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Traditional concepts and images of old age in Japan

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Chapter Summary

Ever since Western societies have become aware of population ageing and its problems, scholars have turned to Japan in hopes of finding positive alternatives to contemporary Western "cults of youth". Among the main cultural-ideological currents singled out by Erdman B. Palmore as sources of persistently positive images of old age in Japan, Confucianism first deserves our attention. Hieratic concepts of old age results in the elderly being assigned auspicious social roles. An image of the elderly as vagrants and mendicants can be traced throughout Nara and Heian period belles lettres. Negative views on old age did not cease to be widely current even in the Edo period, when Confucian precepts of respect for seniors had come to typify the standards of morality promoted by the authorities. The famous Twenty-Four Chinese Paragons of Filial Piety had been widely diffused in Japan since Antiquity.

Keywords: Edo period; Erdman B. Palmore; Filial Piety; Japanese society; old age



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