Just like any other race, the Chinese people have their social life that is driven by a culture that is full of values and morals vital for existence as an individual. However, with the western culture introduction, the values and morals in almost all races have changed in some existence. This has led to acquiring of the new cultures and letting go of the old ones. My family, through evaluating the lives of my great-grandparents, grandparents and my life through my parents, is evident that we are not left out in any way. It seems that at each single stage, our social life changed in one way or another living us with little to hold on that was still perceived as important in one way or another. This paper synthesizes family history with the sociological perspective on families through use of sociological concepts, theories, and patterns. The paper will incorporate information on family generations in regards to the issues of social class, gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual orientation
As it is known, a family is a base on which a society is built, grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, uncle, my two cousins and my three siblings live together in a three bed roomed apartment. As far as I can remember vividly, we have lived like this for a couple of years. This extended family living as my grandfather usually says, is a culture that has been there for ages now though some people have done away with it due to the western culture while others are still holding to it.
My great grandparents who practiced Buddhism and who are now my ancestors as they are long dead had a different life compared to my grandparents and my parents. They grew up in a certain town that was not highly populated due to its landscape. They owned a big portion of land where they practiced farming as a mean of survival. During those days, owning a piece of land was so hard and hence those few lucky were respected and feared. This made their status high in a way that they were not only respected but also feared. They, their parents, their two sisters, and their five children lived together in their home where they worked together on the farm and other things.
They believed in having many children since it was a show of wealth and also children provided labour for the family. This was an added advantage to my great grandparents because with such a big portion of land labour was greatly needed. My great grandfather was the one who had complete authority of the entire family in that he controlled their way of living through ensuring that they upheld to his standards through good behaviors. On addition, he ensured that all the customs were followed by all means. For instance, he made sure that ancestors were respected and adored since they played an important role in protecting the living. He and the entire family respected and worshipped them as they were perceived to be gods to some extent. Though as the head, my great grandfather never disrespected his parents as respect was a core value that was to be held upon by in the Chinese culture.
As the head of the family, my great-grandfather had to ensure that all things were properly done by his family, this being, his siblings, wife and his children and more so ensured that they acquired education which at that time considered as basic knowledge for their day to day activities. In this case, knowledge was orally taught by elders who were respected and considered wise as there were neither schools nor institutions. The female was taught household chores like washing, cooking, cleaning among other basic things by female elders. On the other hand, male children were taught practical skills and farming by the male elders. The skills and knowledge were expected to help them in their long life duties that were their survival means.
Since they lived together, the dignity of the entire family depended on each other. If one member committed a mistake or a wrong, all the family members were negatively affected as their name would have been ruined. In this, besides great grandparent being the one in control of them all, all the members were expected to be a watchdog of the other inclusive of the children. The elders in the family disciplined the children through beating and even scolding depending on the weight of the mistake and the reaction of the child after knowing the mistake. However, those children that were apologetic were only scolded and warned of the need not to repeat the mistake the second time. Punishing children when they had committed, a mistake was serious since they had to learn and improve to live a life that is worthy and as a expected by their parents.
There were four types of marriages practiced at that time, minor, major, uxorilocal and delayed transfer marriage but my great grandparents got married under the minor type. My great grandmother was only seven years old when she got married to my great grandfather after the parents organized their marriage without their consent. Both of them had no say in the matter as these were customs practiced since the era of ancestors. The dowry, which was negotiated by parents from both sides, was paid by the groom's family before they did the wedding and finally started living together. However, since my great grandmother was still young, they did not engage in intimacy until they both were in their teenage. Even after getting married, my great grandparents were not allowed to divorce in any given circumstance as the culture did not give consent to this. The windows also were discriminated in the community and that they had no say in the whatsoever matter.
My great grandfather though rich as he was, he acquired the property from his parents. As the only boy child among his two sisters, he was given the entire property to handle. During this period, the female gender was not allowed to own anything as they were considered to be temporary members of the family since sooner or later they had to get married and leave the family behind.
Just like their parents, my grandparents practiced Buddhism, and as I said earlier on, they live with us under one roof though they can't stop complaining about how differently we do things from them. Their lives though differed from their parent’s life in a certain way; there were similarities that could still be seen. Their family composed of their parents, though passed on later, aunties (two) cousins and my grandparent’s three children (two girls and one boy).
They lived, however, on the same piece of land their parents lived on which they acquired through inheritance. Their way of survival depended on the same piece of land their parents left them which they cultivated and practiced cattle keeping. Unlike my great grandparents who had five children, my grandparents had only two children with my father as the only male in the family. In this generation, male children were still seen as important compared to female children as they were meant to carry the family surname ahead. This created more rift between the two genders even though nothing was done to solve the issue.
Unlike my great grandparents whose education process was more of acquiring basic knowledge from the elders due to lack of schools, my grandparents were lucky since they had schools and institutions build for them since it was the beginning of civilization. However, the parents and children did not see the vitality of education and hence concentrated on other lifelong tasks. In this case, my grandparents were never lucky enough to go to school. They worked on the farm and other tasks that they were supposed to do as an entire family. However, some parents that so the need to educate children did it choosing. Only the male children were taken to school leaving the female behind that did house chores.
Children were expected to hold dearly to the family values to keep the name of the family intact. In this case, my grandparents used to discipline their children for the purpose of making them respectable persons in the society. In the case where children had fought as grandmother told me, the punishment applied was a physical one where their parents could listen to both the children and then beat or pinch the one that started the fight. In other cases, children were denied food for some time only to be rectified then they could eat afterwards.
As I had mentioned earlier on that my parents lived in the piece of land they inherited from their parents, it is evident that this practice still continues even till now. However, the fact that only the male children were the only ones who were supposed to inherit from their parents had begun to change. Though my father inherited a bigger portion of land and the cattle from my grandparents, my aunt got a smaller portion though she was completely satisfied.
My grandparents just like my great grandparents had no choice on which person to marry or get married to. Their marriage was more of a business and a family matter rather than being personal. My grandparents, in this situation, were married under the delayed transfer type of marriage. After them getting married, they did not live together immediately since my grandmother was to remain home until she gave birth to their first child. The grandmother said that this was so because she was the only female in her family and hence she had to continue carrying out her house chores until they could find someone to replace her. After giving birth to her firstborn who, in this case, is my father, she was released to her husband's family. In other cases as she puts, married women can be left in their family homes permanently depending on certain situations. The culture did not allow divorce as this led to the woman being looked down upon and this made them live together their entire lifetime even if one had bad behaviors or added other wives. My grandparents though argue and don't seem to get along in most cases, have managed to live together up to now.
Though uneducated, my parents have ensured that we get the best that they did not have. For this reason, my father chooses to sell the family land that he inherited from the parents and embarked on started a business that brings the food to our table every single day. He did not see the need to keep the land, unlike my previous parents who valued the inheritance a lot.
Having been shaped by the Western culture, my parent’s life is different from my grandparents life even though some cultures are still practiced even today. For instance, ancestors are still respected even today. The values of having respect and caring for parents still holds importance to us as children. My current family continues to practice Buddhism just as my great and grandparents did.
However, with the western culture, the act of living together as an extended family has kept changing with time due to a number of reasons, for example, conflicts are prone to erupt because of the age gaps that in most cases are caused by differences in views between the elderly and the young. For us, living with my grandparents is important as they are old and hence need support and care.
Unlike my previous parents, my current parents showed concern on the need for education, and this led to them taking us to school. We are pushed to perform well as to our parents; we are considered as a representation of national resources and major investments (LI RUI of Child Research). My parents expect as to perform well so that we can achieve the very best and become self-independent in the future. With the maximum level of education being a Ph.D., my parents are willing to educate us all till this level.
All children do mistakes as we all know, but discipline is what creates the difference. Unlike my great grandparents and grandparents who mainly focused on the mistakes committed, my parents have learned to support and to show us compassion alongside discipline. My parents leave us to do the mistake, and though we are disciplined, we are also given room to improve.
My parent’s marriage greatly differed from the previous marriages. Unlike them, my parents were allowed to choose whoever to marry since the world had greatly changed due to civilization. The issue of marriage as a business had been done away with after the introduction of marriage laws in 1950 and 1980. The practice was made free, only between adults and that both parties had to agree to the marriage. In this case, my father had developed an interest in my mother while they were young but only hid his feelings till they had fully grown. With the new laws granting freedom to choose one's partner, they got married after the all the arrangements and the wedding. Unlike the times of my great and grandparents, divorce is allowed where one notices the change in the partners’ behavior that may not seem appealing. More so, the new laws have given rights to the window to get remarried and live a happy life.
How My Family Has Changed Over Time
My family has changed over time in that the average family size is much smaller in comparison to what it was during my great-grandparents, grandparents and parents. For instance, my great-grandfather had five children, while my grandfather had only two. In my family, the dominant family is the nuclear family. Cases of the extended family staying together with brothers who are in marriage relationships are not easily found in my family. However, in my family, the three generation family still exists and remains very important as in the Chinese society.
My Family Changes and Sociological Patterns
My family changes are connected to the sociological patterns as my family no longer supports the traditional Chinese value of maintaining family lineage. In my family, modern life has greatly changed as a result of changes in education, pension system and the structure of the economy. Another connection to sociological patterns is shown by the improvement of the socio-economic status of women in my family. This is especially manifested in terms of education. In my family, improved socio-economic status of women has impacted on marriage behaviors. Premarital cohabitation and divorce cases are on the increase.
My Family Diverges from Social Class, Gender, and Race/Ethnicity
There are ways in which my family diverges from the common patterns that are related to social class, gender, race and ethnicity. My family has become flexible in nature hence leading to changes in the family structure. Again marriage is a process of constant evolution. My family also diverges from social class as pair bonding has taken different forms across different social classes, gender and ethnicity. In my family, these differences have been brought about by the emergence of modernity in the form of industrialization, urbanization, and changes in the family structure. Other factors that account for those differences in my family are the level of education, and socio-economic status.
Living with my grandparents has benefited me in a way that through them, I have come to know and understand my family history basing on my great grandparents life, my grandparents life and, making a comparison with mine. It is, however, evident that many things have changed socially in our lineage though some values are still held on till today. For instance, in the entire lineage, the values and morals, e.g., respect for both the dead and the living is still held upon. However, the issue of payment of dowry was not well elaborated regarding specific gifts, quality and even amount as both my grandparents claimed to have forgotten. Being old as they are, it was hard for them to remember some things, for example, the issue of how they solved disputes amongst themselves, how they conducted different ceremonies, e.g., births and funerals.