Chinese Family "Values"

What kind of "family values" do/will YOU emulate?

  • Similar to what you grew up with (“western” values)
  • Similar to what you see here (“Chinese” values)
  • A combination of both
  • A third value system (please elaborate)

0 voters

After all these years, I am becoming more and more cynical when I hear people here talking earnestly about “Chinese Family Values”. The truth is, I see very little about family life here to emulate. Husbands and wives don’t communicate like they do in the west, parents have no idea what goes on with their children, especially adult children. Divorce rates among the Taiwanese people I know are through the roof. The only aspects of family closeness here seem to involve obligation and duty rather than genuine love and respect. More often than not, there’s a financial angle. Then there’s this story from today’s China Post. I’m reprinting it here, because it looks like this link is only temporary…If the link is still up in a couple of days, I’ll remove the story.

[quote][color=green]An HIV-positive grandmother, who also suffered from intestinal cancer and was abandoned by her sons, passed away after fasting for two months, the United Evening News reported yesterday. The woman, a grandmother of a dozen, was sent to an AIDS halfway house by her children after being testing positive for HIV during her stay at a final-stage cancer patient hospital.

Only her eldest son visited her after she checked into the halfway house. However, he didn’t dare come close to her and just waved to her from a distance without entering her room, according to the report.

The son told the volunteer workers at the halfway house that the whole family felt disgraced by the grandmother. While the volunteer workers suspected that the grandmother could have caught the virus from her husband, the son insisted that she must have contracted the virus during surgery.

Depressed, rejected and ashamed of herself, the grandmother chose to end her life by fasting. The report did not specify exactly when she passed away. She died two weeks after entering the center due to malnutrition, according to the report.[/color] [/quote]
What a disgrace. I hope the poor woman’s children and grandchildren rot in hell. :imp: :x

I never fully appreciated my Leave-It-To-Beaver, white-bread, church-on-Sunday nuclear-family childhood until I moved to Taiwan, and even then, I was so caught up in the exoticness of being in “the Orient” (it’s a different culture, don’t you know), that it’s only been the last several years that I’ve felt able to start making value judgements. Honestly, I don’t like what I see. Thank God, my girl feels the same way. If she were the “traditional Chinese family” kind, I don’t think we’d make it. :slight_smile:

Here’s a link to a related story on fear of AIDS patients in today’s Taipei Times, which mentions this case.

I see a lot too, especially being a kindergarten teacher and good friends with my buxiban boss.

I’m reminded of the part of the Analects where a man deduces from Confucius’s son, Po-yu, that he must study poetry, the rites and keep a distance from his children.

I also get to see a lot of the other parts of it.

Men who cheat on their wives weekly(I know of 2 women who are mistresses). My American friend does this quite a bit with his married Taiwanese buddies
Children who lie and cheat out of unconscious habit
The inadequate amount of time, money and energy used for face
The inability to talk to each other, beyond bland comments and small talk
Women who act like 13 year olds, no matter how old they really are

With all the shit my students have to do and the inordinate amount of time spent on such nugatory exercises such as video games, watching TV and doing homework/studying for tomorrows test. Social development gets a plain zero. Most of my junior high students have more homework in a night than I had in a month at their age and level. They also have zero thinking ability. My favorite was my friend telling me about his university history test. He had an essay on the test and didn’t know how to answer it, so he wrote verbatim, exactly what the professor said about some other topic. He got the highest grade in the class. Not because he answered it right, because obviously he didn’t, but because he listened and memorized what the professor said.

This society is going through a lot of changes. I do see fathers who spend a lot of time with their wives and families. I hope they will eventually become the majority instead of the tiny minority that they are currently. I can only hope with time things change. I doubt they will though.


As long as I live I doubt that I will ever be able to understand this line of thinking… :?

How, if something bad happens thru no fault of a particular person, can that bad event be a source of disgrace???

Its like the girl who is disgraced after being raped, or the wife who gives birth to a daughter rather than a son…

In both cases, the rape victim is not at fault and the husband/father’s contribution determines the sex of the child, yet the wife/mother is blamed??

That story about the grandmother fasting to death is truly tragic… I hope the children learn to regret their behavior and wallow in guilt for a long time… or maybe they will be treated similarly by their own children :smiling_imp:

My God, you guys, you’re believing the media now? What a bastion of accurate, well-rounding reporting the news media has proven to be, both here and back home. :wink: Just wait until you are the centerpiece of a news story. Then we’ll ask you how balanced the reporting is.

Come on, while it’s given that there are some people here who treat their elderly relatives despicably, they are in the vast minority. My good friend, a local Taiwanese man, goes to the hospital every night to see his sick mother, not because there’s a financial angle, but because he’s a good guy and he loves his mother. My school’s administrator spend the better part of three months managing work and his father’s surgery and recovery from colon cancer. I can go on here. I don’t personally know anyone who would ignore a parent in need here, but the dozens of Taiwanese people who are my friends are all caring sons and daughters.

I also disagree with the portrayal of Taiwanese people as born liars and cheaters. Yes, many businessmen here cheat on their spouses. So do many businessmen back home (the U.S. for me). The vast majority of the people I do business with on a daily basis in Taiwan, have proven themselves to be honest, upstanding people. The number of people isn’t small and I’m the first person to call a spade a spade when I see unjust or mendacious behavior. The vendors and suppliers I work with in business, as well as the people in publishing and education, treat me and my clients fairly, and this over the course of many transactions.

Sorry Maoman, I don’t share your opinions. My first job in Taiwan put me into literally thousands of homes, sometimes on a regular basis. Long enough and frequently enough to observe what was going on. On this second Taiwan stay, I don’t go into people’s homes with as much frequency, but I still get frequent exposure to spousal and parent-child relationships. While I’ve seen some cases of bad parenting, some unhappy couples, and some abuse, I haven’t seen it on a larger scale than I saw at home.

Let’s parry and riposte, if you care to, but realize before you respond that I’m not stuck in the first (“Everything is wonderful”) phase of culture shock. I’ve lived in Taiwan for four years, lived in the mainland for three months, and travelled to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China frequently on business. Nor am I unable to communicate, or locked into a “foreign friends only” mentality. I speak and read Mandarin everyday. My eyes are wide open. Sure, there are problems with individuals, families, and society here, but I’m not buying the “wide scale corruption of family values in Taiwan” argument, particularly when the evidence used to support the assertion is a local news media story.

I have lived here for nine years and I agree 100% with the Maoman on this. I thought of it a couple of weeks ago when the clowns at the Judicial Yuan decided to keep adultery a crime. They were worried about protecting the “preciousness of the family” or however the “flowery words” went.

I puked and laughed at the same time. Just like so much else on this island; a weird mix of hypocrisy+empty show.

The HIV/AIDS deal is another example. It is one of the reasons human rights and civil liberties will never (or not in my lifetime at least) get a foothold in the chinese mentality. Simply put, they live with blinders on. To put it in the words of an old Jimi Hendrix tune: “I used to live in a room full of mirrors, all I could see was me”.

Lets hope that at some point the local folks catch on to the next line of the song which goes: “But I took my spirit and smashed those mirrors and now the whole world is here for me to see.” It really is time for the local folks to take their blinders off and realize that the other creatures they see wandering around the island are…other humans.

Sorry for the anti-local rant but somedays, such as today, I am just fed up with their self centeredness. And don’t tell me American culture is the same way…it ain’t.

take care
President Chinese-American Friendship Klub

Nope, I was simply suggesting that - 1) in your case, it was the female who did most cheating. (as the statistics strong suggested.) 2) as far as tolerance goes, westerners are no better than easterners.

Out of curiosity, would you tell me how you interpret this figure? And please dont tell me that it doesnt say anything about the western family value. :smiley: By looking at this figure, I get the impression that majority of westerners feels that cheating is okay as long as you dont get caught. (It’s 53.9% in sweden for gids sake!! I challenge you to find any Asian country that has as high a ratio as Sweden…)

-Ratio of children born out of wedlock by country
Click here

well, since most western “family values” are based on religion and the strict morality mandated by religion, it seems natural to associate the two.

in more secular places like big cosmopolitan cities(new york, london, paris, etc) “leave it to beaver” type family values are laughed at as quaint and naive.

most of the westerners on this board are loathed to associate themselves with the close-minded, intolerant bible-thumpers(substitute conservative right-wing group appropriate to your country here) who are the only people left who practice “western family values” anyway. i don’t get it.

people seem to be taking a bad slice of chinese culture, overgeneralizing it, and then comparing it to some idealized concept of western culture that doesn’t really exist anymore.

[quote=“antilogic”]Hate to add to your embarassment.


The real embarrassment is that you don’t seem to understand the hyprocisy the original poster was trying to point out. Just because these countries have low divorce rates doesn’t mean that the married men and women are not LYING to themselves and eachother and putting on a big show for the sake of family face. What’s the family value in a Taiwanese housewife who looks the other way for years while her husband fools around? And beats her kids to a bloody pulp at home? Or a husband with kids who is always working late, but that’s because he’s got a guy on the side?

As for Sweden, last time I checked the Swedes didn’t constantly and arrogantly trumpet how great their family valus were. You are also assuming every out of wedlock birth is by a girl. Got any reliable statistics on abortions in Asia?
Check this out:
Well, so much for “Asian values.”

Who cares about a grown, financially stable unmarried woman who chooses to have a baby in a heavily-welfared, developed Western country? I doubt her grandchildren would treat her the way the China Post story above outlined.

The chart above is for children born out of wedlock; that is certainly not indicative of different rates of affairs. Certainly some of them are the results of affairs, but I’d imagine the vast majority are couples that just aren’t married, or who have separated before the child was born.

The divorce rate also does not reflect anything about family values either. I personally believe that the divorce rate is way too high in the West, which leads many couples to give up on reconciling their relationship far too early, as it is now fairly acceptable to be divorced. However, I also am very happy the divorce rate has risen in Taiwan; it needs to. Which is healthier and ‘better’ for a family? A separation/divorce of parents who hate each other/never speak/aren’t happy/have affairs, or that same couple being together until the end of their lives. For the children’s sake, if the relationship is irrepairable, the first option is usually best. I know if my parents stayed together, I’d probably have very warped views on love, relationships and what is ‘healthy.’

From my experience (which is no scientific survey), affairs occur at a much higher rate in Taiwan than in the US (I’ve never lived in Europe so can’t comment about there). However, you get pricks everywhere. In my opinion, the thing that is indicative of a certain aspects of a society is how the general person reacts to such news. From my experience, if the average person in the US hears ‘so-and-so’ had an affair or often has affairs, the average person would be disgusted, have a very, very low opinion of that person, and would not want to be/stay friends with him/her. In Taiwan, unfortunately, when someone hears of somebody who has affairs on a regular basis, there’s not much reaction beyond, ‘that’s too bad,’ ‘well, that’s just how it is’ or ‘men will be men.’

Obviously I’m overgeneralizing, but I think this general difference in attitudes does exist and is significant.
I think the West has the modern concept of the ‘healthy relationship’ and ‘healthy family.’ Oftentimes Western couples do not reach or maintain these ideals, but it is something many couple strive for. I think these concepts have only recently become known in Taiwan; I hope these ideals continue to spread (both in Taiwan and the US).


Please don’t assume that looking at divorce rates charts comparing Asia and the West are indicative of ‘family values’ in those parts of the globe.
We all know how furiously unfavourable divorce laws are toward women in Asia! I won’t dig up websites to prove this, you can do your own research. It’s also worth mentioning that many couples NEVER divorce but live separately, with the man oftentimes taking another ‘wife’ and rearing another set of children.

Most types of quantitative research, such as the data you present, is flawed. The best way to undertake sociological studies is to use a combination of ethnographic and quantitative investigation, often finding that the one disproves the other.

Someone should start a poll asking those who are married to, involved with, or have been involved with, Taiwanese people, if they witnessed anything “askew” in the home relationships of their beloveds.

There you’d find the real answers, and those that would shed a sobering light on the statistics.

Even though a large proportion of Danish kids are born out of wedlock, this doen not mean that they don’t live with their biological parents. Cohabiting - and not marrying - is normal where I come from.

The same is less true here.

My Taiwanese wife spent 4 years in my native country. She claims that we in some instances are more traditional than taiwanese are - even though a lot of locals (in Taiwan) think otherwise.

[quote=“Mr He”]Even though a large proportion of Danish kids are born out of wedlock, this doen not mean that they don’t live with their biological parents. Cohabiting - and not marrying - is normal where I come from.

The same is less true here.

My Taiwanese wife spent 4 years in my native country. She claims that we in some instances are more traditional than taiwanese are - even though a lot of locals (in Taiwan) think otherwise.[/quote]

Yes. My Swedish sister and her sister were co-habitating with their significant others for 8 and ten years respectively before they got married. In each relationship, children were born prior to the marriage. Thus, those out-of-wedlock statistics are not of much use in this discussion.

And, I an American from ultra-conservative Pittsburgh, am far more conservative than my Taiwanese wife. This notion that Americans are liberal (compared to Taiwanese) is much a result of hollywood fantasy. After 13 years of marital bliss, my wife and in-laws all view me as hopelessly conservative.

Much of the discussion regarding the difference in “family values” of Westerners and Asians has to do with the different definitions given to the term “family values”. Westerners talking about "human rights are referring to certain political rights while the Chinese mean the right to sustinance.

When westerners speak of family values, I think we are stressing primarily the bond between husband and wife (fidelity) and secondarily the bond between parents and children (filiel piety). Conversely, when Chinese refer to “family values” they are primarily talking about the relationship between parents and children (filiel piety) and secondarily about the relationship between husbands and wives (fidelity).

For the Chinese, filiel piety is much more the measurement for “family values” than is marital fidelity. Thus, the apparent contradiction when westerners regard Chinese family relationships, and likewise, when the Chinese look at our western families.

That makes sense.

The proportion of unhappy marriages here is high. I have heard women complaining about their husbands, husbands complaining of their wives etc all over more times than I care to recall. People are more prone to stay together even though their marriage is as vibrant and living as the average roadkill. That might be good for the kids, that may be bad, but it makes sense, as the wife avoids the stigma associated with a divorce, while the husband gets his shirts cleaned and ironed.

Yes, but while the concern about being stigmatized by divorce may be part of the reason for a low divorce rate in Taiwan (which really isn’t low anymore… I think its up to 40%), I think the primary reason women stayed married to cheating husbands in taiwan is because the laws have been very unfavorable to women. Only recently have changes in the relevant laws begun to make divorce a viable option for women in Taiwan.

Thus, anyone from taiwan who wants to throw low divorce rates in Taiwan should be reminded that (1) the rate ain’t so low anymore and (2) the rate was artificially low before, due to laws which made divorce either unattainable or financially unattractive.

Considering the relative difficulty in obtaining a divorce in Taiwan and the financial disadvantage that divorce places many women in Taiwan, its really quite startling that the Taiwanese divorce rate is so high! I should think the Taiwanese would want to de-emphasize this argument when debating the state of marriage in Taiwan and the west.

I think part of the “problem” is the speed of economic development in places like Taiwan.

About a generation ago, wages would have been 5% of those in the West. Now, closer to 50%.

But the family structures have developed less slowly than the wealth of the economy. In an agrarian society, families work better as large groups - its labour intensive work. Old people had no way to save enough for retirement. But now, people can support themselves as individuals. This generation will be able to provide for their own retirement, instead of relying on their children.

So, its partly a natural process of development that family structures in Taiwan will become more like those seen in the West. Less emphasis on distant relations/extended families, more emphasis on the husband, wife, and kids.

There are things to like here and things not to like, same as anywhere. However, the trumpeting of “Chinese family values” as superior is widespread, annoying and typical.

Families here are knit by bonds of responsibility and obedience that give a sense of security but restrict independence. People take comfort in the security, and in my experience people take care of elderly family members. But stress can result directly from these family bonds. Just from watching the news here, i would guess a far larger portion of violent crime involves family members than say in the US.

Attitudes of men and women about marriage, sex etc. are very different here. Iybf makes a good point above, Taiwanese society is not long removed from a social state hundreds of years behind the developed world. You see a lot of things here that make you shake your head. I do in NY too though. I definitely do see an awful lot of happy familes and I can’t say that the average nuclear family here is more or less happy than one in NY.

I picked a “combination” above. My Taiwanese wife and I have been married for 11 years, and while I often don’t agree with various of her viewpoints I ALWAYS hear them out and try to understand. Conversly, when I think something is wrong or right, I don’t just ignore it. She does the same, maybe not always :slight_smile: We tend to reach a consensus, it works for us.

  1. Assumption… Assumption… And more assumption…

You based your argument solely on the assumption that majority of Taiwanese couples consisted of husband and wife who hate each other. Please show me statistics to support your theory, I challenge you. To successfuly refute my argument, you must give me statistics (family life satisfaction… etc) that shows Taiwanese couples who opt to remain in marriage are mostly angry husband/wife pairs. I challenge you to do that.

I’d reiterate my claim for your edification.

The reason that Asian countries enjoy such low divorce rate is mainly because majority of married Asian couples are satisfied with their marriages. (as statistics “ie. family life satisfaction rate” strongly suggested).

% of Married Couples Satisfied with Family Life
(Source: UCLA Asia Institute)

Bangladesh------- 72
China------------- 82
India-------------- 73
Indonesia-------- 73
Japan------------- 86
Pakistan---------- 60
Philippines------- 85
South Korea------ 87
Vietnam----------- 87

[quote=“alien”]Please don’t assume that looking at divorce rates charts comparing Asia and the West are indicative of ‘family values’ in those parts of the globe. The divorce rate also does not reflect anything about family values either.

By itself, divorce rate does not mean anything. However, if you take a look at the overall picture, it does say a lot about eastern/western family values. Fact- more married Asian couples are satisfied with their marriages and their family lives than their western counterparts.

Please show me how you establish the casual relationship, and the facts and numbers you pull to arrive to this conclusion. Hey! I thought I was the Olympic-class conclusion jumper! Guess who just won the gold medal? :stuck_out_tongue:

  1. Please keep in mind that countries like Taiwan and Japan are hardly representative of ‘Asian culture’. I was brough up on Macgyver and the A-Team, and I used to think that the American GIs who killed the “gooks” were the good guys. Taiwanese is highly ‘brainwashed’ by American media. In my opinion, ‘westernization’ is Taiwan’s biggest problem. If you compare the statistics (such as domestic violence rate or the change in view toward extramarital affairs) from 30 years ago with present, I’m sure you’ll see the trends and agree with me. More exposure to Western culture for Asian countries means more failed marriages. Period.

personal experience… overgeneralization… I think… hmmm… :smiley:

Oh, and please dont take this as personal gibe :slight_smile:

Ok, I’ve got the statistics to back me up… I’ll look for them later. gotta go back to work. sorry

Let’s see some numbers…

% of Married Couples Satisfied with Family Life
(Source: UCLA Asia Institute)

Bangladesh------- 72
China------------ 82
India------------ 73
Indonesia-------- 73
Japan------------ 86
Pakistan--------- 60
Philippines------ 85
South Korea------ 87
Vietnam---------- 87

[quote=“antilogic”]1. Assumption… Assumption… And more assumption…

You based your argument solely on the assumption that majority of Taiwanese couples consisted of husband and wife who hate each other. Please show me statistics to support your theory, I challenge you. To successfuly refute my argument, you must give me statistics (family life satisfaction… etc) that shows Taiwanese couples who opt to remain in marriage are mostly angry husband/wife pairs. I challenge you to do that.
Ha ha… Sorry… haven’t seen any surveys yet on couples hating each other. I doubt such one exists or would even be accurate if it were. (As I said many times), I’m basing my comments on my own years of experience living in Taiwan, and years of dealing with Asian families in the US. I have many friends who have very happy families here; I just think the ones with very odd family dynamics occur much more often here (I especially saw this when I lived in southern Taiwan).

As I mentioned later, I think the modern idea of what a ‘happy’ relationship is. Some might argue that this is a ‘Westernized’ ideal, but I personally just think is a more mature one; I think as any culture grows and mature, so will their idea of happiness (anitlogic, that doesn’t mean I Western culture is better than Taiwanese culture, so relax).
In previous generations in Taiwan, ‘happy’ meant not really communicating feelings to each other, with harmony maintained. But the younger generation are realizing new definitions of a ‘happy couple’, which it would be hoped that unhappy couples end their relationship for the benefit of everyone involved.
As expectations rise, unhappiness and divorce will also rise for a short time. The same thing happened in the US.[/quote]