A Family is the strongest pillar in every society. A strong and stable family makes up an admirable society; therefore many societies ensure that families are guided by high values and strong moral values. Just like other Asian countries, China, laid great attention to families for the same reason of strengthening their society (Cohen 1970, 22).
In china, the homes are referred to as jia. Since time immemorial, China has upheld the family values strongly than general society. Although modernity, foreign influences and law have interfered with the traditions of the Chinese, it is clear that some values in the modern Chinese families were still practiced back in the 1800. According to Cohen, the Chinese culture insists that an orderly family results to an orderly state. An orderly family emanates from factors like gender, age and generation, this factors defines a persons duties, roles and privileges in a family. Every member of a family understands his or her position, precisely by considering these factors.
These three factors define superiority in a family; every member clearly understands who to obey and respect in a systematic manner. In a family setting, the older generation is respected highly than the younger generation. In regard to gender, the male are superior to women. According to Cohen, “a decision is finalized by an elderly man because of his superior position in a family”. An increase in age translates to an increase in status in the Chinese culture. Although the respecting the aged does not translate to increase in wealth.
Cohen. Development process in the Chinese domestic group: Family and Kinship in Chinese Society,(Stanford :Stanford University Press,1970), 21-36.
Both the poor and the wealthy do not disrespect the aged. In the traditional Chinese culture, the female are perceived as weak, inferior and dependent on the male. For a long time, women have had to rely on male for significant decision making.
In terms of inheritance, only the male children had the rights to inherit property. In some parts of china, the women still conform to (san-tsong), this is a conformation by a woman to the male society, that is obedience to a father, a husband and a son after a husbands death. The Chinese lay great emphasis on gender rather than generation. There are cases where a young male may disrespect an older sister in law due to the gender status. The most significant relationship in a family is the father and son relationship, the other relationships come in later. The sons are expected to fully support their parents and oblige to them fully before the state. The family value emphasizes much on children respecting their parents unlike parents respecting their children. In the traditional Chinese every child was expected to protect his or her body as it was perceived as a gift from parents. A male child is highly regarded to an extent that a family without a male child is seen as a curse in a society.( Xiaotong 1992,88).
In the Chinese culture, the people believe so much in the ancestral worship, a male in the society has ancestors whom his descendants worship .This demonstrates the power of lineage in a family. The ancestral worship among the Chinese aims at maintaining order and unity in a family unit. This is achieved through sacrifices at the graves by the descendants. In return the descendants benefit from spiritual powers from the ancestors.
2.Fei,Xiaotong. “Patrilineages.”In From the soil, the foundations of Chinese society ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992),88-86.
In a Chinese society, social organization is highly upheld through kinship.
Individuals in a society build relationships through kinships. A kin is said to include paternal relatives, in-laws and maternal relatives.
The kinship defines the closeness of individuals in a relationship, this also determines the time frame of mourning incase of death. For instance, a person’s father is mourned for long than a cousin. From the orderliness of a Chinese family, it is easier to identify people from a similar lineage or clan. This is easily established from shared surnames, common ancestral worship and familiar origins. The Chinese culture has undergone tremendous changes overtime. Although a man is still the head of his family, he no longer has full control of his family members. A man may provide and protect his family but has no control over his children’s education. Wedding ceremonies in Chinese culture are elaborate and contain many rituals. However, with time these rituals have been cut down and others retained for the sake of upholding family values. Before any marriage, the Chinese have mate selection, this is important as it is the foundation for future families (Maurice, 1958, 42).
The youth today in china, follow certain trends in selecting a mate; they consider an individuals personality than a family background. The youths still uphold chastity in mate selection, but not seriously as in the past. The youths consider education as a major factor when selecting a mate. The young educated and professional group considers romance and affection as a major factor in mate selection.
3 Freedman, Maurice. Lineage organization in Southeastern China (University of London: Athlone Press,1958),40-45.
Arranged marriages have decreased rapidly both in rural and urban areas. Research shows that couples who date enjoy strong families in future. The Chinese cultural values ensure that cohabiting is least practiced in the society (James.1975,80).
A man of a family is responsible for educating his family members until they get married. This is a diverse change from the traditional where a married couple staid in a groom’s home after marriage. Another significant change is the child bearing policy. The introduction of one child policy to control population has interfered with marriages in the society. However, in the rural areas some families have been excluded this rule, where a firstborn is not a male child.
The role of a woman in a family has changed substantially; a woman can now go to work and earn high earnings. According to law, Chinese women have achieved equality in freedom, education, marriages and rights. The irony of this equality comes about where female babies are aborted unlike the male children that are allowed to live. This factor has ensured that the male gender still dominates in China society. As a result of more males in a society, many families in china have reported a rise in teenage girls’ prostitution and abduction.
In the current Chinese homes, nuclear families dominate the society with each home accommodating three to six members. Despite the smaller number of households in China, families remain to be important for support
4. Watson, James. Emigration and the Chinese Lineage: The Mans in Hong Kong and London.(Berkeley: University of California Press 1975),79-123.
Families are still the best avenues for socialization and strengthening of intergenerational relationships. Research indicates that many families in china enjoy strengths that enhance harmony in the society. These strengths include loyalty, supporting each other in the community and spending quality time together.
The harmony in the Chinese families emanates from their culture that encourages unity. For instance, a family name is put before an individuals first name, this illustrates that a families needs come before an individual names (Hills 1989, 80). In the traditional Chinese homes extended families were a common setting. However, due to economic empowerment in many cities, the housing market has enabled young couples to stay on their own. Thus families are taking the nuclear structure. Although nuclear families are taking dominance in the Chinese society, great care has to be taken for the children and the elderly. Gates observes that; families in urban and rural china have to ensure that the elderly live a comfortable life.
Conflicts in every society are inevitable. Just like other homes around the world; the Chinese also go through marital conflicts. Research indicates that these conflicts are as a result of finances and children’s education and in rare cases extramarital affairs. In cases of conflicts, the extended comes in handy to solve the conflicts. Divorce is rarely considered, reason being that the families fear a negative reputation and stigma in the society. There are times that divorce becomes inevitable. However the young generation seems to agree on divorce, while the older generation fears the consequences of divorce on their children and themselves.
5. Gates, Hill. Commoditization of Chinese women.(Signs 14(4) 1989), 79-83.
It is evident, that despite the rise in divorce cases, the Chinese culture is so strong and it ensures that families stay strong. In a research carried out by Xu and Ye in 2002, “89 % of couples had not considered separation or divorce in the past year, only 0.7 % thought about divorce often, 72 % of the couples did not believe that heir spouse would leave them.” This is evident that the strong family values bring about satisfaction in marriages (Yuxiang 2003,14).
The introduction of policies that encourage women to work outside home, has led to Chinese homes enjoying shared roles between a husband and a wife. The last fifteen years have been critical in reshaping the Chinese culture.
The traditional and modern family values seem to “crash” putting these families in a dilemma. From the research the youths today seem to embrace cohabiting, premarital sex and divorce. In The Chinese family and the study of private life, Yan Yuxiang is optimistic the family functions and roles will not be replaced, by the inevitable changes in the Chinese culture.