For centuries, the family has influenced aspects of Chinese society, culture, politics, and every-day life. Multiple generations lived together in large court-yard houses (sìhéyuàn 四合院). Dynasties revolved around imperial families, where sons were raised to become emperors, and brothers and uncles fought over the throne. Family dynamics are also a popular theme in Chinese literature, from the classic Dream of the Red Chamber (Hónglóumèng 红楼梦, 18th century) to Bā Jīn’s 巴金 coming-of-age novel Family (Jiā 家, 1931), and Yu Hua’s funny yet provocative Brothers (Xiōngdì 兄弟, 2005).
The family is a great topic for teaching/learning about Chinese language, culture, history, and society, and can also be used in courses on political science and international relations. From the traditional Confucian concept of filial piety (xiào 孝), to the modern one-child policy, and from so-called tiger moms to political princelings.
Articles about family from the Berkshire Encyclopedia of China:
- Family and Marriage
- One-Child Policy
- Imperial Marriage
- Filial Piety
- Role of Women
- Three Obediences and Four Virtues
- Naming System
- Social Values
Other articles and blog posts:
- A Family Affair. This article describes the phenomenon of the so-called princelings in Chinese politics and business. By John Garnaut in Foreign Policy magazine.
- Wen Jiabao’s family/business relations and wealth is mapped in this chart from The New York Times.
- Who’s who in a Chinese family? Chinese kinship terms are tricky business. Read this blog post to learn more about these and other naming practices in China.
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