Giving Thanks in the Chinese Culture

Giving thanks is a big deal in the Chinese culture.  While the Chinese do not have a holiday dedicated Thanksgiving, the sentiment is reflected most closely in the QingMing festival (清明節), which is a day when people visit the burial grounds to “give thanks and remember” their ancestors.  The families gather to clean up the tombs and offer food, tea, flowers, and other gestures to their forefathers.

The ancient Chinese culture placed significant emphasis on the value of gratitude, as evidenced by many well-known idioms such as:

  • 滴水之恩,当涌泉相报 (Return the favor for a drop of water with a burst of spring.)
  • 落其实者思其树,饮其流者怀其源 (When you eat the fruit, remember the tree; when you drink from the stream, remember its origin)
  • 知恩图报,善莫大焉 (Cherish the kindness of others)
  • 投之以桃,报之以李 (Don’t forget the good others have done you and seek to return the favor)

Let’s teach our kids the importance of giving thanks with one of these beautiful sayings.

For the younger kids, 知恩图报 is concise enough for them to just memorize.  To make things easier, we can explain 知恩 as “recognizing kindness” and 图报 as “returning the favor” so that the phrase as a whole in plain words can be translated as “When you recognize kindness, be sure to return the favor.”  Click the following for the sound.

For the older kids, we like this phrase — 滴水之恩,当涌泉相报 — because it gives them a vivid picture.  Let’s break it down.

  • 滴水 = drop of water
  • 恩 = favor
  • 当 = should
  • 涌泉 = burst of spring water
  • 相报 = return of favor

By piecing together the parts, the phrase as a whole in plain words means “We should return the favor for a drop of water with a burst of spring. ”  Click the following for the sound.

Want to learn more Chinese?  Start with our Guided lessons (for free!)

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