Kinship is a relationship among any entities that have a common origin or genealogy. This may be either through biological, historical or cultural decent. The kinship system includes people correlated both by marriage and descent. Through marriage, the kinship concerned is referred to as ‘affinity’ in contrast to ‘consagunguinity’ also called ‘descent’. Kinship is one of the most basic component and principles for individual organizations into social groups, categories, roles, and genealogy.
Various communities or social settings have different kinship organizations in regard to their ancestral preferences or their social and/or geographical settings. The Chinese kinship organization is one among many different types and forms of organizations in the respective kinship. The Chinese kinship organization is one of the most unique forms of kinship settings in the world. The Chinese kinship system of organization is mostly agnatic. This mainly emphasizes on patrilineality.
The Chinese kinship system can be referred to as the Descriptive system. It is mainly used to define concerned family relations and settings. It is one of the major kinship systems of the world today and in the past. In Imperial China, filial piety was a core value of family life and further the centrality of the family life in Confucian statecraft made filial piety a lynchpin for the entire social order (Whyte 2). Stress by parents to their children down through the centuries in the Chinese family, to treat their elders in certain ways was constant. Treating of elders with respect and dignity was and is still to the Chinese, a central and important measure of the moral worth of the respective individuals in question.
The agnatic form of organization in the Chinese form of kinship organization has had various effects in both the long run and the short run. The agnatic form of organization widely endorsed and practiced in the Chinese kinship organization highly emphasizes the need and obligation of family in instilling various moral attributes to their respective children. The Chinese family has mandated itself in shaping the not only the life but also the consequent future of the respective family members, especially the male children, considering the agnatic nature of organization that characterizes this form of kinship. The parents and the society at large therefore have a duty in ensuring that they shape the wants and personalities of the younger population. The consequences of these actions can be clearly seen. For instance, the adoption, continuation and maintenance of the Chinese culture have been steadily upheld for centuries consecutively.
The rather forceful instillations of expected characters to various individuals in the Chinese family have also become very useful in ensuring that proper behavior of individuals is practiced. Further, the societal shaping of the Chinese culture has therefore been pre-determined in ways best befitting the Chinese for m of life. Discipline is mostly a priority emphasized by the majority of parents to their children. The positive results of this kind of undertaking can also be seen to reflect in the economic situation of the country china as whole.
The Chinese form of kinship organization has also endorsed and integrated the acts and practice of ensuring full dependence of the younger individuals on their respective parents or the society in creation of their future identities. The shaping of the children from early ages by parents in regard to the wants and requirements of both the parents and the society at large is obvious. This undertaking extends to even the determining of career options and making of critical personal life decisions such as courting and marriage (Wolf 213). The older generation in the Chinese form of kinship organization therefore exhibits the full rights and capacities of shaping and pre-determining the lives of the younger populations. In comparison to the western form of life and organization, the Chinese system of conduct wholly contradicts the expectations and practices in the western world. The western cultural practices not only call for, but also ensure individuality is a major exercise undergone by all in the society.
The family members in a western societal setting are fully granted the choices and independence in choosing various life paths as well as in making of critical life decisions: the determination and decisions of life undertakings including the holding of various positions in the community and the society at large. This convention, enforced by the imperial code, of equal succession among brothers in the Chinese form of kinship organization had overall effects on the political scenery of the land. For instance, the subsequent result of this convention helped in a very large way, to foster China’s rural stability. Further, there was assurity of close ties in the concerned lands. These were as a result of instillation of required modes of behavior on each and every person in the land. As a result, there was an overall population, tended and shaped in their earlier years, that was working towards specific and common goals. Therefore, the results of this undertaking were to be of obvious positivity.
The lineage building in the Chinese form of kinship organization was mainly agnatic. There reasons that accounted for the adoption and dominance of this type of kinship. The likely reason for the emergence of this form of kinship organization could be result oriented. The fact that the Chinese people and society at large are mostly dependent on creating and implementing modes of operation that best suit their requirements and also give good and expected results at the end of the day could be a major reason. Therefore, the emergence and adoption of the agnatic kinship organization as the principal anchor of local authority administration in China was bound to happen. This is especially seen in the Southern part of China. This form of lineage effectively and efficiently provided descent groups within the society with the means to establish durable local authorities. This was further enhanced by the fact that the system was well and wholly incepted by the individuals and the society within the larger China. Importantly, the medium through which villagers in Southeast China encountered the imperial state, the corporate agnatic lineage also provided the correct means of evading and dissembling the imperial administration.
The Chinese form of kinship organization seems to mostly emphasize on the need and importance of not only self-respect, but also more crucially, the respect of individuals to others members of the family, community and even elders. Obligations to defer parental requirements and wishes, caring and tending to the parents needs were and are still deeply a rooted requirement of one’s behavior. Further, the subsequent attention to parents and other elders during their old age by the children, and generally all the younger individuals, trumpeted children’s personal preferences and desires.
Filial obligations of individuals further extended even beyond the grave. This was expectedly done by the careful tending of the needs of the deceased. The deceased in this case could be parents and earlier kin of the individuals. The fulfillment of this undertaking was done through the practice of worshipping ancestors, an essential undertaking regarding the fates of the surviving family members.
In traditional China, marriage could be associated or termed as a building block in the basic institution of society which is the family. One of the most important and sacred obligations of any given son to certain parents was to provide descendants for his and his father’s ancestors. To do so therefore, one was required to engage in marriage. Land- owning peasants and wealthy families used marriages to form ties with other families. The ties were cleverly connected with the assumptions and expectations that the said ties would be useful in times of trouble or even advantageous in commercial or political arenas.
The marriages of children from poor families was seen by the concerned parents as a necessary step in their subsequent provision during old age. Further, the wedding ceremony was itself seen as a major social event in the life of a family. Therefore, all the weddings undergone were accorded proper attention in terms of resources especially regardless of the financial status of the concerned parents of the individual. Except for highly westernized and highly politicized urban elite, the traditional attitudes and acts towards marriage were not seriously interrogated until the communist’s victory of 1949. In the first fifty years of this century, family reforms were an issue among the articulate minority who had contact with foreigners (Victor & Su 4). This practice however did not extend to the rural side of China until the revolutionaries were forced out of the cities in the late 1920’s. Even then, the need and urge for change was minimal. This was further circumscribed by the need for political support from a conservative male peasantry. Nonetheless, the first law that was promulgated by the Communists after the revolution was the Marriage Law of 1950 (Friedman 4). It was designed to intervene at a basic level in the intimate affairs of the local family. The immediate change and effect of this law has been described elsewhere. The rural class structure depended on the patriarchal power of the lineage. To destroy it and resume and consolidate power of the Communists, Mao encouraged those most oppressed by the mode of operation to speak out and take power. Interestingly, he also recognized the economic importance and relevance of women in the society. He also referred to this aspect regularly in his speeches.
Communist’s policies were aimed at destroying the old family-system and the patriarchal ideology that was supported by these policies, not at destroying the family as a core domestic unit. The Communists intention was neither on degrading the domestic unit in favor of the marital bond. The family has been one of the few sources of welfare services available in an unstable economic country determined (at least until recently) to develop itself without external assistance. To retain the Chinese family without the ancient Chinese family system, and to maintain the ideology of mutual duties yet shed the patriarchal ideology of the old system, required restructuring and the marriage reform was a critical first step.
In normative terms, marriages are still formed to serve the interests of a larger group. Formerly that group of people was the basic family and the lineage; now it is the collective or society. A carefully controlled and defined marriage registration system was set up to place the formation of marriages firmly under the control of the Party. The Party, not the family, has the end and final word on who may marry whom. The proper time for marriages was also exclusively determined by the Party. Other factors and details concerned with the wedding that was solely decided upon by the Party included the location of the weddings and generally the mode of operation and celebration in the wedding ceremony. Those in charge of marriage registration are instructed and expected to make sure that not only each marriage meets the requisite expectations of the Marriage Law, but that the principals to each marriage comprehend the rights granted to them by the virtue of that law.
Because of the Confucian tradition of filial piety and the ideals of family members living together in intergenerational households, numerous individuals consider the basic family to be the culturally appropriate locus of care for the aged population (Cohen 361). This form of arrangement is viewed especially true for rural China which from obvious observations, seems to be upholding more traditional values than modern China and where only a minority of individuals receive pensions from the government of their former workplaces. At the same time, due to the one child policy in China which was endorsed in 1979, the aged of China’s future will rarely have more than one son. Further, many families will have no sons at all but only daughters or in extreme cases, no children at all. Traditionally daughters were not responsible for the support of their birth parents however under the current legislation daughters share the important responsibility equally with the sons for the crucial support of their parents in old age.
There are three major forms of support provided by children: that provided by sons who have brothers, that provided by sons without the help from brothers, and that provided by daughters. Support by brothers and by “only sons” is characterized by the fact that it is expected and discussed publicly (Miller 35). Such public discussion helps to ensure that sons will indeed provide support to their parents during old age. It also tends to set not only the minimum required support but also the maximum at the same time. These contracts not only ensure that support is given but also that it will conform to and not exceed the requirements written in the contracts. Support given by daughters is neither contracted nor expected. Daughters are in liberty not to provide anything to their aging parents and may also give gifts exceeding all limitations as there are none set.
Apart from the nature of the sibling set, location of residence of the concerned individual is also a factor that determines the kind of support rendered by the specified children to their aging parents. Children living within the village or in nearby villages often give valuable assistance to their respective parents mostly in the form of services rendered to them. Further, daughters who live considerably near their parents contribute significantly to the care of their frail and ailing parents. On the other hand, children who live in cities and towns are usually able to provide considerably greater financial support compared to service rendering.
The Chinese form of kinship as can be seen is one of the most unique forms of kinship in the entire world today. Further, the Chinese people have remained true to their culture by effectively maintaining and practicing it since their respective creation and emergence by their ancestors.
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Wolf, Margery. “Marriage, Family, and the State in Contemporary China.” Pacific Affairs 57
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Cohen, Myron. “Family Management and Family Division in Contemporary Rural China.” The
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