Filial Piety, 2018-2019

Filial Piety, artist’s book/scroll
Rice paper, traditional Chinese ink
396″ x 18″ x 0.5″

Filial Piety contains ideas, words, and phrases from family members directed to a daughter. The language in this scroll is harsh, critical, unyielding, misogynistic, accusatory, commanding and demanding–in short, it is abusive. Painted on 33 feet of rice paper (representing, at the time, 33 years in which the artist has internalized the language), the words and phrases overlap and intersperse with each other, pushing and competing to be most visible and most heard, creating a sort of visual noise that weaves throughout the space which the scroll inhabits. In traditional Chinese culture, filial piety demands female subservience to all elders and males within the family. This is seen as the “natural order” of things, a way in which harmony is created within families and communities. While the intention of filial piety was to establish and maintain order and harmony, in practice this is not always the case. Throughout the generations, it removes autonomy from the daughters of families and relegates them to the lowest hierarchical level to be servants of the family until she is traded off to become a wife and daughter-in-law to another family, where she will continue to remain in this lowest position until she bears a son who will one day will bring her a daughter-in-law to command.

These attitudes towards women have remained throughout centuries and even dispersed into other Asian cultures outside of traditional Chinese practices. For daughters in many modern-day Asian American households, it has become a source of psychological training and abuse which has her conditioned to subservience within the family, and to perceived meekness by men who seek docile Asian women for their own sexual gratifications. The physical and psychological dangers of accepting the traditions of filial piety are innumerable for Asian women, and has culturally positioned Asian and Asian American women to be at professional, sexual, and social disadvantages. Breaking these attitudes does not come without a price, however, as many who try often face gaslighting and continued victimization.

2021 Evelyn Wong