practiced 5 more years of calligraphy. So then 5 years later, he brought his work to his father, was hoping for some compliments from his father. Who knew, his father didn’t say a single thing, he only made a small mark under the word 大 (Dummy PY: Die) meaning big, then he returned it back to his son. He then brought his work to his mother hoping for some compliments, mother looked then said to him, “Son, you have been training for so long, all the jars of water have been almost emptied. Looks like only the word 大 meaning big, is up to your father’s standards.” The son heard, and felt ashamed. He then understood, he needed to go so much further in Calligraphy. He couldn’t simply rely on his father’s success. He also learned to be humble. Eventually he worked hard and became famous himself.

I hope you enjoyed these stories, and perhaps start understanding a little more about why Chinese fathers tend to act the way they do. Not saying what method is right or wrong, just putting it out there, take what you find useful. Finally, I want to end with sharing a motto that my father always shared with me, which is "做人,一定要先做好自己"(Dummy PY: Jo Yan, Yat Ding Yield Sin Jo Ho Ji Gay), basically what it means is, to be human, one must first do best in yourself. I carry this with me, pretty sure for the rest of my life.

I wish all fathers here an early 父親節快樂(Dummy PY: Fu Chan Jit Fai Lock), happy father’s day.

Saying thank you for all the fathers here:

多謝爸爸 (Dummy PY: Door Jer Ba ba)

You can also say:

咁多年你都努力養家! (Dummy PY: Gum Door Neen Nei Do No Lick Yang Ga)

Meaning: for so many years you work hard to keep the family afloat.

Then you can say:

等我Carry返你啦! (Dummy PY: Deng Ngo Carry Fan Nei La)

Meaning: let me carry you now.

*No you didn’t hear it wrong, the English word carry is quite often used in Hong Kong Cantonese now.

You can also say:

爸爸我錫哂你!(Dummy PY: Baba, Ngo Shack Sai Nei)

Meaning: Dad I love you lots.

*The word 錫 means kiss in Cantonese, but we often use it to mean love. Like I have mentioned in the Valentine’s Day episode, the word love 愛 in Cantonese is quite heavy.

Now if you don’t mind the cheesiness you can also say:

爸爸我愛你! (Dummy PY: Baba, Ngo Ngoi Nei)

Same meaning, Dad I love you, but this is a little stronger than 我錫哂你!


孝經 The classics of filial piety:


封神榜 The Investiture of the Gods:


三字經 the Three character classics or Trimetric Classics: