Monday, September 2, 2019

The Effects of One-Child Policy on Chinese Kinship

Burt Jiang Anthropology 331 4/22/2013 Term Paper The origins of Chinese civilization derive its roots from the Huang-he and Yangtze Rivers. Like other ancient river valley civilizations, these two rivers provided early Chinese settlers with the raw materials necessary to sustain culture and society. Burgeoning from small, scattered clans, autonomous groups of Chinese villages situated around the rivers would in turn become the building blocks of the ancient Chinese dynasties to the modern day, People’s Republic of China.The system of clans became an effective method of identifying one’s own lineage through the maintenance of a single surname throughout the clan. As the social structure of the clan grew, the complex interactions among clan and non-clan members eventually synergized to create China’s own form of kinship. Anthropologists have since come to classify Chinese kinship under the broader term of Sudanese kinship. The Sudanese, and by extension Chinese, ki nship is considered the most complex system with a separate designation for almost every one of ego’s kin based on generation, lineage, relative age, and gender.As observed, the Chinese kinship system already has a strictly defined scheme of kin identification, but the monikers only serve as an outline of China’s kinship system. The true backbone of Chinese kinship draws its source from Confucian ideals, ideals that have been deeply ingrained in Chinese dogma since the late fifth century B. C. Among his teachings of filial piety and ancestor worship, Confucius outlines for the Chinese people the five most basic interactions: interactions between ruler and subject; father and son; elder and younger brother; husband and wife; and between friends.Of the five interactions, the interactions between father-son, and husband-wife, have seen the greatest amount of development and change throughout to course of China’s history. As China exited the feudal age and entered t he modern world as The People’s Republic of China, the two interactions identified experienced considerable changes while maintaining their signature Chinese accent. Feudal China’s departure, and the advent of communist China, has brought forth rapid family reform and ultimately, the initiation of the One-Child Policy. Even in the face of rapid modernization and reform, the trong influences of Confucian ideals and an intrinsic patrilineal descent pattern still characterize Chinese kinship; however, the introduction of the One-Child Policy, and its ramifications, has put stress on the traditional Chinese family structures as well as possibly creating many more problems future generations must solve. Of all the pseudo-religious institutions that took hold in China, Daoism and Zen Buddhism, most notably, the concept of ancestor worship put forth by Confucius is by far the most ubiquitous in Chinese culture and kinship relationships.Defined by the nine agnates, Confucius t ook great efforts to outline the nuclear family as clearly as possible, three generations prior to the ego, the ego, and three generations after the ego. Within the nine agnates, ancestral worship and filial piety became the driving forces that perpetuated kinship interactions in China for generations. Thus forms the cyclical cycle of Chinese kinship, the younger generations are kept in line by the rules of filial piety while the older generation is kept in memory and reverence via ancestral worship.The importance of ancestor worship can be conceptualized and materialized through the complex mourning attire and rituals exhibited by the Chinese people. Much like the suru’ai of Kwaio, individuals in mourning must display no worldly attachment, must not be seen in public, must have abstain from sexual activity, and generally must live a life of detachment throughout the mourning period (Akin March 11). The mourning period is defined by the relationship of the mourner to the indi vidual that has passed away; consequently, the duration of this period can range from three months to three years based on the strength of the bond shared.During a time of mourning, individuals must also wear complementing attire to signify which stage of mourning he/she is in; hence the attire has evolved into the five degrees of mourning attire. Chinese mourning rituals were taken very seriously within the clans and the act of proposing to an individual exhibiting any stage of the five degrees of mourning attire was considered highly immoral and taboo. Rituals of ancestor worship, like mourning ceremonies and attire, serve to underscore the importance of the ancestors to the Chinese people.The sterility, and structure, of the mourning period is an excellent example of the reverence Chinese individuals hold for their deceased kin; to interrupt the transition from individual to ancestor is still considered highly disrespectful and taboo even in modern China. Ancestor worship provide s a broad blanket of allegiance for the Chinese kinship system. The importance of ancestor worship is to keep entire clans together, but the smaller familial units require a force more tenable and exact.Within the nuclear family, Confucius saw the wisdom to conceive of another ideal that complements the notion of ancestor worship, that idea being filial piety. Filial piety, in turn, provides the construct in which the five relationships, outlined earlier, can be practically maintained and perpetuated. Confucius’ relationship of father and son is kept constant by the power of filial piety. Younger generations are taught to respect and heed the advice of their forefathers. Consequently, this interaction creates an incredibly structured kinship system in which obedience is preferential to individuality.The rules defined by filial piety culminated in the written document known as The Great Qing Legal Code, introduced during the Qing Dynasty, 1644 to 1912. This document not only p rovided, in great detail, the laws and codes regarding kinship bonds on all five levels of relationship, but it also included the punishments if those bonds were broken or tested by crime (Jones 29). Criminal activity was therefore punished more severely if the crime committed was within the clan, and further intensified if the offence was committed against a higher ranking individual.The importance of upholding the kinship relations set forth by Confucius can be seen in the Code’s punishment for breaking the first and foremost relationship of ruler and subject. Punishment for breaking China’s most important bond resulted in what is known as: â€Å"The extermination of nine kindreds†. Any individual who commits treason against his/her emperor would be subject to the complete annihilation of his/her nine agnates, effectively erasing that individual’s bloodline (Jones 16).This incredibly overt punishment trickled down, with lesser severity, to the other fou r relationships, and ultimately underlined the importance of loyalty to kin and emperor. Filial piety’s significance is further stressed in the father-son relationship because of China’s early affinity to the patrilineal descent system, echoes from the country’s roots in the clan structure. Since only males can bear and preserve the family surname, loyalty of the son to the father became critical in a patrilineal descent system.In order to ensure the lineage’s continuation, carefully arranged marriages between families would rise as the forefront solution. Chinese kinship, like many other systems, relies on the institution of marriage as bridge between two bodies of people. Recognized in Confucian teachings, a married couple is considered the most basic social unit from which other relationships stem. In Chinese culture, marriages were generally arranged by a matchmaker who would bless the union. After the marriage, the wife would be incorporated into the husband’s family; thus resulting in the importance of the production of sons to keep the family surname.Throughout history, Chinese marriages and kinship revolved around the production of viable sons to carry the family name. Like Kwaio societies, fertility of the mother proved to be of paramount importance when evaluating a marriage relationship (Akin February 20). It is important to take note, however, that while monogamy was the accepted practice, polygamy gained prominence in imperial families that could not produce a healthy male heir, a problem solved also by nurture kinship (Akin January 23).Once married, divorce was possible only if the wife was proved to have engaged in one of these seven offences: failure to observe filial piety to the parent-in-laws, failure to bear a son, consistently vulgar or lewd, harbors jealousy, has a vile disease, gossips too much, or commits a theft. Although unusual to western societies, gossip is viewed as a poison to families and clans because of its inherent proclivity to hyperbole and fabrication. Patrilineal descent’s importance can be clearly observed in marriage rituals as divorce is only possible if the female fails to produce a son or commits other errs.There are, however, three distinct situations in which a wife is guaranteed immunity from a divorce, those three situations being: the wife has no family to return to, the wife has observed a full three year mourning period for her parent-in-law, or if her husband was poor during marriage and is currently wealth. In conjunction with ancestor worship, filial piety, and the structured marriage system, Chinese kinship has developed these three hallmark pillars to safeguard strong kinship bonds of father-son and husband-wife from one generation to the next.Although only briefly mentioned earlier, the wedding ceremonies themselves are a testament to the extravagance and importance of a decision such as marriage to the Chinese people. Categorized by the si x etiquettes, Chinese wedding ceremonies consisted of: the proposal, birthdates, bride price, wedding gifts, arranging the wedding, and the ceremony itself. Each of the six etiquettes involves a highly organized succession of events that would lead to marriage of husband and wife. The first two steps, proposal and birthdates, involve a matchmaker evaluating a potential daughter-in-law for marriage.If the divination rituals, Suan Ming, are positive and both sides of the marriage accept the terms, the next step would be submitting a bride price (Wolf 102). Bride price, or betrothal gifts, is then presented by the matchmaker to the bridegroom’s family completing the pre-wedding rituals. The actual wedding ceremony is somewhat austere in comparison to its preparation. It simply involves, in western society terms, the exchanging of vows and good blessings followed by paying respects to the Jade Emperor, other deities, and each family’s ancestors.Finally, the wedding banquet is the closing event in the marriage process and is often more lively and festive. Traditionally, the groom is responsible for the cost of the wedding invitation, pastries, the banquet invitations, and the wedding itself. Wedding banquets are elaborate and consist usually of five to ten courses, with ingredients such as  shark's fin,  abalone,  lobster,  squab,  sea cucumber,  swift nests,  fish roe  in soup or as decoration on top of a dish to symbolize fertility, and local delicacies (Wolf 88).Customarily, the father of the bride is responsible for the wedding banquet hosted on the bride's side and the alcohol consumed during both banquets. The wedding banquets are two separate banquets: the primary banquet is hosted once at the bride's side, the second banquet, smaller banquet, at the groom's side. While the wedding itself is often based on the couple's choices, the wedding banquets are a gesture of appreciation, to those that have raised the bride and groom, suc h as grandparents and uncles.Additionally, this gesture incorporates the ideas of nurture kinship, in which kinship persists and even thrives beyond the nuclear family. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles, of both sides of the family would often offer help in raising a family’s child in an attempt to establish nurture kinship bonds. These bonds would then be materialized through gift exchange during the wedding banquet and other important family occasions. The two banquets serve also to ensure the relatives on each side meet the relatives on the other side (Wolf 49).Thus out of respect for the elders, wedding banquets are usually done formally and traditionally, which the older generation is thought to be more comfortable with. As one can see, the six etiquettes of the marriage and its accompanying practices come together to create a single cohesive event meant to bring two families of different clan origins together as one. The traditions and conventions of Chinese kinship that have been examined have been kept constant for much of the nation’s history until the late 19th century and early 20th century.As political turmoil and growing dissatisfaction with the incumbent Qing Dynasty rose, the Chinese population made a push towards reform. After two decades of consolidation, dynastic China emerged from the feudal era as The Republic of China in 1912 headed by Sun Yat-sen. During the Nationalist era, Chinese kinship saw a slow movement towards modernity, a topic discussed in other sources but not focused on in this paper (See Hinton and Zarrow). The one exception to the evolution of kinship in China during this period was the residual influence of The Great Qing Legal Code.Although never referred to by name since the fall of the Qing, the collection of codes put forth by China’s forefathers manifested itself as a strict penal code during the Republic era, and would be re-adapted based on socialist law during the People’s Republic era (Jon es 229). Even when the governments representing China adjust to better fit its changing political landscape, the influences of Confucian teachings still resonate deeply in Chinese kinship and culture. Ultimately, the capitalistic ways of Nationalist China began to brew dissatisfaction among the classes as predicted by the rising popularity of Marxist theory at the time.The issues described by Marx, such as class conflict, were only exacerbated by China’s already enormous proletariat population. Eventually, and inevitably, The Republic of China was usurped by the communist oriented People’s Republic of China, headed by Mao Zedong in 1949. Mao’s rise to ascendancy and the subsequent initiation family reform policies such as the One-Child Policy has had tremendous consequences on traditional Chinese kinship structure and maintenance. The communist party’s policies regarding family and kin have persisted into the 21st century with some repercussions already a pparent, and others that have yet to be evaluated.The newly formed People’s Republic of China introduced itself to the modern world as a backward, unsophisticated nation of peasants led by a few intellectuals. Needless to say, the communist party saw prudence in creating a new image for itself. Family size and structure rose to the top of the communist party’s agenda as a target for transformation. In 1979, the Chinese government embarked on an ambitious campaign of market reform following the economic stagnation of the Cultural Revolution. The government saw strict population containment as essential to economic reform and to improvement of living standards.So championed by The State Family Planning Bureau, the One-Child Policy was introduced. In its execution, the Policy did everything the Chinese government hoped for by preventing roughly 100 million child births as of 2009 (Hesketh 1173). Although effective in containing China’s population growth, the One-Ch ild Policy proved to have meaningful impacts in other aspects of Chinese culture, particularly Chinese kinship. The Policy’s repercussions are in direct conflict with China’s oldest tradition of ancestor worship.A ritual that had been a driving force of Chinese kinship since the very beginning of feudal China is now at odds with the policies of modern China. Specifically, the One-Child Policy has created a conundrum known as the four-two-one (referred to as 4:2:1) phenomenon. The phenomenon is the estimated ratio of grandparents to parents to children currently existing in China (Hesketh 1171). Immediately, the most apparent issue is the imbalance of the ratio between grandparents to grandchildren, essentially for every one child there exist four grandparents.This many not seem like an issue to western societies, but China’s enormous population, a result of post-WWII baby boom trends, exacerbates the ratio to a breaking point. Traditional kinship bonds dictate t hat the younger generations must care and nurture for their elders. However with such an unbalanced ratio of individuals between the generations, China’s sons are failing to support their fathers while jeopardizing their own livelihood. Confucius’ signature relationship of father-son is now threatened greatly by the incurred financial burden of China’s youth.Changes in kinship structure and, to a lesser degree, family structure are driven by changes in fertility and mortality. The drastic reduction in fertility has substantially reduced the number of children born to each family, so that the extensive horizontal kinship ties of China’s past have essentially been curtailed (Jiang 128). However, improvements in mortality have brought unprecedented longevity to China’s elderly, and an overlap of generations that has made vertical kinship ties increasingly common (Jiang 129).Ancestor worship is at odds with China’s new agenda of population refor m and containment. The sudden reduction of horizontal kinship bonds and gross amplification of vertical kinship bonds forces China’s newest generation to pick between financially stability, through neglecting their elders, or supporting their elders, through draining their own personal capital. Similar to ancestor worship, the Confucian concepts of filial piety and marriage are also tested by the One-Child Policy.Starting with filial piety, the stipulation that families can only bear one child has put tremendous emphasis on patrilineal descent and the birth of sons. In feudal China, citizens were given the opportunity to produce as many offspring as needed and yet some families still failed to produce sons, and lineages were lost. Now, with only one opportunity, modern Chinese families have put an unprecedented level of importance to a mother’s ability to bear a male child. This in turn critically affects the father-son dynamic established by Confucius.Instead of overt ly obeying one’s parents, male children in China now understand the importance of their position, and exploit it. China’s newest generation of males have exhibited an unrecorded level of sexual, social, and media experimentation, generations of sexual and individual repression are just now starting to be shattered (Fong 1103). Additionally, the One-Child Policy has had mixed impact on the status of females and by extension marriage. With very limited contraception available for women, the One-Child Policy has forced families to prioritize the birth of males over females.This inevitably leads to the marginalization of the female gender in modern China and an incredibly imbalanced gender ratio. However, the results of the Policy on woman’s social status in China are not completely skewed to one, negative aspect. Those women who are kept by their families have just recently seen an unparalleled lift in their social positions and powers. Daughters empowered by the s upport of their parents, with no sons to favor, are able to defy detrimental norms while strategically using ones that give them advantages in the educational system and the job and marriage markets (Fong 1105).Furthermore, divorce rates have never been higher in modern China as a result of the empowered female gender. Women are more freely seeking new relationships and marriages, a notion inconceivable during the height of Confucian marriage practices. Modernity is an atypical force. Traditional kinship relationships and marriage practices of China are not necessarily broken by modern policies, like the One-Child, but they are certainly altered from their ancestral conceptualizations in feudal China. Chinese kinship is one of the most unique and complicated kinship systems ever examined.The kinship bonds established by the Chinese people may appear outwardly strict or even ascetic, but underneath the guise of structure, is an incredibly resilient dogma that still influences kinship in China today. Confucius’ ideas of ancestor worship, filial piety, and marriage all amalgamate to create a system of kinship that has withstood dynasties, regimes, and political parties. The recent challenges presented by the One-Child Policy have certainly put strain on traditional kinship relationships like that of father to son.Yet, the elevation of the female gender and increased fluidity in marriage rituals signify that Chinese kinship is not as stagnant as some anthropologists believe. No matter how much change is imposed on China’s kinship, the voice of Confucius will always permeate families, marriages, siblings, and children. Works Cited Directly used in paper: Akin, David. â€Å"Doubts, Critiques, and Revisions of Kinship Studies. † Anthropology 331. University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, 23 January 2013. Akin, David. â€Å"Totem, Taboo, and Identity (part 1). † Anthropology 331. University of Michigan.Ann Arbor, 11 March 2013. Akin, David.  "Marriage as Exchange. † Anthropology 331. University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, 20 February 2013. Fong, Vanessa L. â€Å"China's One-Child Policy and the Empowerment of Urban Daughters. †Ã‚  American Anthropologist  104. 4 (2002): 1098-109. Print. Jiang, Lin. â€Å"Changing Kinship Structure and Its Implications for Old-Age Support in Urban and Rural China. †Ã‚  Population Studies  49. 1 (1995): 127-45. Print. Jones, William C. The Great Qing Code. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1994 Hesketh, Therese, Li Lu, and Zhu Wei Xing. The Effect of China's One-Child Family Policy after 25 Years. †Ã‚  New England Journal of Medicine  353. 11 (2005): 1171-176. Print. Wolf, Arthur P. , and Chieh-shan Huang. Marriage and Adoption in China: 1845-1945. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1980. Print. Additional Research Hinton, William. Fanshen; a Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village. New York: Monthly Review, 1967. Print. Zarrow, Peter Gue. After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885-1924. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2012. Print.

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