On what the traditional Chinese family kept? Digression to history of Confucian traditions
the Family as social institute should be considered in the context of the general cultural tradition. In China the family relations could not avoid powerful influence of the official Confucian ideology which was strictly regulating practically all spheres of life. Of course, it is not a small family in modern understanding, and rather big association: in the beginning tribal community, subsequently clan.
The family in representation of ancient Chinese is a tiny model of the state led by the father - the patriarch possessing almost absolute power. The most powerful impact on a family was exerted by beliefs and cults: cult of ancestors and cult of filial respect of Xiao. In traditional Confucian ideology interests of society prevailed over personal, and interests of a family completely prevailed over needs of her certain members.
Continuation of a cult of ancestors was one of the main tasks of a family: bringing of the victims and observance of the corresponding ceremonies. In consciousness of ancient Chinese the number of the lived years automatically ennobled the person over younger, and respect to parents was considered as the highest virtue. Since an era Han (206 to N e - 220 AD) Xiao`s cult is officially supported by the state, the cult of ancestors was, in fact, continuation of kinship communications and after death.
Thus, Confucianism stimulated blossoming of the big family which became an ideal at least since Kong Zi.
It led to cohabitation of several generations of relatives which could form the whole villages. The property and the income of family members united, resource management and affairs was carried out on behalf of a sort by his head. This unity was not limited to a material aspect: was considered that the family has not only the general property, but also the general for all fate. If, let us assume, her many members had serious problems (a chronic illness, not luck in affairs, nasty habits and so forth) manifestation of family trouble was seen in it.
The property of the patriarch was equally inherited by sons. In case of death of one of sons to death of the father his share was inherited by his children. Division of a family - an event of huge value. It could occur if after death of the chief of family old disagreements between his married sons broke or the last too differed from each other in the economic progress, number of children and so forth. As a rule, “the arbitration judge“ participated in the section: the relative respected by all, but personally not interested.
At the same time family bonds remained, the formed families (fans) remained parts of uniform clan which head was a senior from brothers. Numerous relatives united not only consanguinity, but also the general cult of ancestors. Eventually one families could lose influence, and other fans were put in the forefront.
Also the view of a cult of ancestors changed. If the power of the died ancestors could serve in ancient China as a support live, then under the influence of Confucianism focus was considerably shifted. Service to ancestral spirits not to draw upon itself and the sort anger of the deads became the main task live. So, each man was faced by a problem of the birth of children, and first of all the sons urged to continue a sort and to support a cult of ancestors. The man esteemed all the ancestors - men through heritage and their wives; the woman - 1 - 2 generations of own ancestors and the husband`s ancestors.
In the people was considered that posthumous existence of ancestors is provided with the ceremonies and gifts which are carried out by their male living descendant. Therefore inability to give birth to the son it was perceived as great misfortune and even non-performance of a debt. In the people the people who do not have sons were considered as potential evil spirits: to provide to them rest behind a coffin will be nobody. If means allowed, spouses adopted one of sons of rather poor relatives having many children. Adoption absolutely foreign boy was found possible undesirable, but in practice.
To the purpose of a reproduction and care of the died ancestors served also marriage (it belongs generally to Confucian China, in more ancient times young people had more scope for natural manifestation of feelings). Besides, acceptance newly married in clan - an economic problem: the new eater has to “pay back“ in the best way the acceptance in a family which the woman entered as the participant of an economic community and future mother of children of the spouse. The choice of the bride for the son was carried out by the head of the family (family council). The mutual inclination of the groom and bride did not play any role, and the concept “love“ belonged rather to filial feelings.
However, the man had certain freedom - for him first marriage then it could take the second wife or concubines was obligatory (certainly, rich people were able to afford it). The candidacy of the bride had to be approved by ancestors for what the guessing ceremony was carried out. The ideal scheme ordered to sons to remain to live in one settlement with the father, bringing into the house of wives, and to daughters, on the contrary, to move in the husband`s family.
In practice, however, this scheme was not always achievable. Not each father was able to afford such ruinous pleasure as care over an extensive sort. Cases when the husband settled in the house of parents of the wife were frequent and even accepted their patrimonial name - if, for example, those had no own sons. Of course, the last was connected with disrespect for own parents and ancestors therefore more often the young son-in-law promised that his first son will receive a patrimonial name of the father-in-law.
So, the wife became the member of the family of the husband and fell into almost completely the subordinated state, obliged to obey both to the husband, and his parents (who were actually considered now and her parents). Its status raised only after the son`s birth. Position of “younger“ wives was even more dependent: they appeared in submission not only at the husband and the father-in-law with the mother-in-law, but also at the first wife. Concubines usually were at the same time and servants, in case of the birth them the son the first wife could in principle and select the child, having declared him the. Nevertheless the birth of the son was the only thing that could improve position of the woman in the house seriously.
The medieval Chinese legislation provided also divorce: only at the initiative of the husband though it was also not encouraged.
Divorce was allowed in cases:
- infertility of the wife;
- adulteries of the wife or even suspicion of that;
- disrespect to the husband`s parents;
- a bad illness;
- tendencies to provoking of contentions in a family;
- theft in favor of the (parental) family.
Sometimes divorce was impossible, except for the obvious confirmed adultery:
- if the wife has no relatives to whom she can return;
- if she was in mourning for any of the senior relatives of the spouse;
- if a family grew rich after a wedding or thanks to this marriage.
The widower could marry repeatedly. For the widow was considered natural to devote itself to care of the husband`s family to which it belonged now. However, young widows could marry repeatedly though it was not encouraged.
To live out of a family, not to have it at all or to lose (for example, from - for disasters, diseases or wars) - the greatest misfortune. Loss of a family deprived of the person of any hopes for material and social welfare, dooming him to life of the tramp, time-worker, robber or prostitute.
An exception - Buddhist monasteries. Entering a monastic community, the person brought himself for a framework of kinship communications and instead of ancestors esteemed patriarchs of that direction to which the monastery belonged. At monasteries it was found as partial acceptance of monastic vows a lot of any “declassed“ - children - orphans, the unmarried, divorced or expelled by husbands women, disabled people, etc.
External appeal, a sexual inclination, love and other reasons of a personal order actually were not taken into consideration. However it did not prevent spouses to do the duty honestly before a sort. The man could pay tribute to personal tastes subsequently, having taken the younger wife or the concubine. Girls had no right for premarital experience of intimate relations (though in practice there was everyone); concerning young men it was formally blamed, but in practice of “adventure“ of young people were not the outstanding phenomenon.
Ancient and medieval China knew also homosexual attachments, but, of course, that people around closed eyes to such communication, it was necessary to observe the external proprieties and, first of all, to fulfill the duty - to marry and give birth to sons.