- If you have ever had the opportunity to visit China in recent
years you would have noticed the impact the western culture is having on
China. But, the traditional family structure is still highly valued and
holds a prominent position in the Chinese culture. Both traditional and
modern Chinese families have similar moral values, and these moral
values have been a part of daily life for many centuries.
- Traditionally Chinese family values are very clear-cut,
different roles and rights for men and women. These gender roles are
rapidly changing, the original values are still evident on some levels.
But, due to the growing western influence Men and Women are sharing the
household tasks and seeing themselves as equal partners.
- Traditionally in the Chinese family, the man was responsible for
maintaining, providing for, and protecting his family. At the same
time, he was given all the decision-making power when it came to his
wife, his family, and other family members. He was also responsible for
taking care of and paying for his children, including their education,
until they are married. In modern families, the family members consult
elders about important decisions, but the father no longer has the final
say regarding his adult children's lives. What I’ve noticed from living
here in China is how actively involved the grandparents are in raising
their grandchildren. The grandparents take on a more traditional role
when it comes to their grandchildren’s welfare.
- Traditionally Chinese mothers usually stayed in the home to take
care of the household, the children, and the rest of the family. Today,
however, many modern Chinese women have careers, and earn their own
money. While the women of the household pursue their career goals the
grandparents take on the traditional role of raising their
- Traditionally Chinese families honored the patrilineal descent
system. This means that a child's lineage and descent was calculated
from his father only. Men were the only ones that could inherit family
membership and family land or other inheritance in this type of system.
In modern times Men and Women are being viewed as equal in the eyes of
- Marriage, family, and children are very important in the Chinese
culture. A large portion of the Chinese population lived in rural
environments, getting married and having children meant that you'd have
workers and be able to create and maintain a homestead. In the past most
marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Many
couples never even met one another until their wedding day. The western
influence has changed most of China’s attitudes on marriage. Chinese
couples can now choose their own partners, but under the law boys must
be 22 years old and girls 20 years old to legally marry in China.
- As in many Asian cultures, the elders of the family are
respected for their wisdom. In both traditional and modern families,
elders are looked up to for their life experiences, and they are taken
care of by the rest of the family. In traditional families, including
those living in a rural environment, many households include five
generations living together. Even in modern households, many
grandparents live with their children and their kids. When elders die,
they are honored by ancestor altars in homes, featuring candles,
photographs, and favorite items of the deceased.
- To combat overcrowding and overpopulation, the People's Republic
of China mandated a one-child-per-household policy in the late 1970s.
This was later changed to a two-child policy. The law often applied to
urban families, while some rural families could get away with having
more than two children. This policy influenced how children were looked
at, and many baby girls were placed in orphanages because they wouldn't
be able to carry on the family name or inherit the family land. For many
years orphanages were housing mostly girl babies due to the value
placed on boys. In traditional families, all children are expected to
obey their parents without discussion, and parents could use corporal
punishment on their children if they disobeyed them or refused to show
unquestioning obedience. In modern China, both girls and boys are
usually treated equally. While many Chinese parents are strict, they are
more lenient and flexible than in the past.
- The Chinese culture has undergone many dramatic changes mostly
due to the western influence. These progressive cultural changes won’t
be slowing down anytime soon. But the family structure and the
importance of family values remain a focus. Families are still
cherished, honored, and respected, whether you live in the traditional,
rural environment, or the modern, urban city.
- Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
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