Whether you are aware already or not, today on the 3rd Sunday of June, we in China celebrate Fathers Day, a day and tradition we mostly assume has been a direct influence of the west.
While the date certainly is the reasons we celebrate today; the act of celebrating our fathers annually runs just as deep into Chinese culture and history as it does elsewhere.
Throughout catholic Europe the celebration of Saint Joseph as “the believed father of Jesus” dates back to the Middle Ages and is celebrated on 19 March.
Respect for elders and a father is an intrinsic aspect to Chinese tradition championed by great thinkers such as Confucius who preached the importance of deep respect for ancestors, elders and parents a lifelong devotion 孝 (xiào).
Throughout the Republican era celebration of soldiers who died for the government and their fathers was observed on August 8, mainly due to the fact that this dates sounds like father in Chinese "bā bā" (八八 'eight eight', 爸爸 bàba ‘father’). This tradition left the mainland with the Republican government, however survived and continued in Taiwan.
By now you are most certainly aware of rhetoric referring to China’s “great fathers”; Mao Zedong “Father of Communist China”, Sun Yat Sen “Father of Modern China”, Confucius “Father of Chinese Thought”, Deng Xiao Ping “Father of Free Market China” or even Li Xiao Long (Jet-Li) and Jackie Chan “Father’s of Chinese Kung Fu cinema”. But like everywhere else US popular culture prevails and we have reality TV shows like “baba Qu Na?” “Where is dad going?” and other such shows celebrating modern Chinese fathers, and we celebrate the day on the 3rd Sunday of June.
So to all the dads of Nanjing 爸我敬你一杯 (bà wǒ jìng nǐ yī bēi) ; "Dad, here’s a toast to you!"