While China has increasingly adopted Western influences, 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 values and morals to one another, and these have been a part of daily life for many centuries.
Traditional Chinese family values feature very clear-cut, different roles and rights for men and women. While these are rapidly changing, the original values are still evident on some levels.
In the traditional Chinese family, the man is responsible for maintaining, providing for and protecting his family. At the same time, he is given all the decision-making power when it comes to his wife, family and other family members. He is 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 in regards to his adult children's lives.
Traditional Chinese mothers usually stay in the home to take care of the home, the children, and the rest of the family. Many modern Chinese women have careers, but still rely on their husbands or fathers for financial support at some point in their lives.
Traditional Chinese families honor the patrilineal descent system. This means that a child's lineage and descent is calculated from his father only. Men are the only ones that can inherit family membership and family land or other inheritance in this type of system.
Marriage, family and children are very important in the Chinese culture. Because such a large portion of the population lived in rural environments for so long, getting married and having children meant that you'd have workers and be able to create and maintain a homestead. Traditional marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Many couples never even met one another until their wedding day. Modern Chinese couples choose their own partners, but many still ask for their elders' approval.
As in many Asian cultures, the elders of the family are revered for their wisdom. In both traditional and modern families, elders are respected, taken care of and looked up to 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.
In order to combat overcrowding and overpopulation, the People's Republic of China mandated a one-child-per-household policy in the late 1970s. This law often only applied to urban families, while some rural families could get away with having more than one child. This policy influenced how children were looked at, and many baby girls were killed at birth because they wouldn't be able to carry on the family name or inherit the family land. In traditional families, all children are expected to obey their parents without discussion, and parents could legally kill 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 in recent years, 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.