A university professor and his elderly mother have become social media stars in China. Some 9,000 Sina Weibo users commented in response to an article in Beijing Youth Daily highlighting that Prof Hu Ming in south-west Guizhou province has been bringing his elderly mother, who has Alzheimer’s, to his classes.
The article said that freshmen at the university at first assumed that she was a retired professor sitting in on classes, before realising it was Prof Hu’s mother.
“I came to my theory class today, and there was an old lady sitting behind me. At the beginning I did not know why? Later I learnt that she is the teacher’s 80-something-year-old mother, and because he can’t leave her, he brings her to his classes. This is filial piety, I feel very moved,” wrote one user. The post about the professor first emerged in 2016 but has only recently been picked up by the Chinese media.
The report says that Prof Hu’s father died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 2011, and although he has younger sisters, he has taken on the responsibility of looking after his mother, because her dementia means that he is the only one she recognises.
He said that her symptoms were now so severe “she cannot tell the difference between when she is holding a soft drink, sugar, salt, or detergent”.
Prof Hu told Beijing Youth Daily that she sometimes napped in the classes and at other times watched the lectures. He says she is “very obedient” during his classes and the students have come to accept her with warmth. Reporters asked him if he had thought about getting a nanny – he says there was never any question that he would look after her.
The school told Beijing Youth Daily that it neither supported nor opposed him bringing his mother to school.
Prof Hu is 58 years old. He told the paper he was not at retirement age yet, so could not apply for specialised time out to take care of his ageing mother.
The Paper’s Sina Weibo post of the Beijing Youth Daily story has received 100,000 likes, 9,000 comments and 7,000 shares.
Weibo users have praised Prof Hu as a filial son, as well as a good educator – not just in economics, but in life. “He is a model to others,” says one user (14,000 likes). Others say that he is teaching “the best lesson” to students. “It does not affect the class or the students, it is very kind and responsible, and also filial,” another user says.
“I think this is the best education has to offer, teaching knowledge on one hand, and filial piety on the other,” another user remarked.
According to research published in the Lancet in 2010, China had more people living with Alzheimer’s disease than any country in the world.
China’s population is ageing rapidly. “By 2033, it is predicted that working-age people will be outnumbered by dependents, mostly the elderly,” the New Scientist has reported.
Respect towards parents, elders and ancestors is considered a key value in Chinese society and culture, and is commonly the subject of debate on Chinese social media.
The concept goes back to 400BC and is a core virtue of Confucianism, described in the early works of China’s best-known philosopher.
Filial piety was one of the main criteria for the selection of officials as early as the Han Dynasty, from 206BC to AD220.
by UGC & Social News team, additional reporting by BBC Monitoring
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