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  • Family Life in China by William R. Jankowiak and Robert L. Moore
  • Jinjin Lu
Family Life in China, by William R. Jankowiak and Robert L. Moore. Cambridge: Polity, 2017. 232 pp. US$55.91 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9780745685540.

The Chinese family was shaped by its uniform ties with lineage and kinship. Traditionally, Confucian values hold that patriarchy and filial piety were essential to maintain the inner framework of the Chinese family. Every family member has his or her roles that are stressed over affection and conjugal love. However, what has the Chinese family experienced, and how was it transformed by the dramatic changes in the past century? William Jankowiak and Robert Moore's Family Life in China answers these comprehensive questions.

Compared with other anthropologists, the authors view the Chinese family in both traditional and historical lenses by adopting many unpublished field notes and collaborative research work. This book not only fills a large gap in literature but also provides descriptions of a changing family to the present. There are seven chapters, excluding the chronology map and conclusion. They address the important themes of Chinese family life, including family structure, ethnic variations, courtship and marriage, parenting, and emerging adults. The family structure has changed dramatically from being multigenerational and extended to nuclear and neo-residence. The neo-family is tied by affective bonds rather than the couples' duties and roles. Ethnic marriage has been transformed to a more standard one husband and one wife, and the family is inclined to speak both standard Mandarin and their dialects. The traditional androcentric relationship cannot be sustained in the present. Women and girls have gained power in Chinese family life due to economic and industrial developments. Likewise, the relationships between parents and children have been transformed from obedience to more equal family status. However, although filial piety is emphasized more on emotional ties, it cannot be removed from traditional Confucian values and generational expectations. Particularly, due to the post-Mao one-child policy and social promulgation, how to balance filial piety and social harmony needs further consideration.

The authors begin with a chronology that shows the key events in Chinese history to the rise of Present Xi. The first chapter is composed of short sections that discuss the core features of Chinese family life, from the old cultural ideas to the new cultural realities. Instead of featuring a single type of the ideal Chinese family, the new various patterns of Chinese families have been shaped due to the economic reforms and [End Page 162] different cohorts' expectations. Love-based relationships have been extended from husbands and wives to parents and children; therefore, the urban and rural migrant Chinese family life has experienced reformation and reconfigurations.

The second chapter analyzes how "patrilineal and patriarchal ideal was beginning to lose ground" in a historical and cultural aspects (p. 18). With the construction of "corporate model and private-life model," Chinese kinship, friendships, and multigenerational families have developed in a new trend. Neo-families develop friendships based on both family members and friends. Due to the Chinese grandparents' dueling role in interdependency, urban families have been reshaped by "conjugal loyalties and bilateral, multigenerational, emotional linkages" (p. 38). The authors argue that traditional family life heavily depended on males' economic contributions while the females were treated inferiorly. However, today's neo-family life is no longer bonded by duties; personal goals and interests are stressed.

Chapter 3 summarizes how minorities such as Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Mosuo differ from the Han majority. Some parts of this chapter lack congruence in their descriptions. For example, "Certainly most Tibetans would have preferred to be left alone rather than subjected to Beijing" (p. 52). This nonrigorous description is highly likely to cause misunderstandings for international readers. Chapters 4 and 5 can be viewed as a whole. The former describes how arranged marriages were weakened in favor of free-love relationships. The emerging dating culture confirms Chinese interest in long-term love-based marriages. Chapter 5 goes further in depth regarding how affection-based marriages gained in popularity in China and Chinese parents came to value their children's marriages.

Chapter 6 notes a global long-standing phenomenon: building affective and...


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pp. 162-164
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