Primitively, the father's power over the child rested almost entirely in his superior strength. Later, it was enforced by religious precept; and in modern days it derives a fresh access of authority from the customs and traditions of civilized society. The Chinese, among whom veneration for the parent is an important element of their religion, have a maxim that, "as the Emperor should have a parent's love for his people, so a father should have a sovereign's power over his family;"1 and, among both them and the Japanese, this principle is so faithfully inculcated as to induce the greatest respect for age, and I have seen in Japan, with intense pleasure, a whole company of young men and women rise spontaneously to their feet at the entrance of an aged person into the room where they were assembled. Indeed, among the latter people, the father enjoys the same rights as the old Roman paterfamilias; and in such high regard is filial piety held that not even marriage weakens the hold of the child upon the parent.
It is astounding to what lengths filial obedience is sometimes carried. A Japanese maiden, "pure as the very purest Christian virgin, will, at the command of her father, enter a brothel tomorrow, and prostitute herself for life."1 It seems hard for us to associate purity with such obedience; but when we consider that ancestor-worship, which is a large part of their religion, is built on this very element of parental regard and veneration, we can better understand such a species of self-abnegation.