Typical Chinese Life – Living for others

chiense-family1Chinese people never live for themselves, they are forever just living for others. This is how it works: When young, Chinese people live for their parents, when old, they live for their children (and grandchildren). Their lives are lived according to the will of other people, their performing DUTIES in Chinese culture. I call it a cycle of misery, because when your happiness is totally dependant on the hopes and expectations of others, you can never truly be happy. Now lets look at the life of a typical Chinese person… I have seen this same exact pattern COUNTLESS times. A young Chinese will study very hard at school, to get high grades to satisfy their parents. This is all that matters in their school years. After finishing school, the next step is marriage, and again will be greatly pressured by parents and relatives into finding a partner and quickly getting married. For men, this is especially difficult, since many girls will demand that he already has a house. Most men will buy a house with the help of their family, which makes family ties even closer. For a young girl to find a husband isn’t so difficult, she just has to watch the clock… A girl over 27 years of age is considered past her “used-by date” here in China and becomes a “leftover woman” (more about that later). In short, for a girl, youth and fertility are most important. For a man, it’s having a house and car. The next step after marriage is to have a son, and again enormous pressure to have one as quickly as possible. You may have noticed that I said “have a son”. Make no mistake, not a daughter, a son! This is because parents expect to move in with their son after he is married and raise his children. After they have raised his children, they will remain in the house and be nursed into their old age by their daughter-in-law. After the son is born, all the high hopes and expectations of its family will be placed on its shoulders. From the moment he is born, he will be living for others.

These cultural issues have even made their way into the system. When a woman gets married here in China, she officially leaves her family and joins her husband’s family. That’s right, she OFFICIALLY no longer belongs to her parents’ family. This can be seen in the 户口本 (hukou, meaning household registration). Each family has one hukou booklet, but this one booklet is the government registration for the entire family. The hukou booklet is of great importance and needed in many situations (e.g. registering for school and applying for a passport). The woman, after she is married, will be DELETED from her parents’ huokou book, and will be put in that of her husband’s family (typically held by her husband’s parents).

Now we know the cultural and systematic factors at play, it’s easier to understand why having a son is so central to a Chinese family’s life: a son remains in the family forever and carries on the family linage, whereas a daughter leaves the family and helps ANOTHER family carry on THEIR family linage! A family who has only a daugher will later lose that daughter through marriage, have no grandchildren to look after, and nobody to take care of them when they get old. They will be lonely, miserable, and looked down upon by other people in their hometown. Their lineage will be dead too. You can see why having a boy is so important. After getting married, arrival of a baby boy and its grandparents (on the man’s side) moving in, the main duties to parents have pretty much been completed. Now the couple will live for their own children, and thus the whole cycle starts all over again as it has for 5000 years.

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  1. Pingback: The Great Gender Imbalance of China | Teaching and Living in China

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