Husband and wife relationship in confucianism what is shen

husband and wife relationship in confucianism what is shen

position are not irrelevant in the husband-wife relationship, they are subsumed under the category of "distinction" (pieh/bie). It has often been assumed that. Keywords: Confucian family values, filial piety, family harmony, gender .. human relationships: ruler-minister, father-son, husband-wife, elder-younger. Many texts associated with Confucianism emphasize yang's dominant, male- related characteristics, For Chen, yin and yang primarily involve social relationships, political forms, and weighing advantages and disadvantages. This is the distinction of yin and yang, the positions of husband and wife. .. Lijuan Shen.

Shilao was seriously ill, and soon he died. After carrying out his filial duties, Qin Zhong reopened the oil shop. This is a topic that is very common in Chinese culture. The emphasis on filial piety shapes the psychological and social identity of children. They are taught that good children must be filial and obedient, so that they experience a sense of shame if they feel otherwise. Children who display filial devotion properly are regarded by the whole community as trustworthy, honourable and respectable.

Being unfilial, on the contrary, can result not only in sense of shame, but also in bad reputation, and bad reputation in Chinese society, where interpersonal relationships are indispensable, is not just a question of how one is viewed by others, but also of how one is treated.

The aforementioned motif of food as a demonstration of love is particularly interesting because until today Taiwanese and Chinese parents show that they care about their children by giving them food. They might put pressure on their children every day, they might push them and make their lives unhappy, but they will keep on feeding them as a token of parental love.

Support this website — take a look at one of our books on Amazon In one of his early films, Taiwanese film director Ang Lee used the motif of food in a masterly way. The father is one of the most famous cooks in Taipei. Every day he prepares sumptuous meals for his three daughters. But they barely talk with each other, and behind the curtain of family harmony and love, which are shown through the performance of ritualistic acts such as the common meals, there are problems and contradictions that will come to the surface in the course of the film.

The visual emphasis placed on the delicious food cooked by the father is a brilliant symbol of the concept of yang, which at the same time represents love, parental power, and filial obligation.

For example, in traditional Chinese society, a man could have more wives, regardless of whether wives were jealous. But as long as he provided for them, he was considered a responsible husband. Nowadays, there are many cases of husbands who have mistresses, or of children who barely talk with their parents. But as long as husbands provide for their wives, and children provide for their parents, they are considered responsible.

It is very important to understand this point, because when Chinese or Taiwanese talk about responsibility, their understanding of responsibility may differ from that in the West.

The fact that children have to repay their obligation towards parents also leads to the idea that children are a sort of old-age insurance. In traditional Chinese society, children literally had to serve their parents. Yuan followed his father, who used a litter to carry the grandfather to the mountains.

After his father abandoned the old man, Yuan grabbed the litter and brought it home. Merely in order to do the right thing, I have retrieved it. We can see here that the father becomes filial because he thinks of what will happen to himself when he is old. If he abandoned his father, he would break the hierarchical structure of the family, of which he will be a beneficiary in his old age.

In the second part of this post, I will be examining the concepts of hierarchy and obedience, and I will try to explain why filial piety and the hierarchical family structure have been so resilient and have secured the continuity of Chinese culture and society throughout the centuries. We can understand Chinese society only if we realise that harmony and collectivism are nothing more than synonyms of hierarchy and social roles. I think anyone who has lived in China or Taiwan has seen that these societies are absolutely not free from interpersonal tensions.

One of the most evident signs of these tensions is gossip in the workplace, which can be fierce and which clearly shows an extreme level of rivalry and a constant power struggle among colleagues as well as among superiors and subordinates. Ruth Benedict once remarked in regard to Japanese culture, that the Japanese had an innate faith in hierarchy and order.

What is true in the case of Japan, is also true — though partly to a lesser extent — in Chinese society and thinking. Professor Akiko Hashimoto gives a very provocative definition of filial piety: Filial piety in East Asia today is at once a family practice, an ideology, and a system of regulating power relations.

As practiced in the family, filial piety defines a hierarchical relationship between generations, particularly that of the parent and the child. In this ordered space, filial piety prescribes the ideology of devotion by the grateful child to the parent, and also places debt and obligation at the heart of the discourse on parent-child relationships. Contemporary filial piety is in this sense not merely a vestige of a past family custom, but an ongoing practice of surveillance and control that unleashes considerable disciplinary power.

Using a discourse of gratitude and indebtedness, a hierarchy of power is reproduced in everyday life, privileging the old over the young and the parent over the child Ikelsp. Such understanding of filial piety focuses on the particular distribution of power within the family. As we shall see later, analysing the hierarchical nature of filial piety does mean denying the existence of affection among family members. However, in order to understand how the Chinese family functions, it is necessary to look at filial piety from the perspective of the power structure of the Chinese family.

First of all, I would like to give you a vivid example of how filial piety and hierarchy were practised in old Chinese society.

husband and wife relationship in confucianism what is shen

I cited this book many times on this blog. It is the autobiography by a Chinese scholar who lived at a time in which China was still mostly untouched by Western influence. We can therefore observe Chinese society and thinking in its purest form. Shen Fu writes about his life with a remarkable degree of candour, and with a great amount of details about the daily life and the society of his time.

His marriage with Yun, the love of his life, is one of the most touching and delicate love stories that can be found in Chinese literature. Shen Fu and his wife Yun are happily married, but they are poor, and rumours begin to circulate about them.

When my wife and I were living at home, we could not avoid pawning our belongings if we had unforeseen expenses; at first we somehow found ways to make ends meet, but later we were always in need […]. First our circumstances aroused talk amongst local gossips, and later scorn from our family. The ancients were right: In the spring of I was living at Chenchou […].

At that time my younger brother Chi-tang was working under my father. Now she is anxious to have the money back. Wait until younger brother returns home and let him take care of it himself. When he is a bit better, you should secretly order Yao to write to her parents saying she is homesick. I will tell her parents to go to Yangchou to fetch her home.

This way, both sides can disclaim responsibility for her departure. He asked Chi-tang about the loan from the neighbour, but Chi-tang said he knew nothing of it. I have-already sent a messenger with a letter back to Soochow, ordering that she be expelled from the house. If you have any shame at all, you will recognize your errors!

You may take your wife and live somewhere else. If I do not have to see your face I will not be so angry! Let me now examine a few aspects of this quite long quotation, and most especially the ones concerning filial piety and family hierarchy: Yun is in a very low position because she is the daughter-in-law. In traditional Chinese culture, her function was to help her husband fulfil his filial duties towards his parents.

He is the head of the household, and the last word is his. Being filial means to accept this hierarchical order willingly. Obviously, a family like this cannot be described as harmonious.

husband and wife relationship in confucianism what is shen

Words are an instrument to propagate a certain worldview, and choosing the words that make appear this worldview in a positive way is a strategy. Gossip and Misunderstandings Gossip is a very important thing in Chinese society.

I will write a separate post about it because I find it very interesting. The reason why gossip is such a central topic in Chinese thinking is that, because of the hierarchical structure of Chinese society, people cannot always speak up their mind directly in front of others. As a rule, direct communication mostly happens from top to bottom. As we have seen, the father condemned Yun in the harshest terms. Yun, however, decides not to defend herself, because she is at the bottom of the hierarchy.

That is why gossip is so widespread in the workplace in China and Taiwan. It is an expression of rivalry, power struggle, or simply of personal dislike. Typically, colleagues may try to say bad things about someone else in order to isolate that person, perhaps with the ultimate goal of damaging his or her image in the eyes of the colleagues and, most importantly, boss es.

Gender in Chinese Philosophy | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

However, the reason why they think that Westerners are selfish is that they have been taught to accept a certain hierarchical power structure. He one-sidedly expels Yun from his household and humiliates her.

However, Shen Fu by no means challenges his father. The idea that right and wrong depend on hierarchical position is shown by the following example. Once a Korean told me that his wife and mother had had a disagreement.

He found himself in the situation of having to side with one of them. To my surprise, he was angry with his wife because she asked him to defend her. In the past, when the power of parents was way stronger than today, some mothers-in-law used to tyrannise their daughters-in-law, taking advantage of their hierarchical position which allowed them to do so unrestrained.

When his father died, Shen Fu mourned him and blamed himself for not serving him well. It never occurred to him that his father might have been unjust. After all, he was never at home, took concubines and drove Yun out of the house only because of a misunderstanding. But filial piety means sacrifice of children for parents. Shen Fu could not have blamed his father, otherwise he would have been an unfilial son.

When your parents are alive, comply with the rites in serving them; when they die, comply with the rites in burying them; comply with the rites in sacrificing to them. Even dogs and horses are, in some ways, provided with food. If a man shows no reverence, where is the difference? As for the young taking on the burden when there is work to be done or letting the old enjoy the wine and food when these are available, that hardly deserves to be called filial ibid.

This very practical understanding of familial bonds and of love has remained in Chinese culture to this day. Nevertheless, from a practical point of view, the ideal relationship that Confucius envisioned was far more difficult to achieve than the simple performance of rites.

You can compare this with the practice of going to church in strictly Christian communities. Attending the mass is a ritualistic act.

Filial Piety (孝) in Chinese Culture

Whether a person is a true believer or not, is another matter. Filial piety stressed the obligations of children towards parents, and the most important of them was to continue the family lineage.

Han scholar Zhao Qi explained that the three unfilial behaviours are: Both Confucius and Mencius lived before China became one country. After China was unified by the Qin Dynasty — BC and an autocratic imperial state was created, filial piety began to be incorporated into the new state ideology ibid. Filial piety is the root of all virtues, and from which all teaching comes … The body, the hair and skin are received from our parents, and we do not injure them.

It is in this sense that Mengzi proposes his theory for natural human goodness, a suggestion that Xunzi later rebuts, albeit upon a similar understanding of xing. Texts classified as Daoist, such as the Laozi and Zhuangzisimilarly affirm that xing is what endows beings with their particular virtuousness though it is not necessarily moral. Natural human tendencies are thereby not simply inherent, they also need to be grown and refined. The Xunzi agrees, adding that too much change or purposeful change can bring about falsity—which often results in immoral thoughts, feelings, or actions.

These texts agree in their argument that there are certain natural patterns or processes for each thing, and deviating from these is potentially dangerous. These discussions look at human tendencies as largely shaped in the context of society, and can be taken as a conceptual basis for understanding gender as a natural tendency that is steered through social institutions.

For example, when Mengzi is asked why the ancient sage-ruler Shun lied to his parents in order to marry, Mengzi defends Shun as doing the right thing. This also produces physiological properties that account for a wide variety of characteristics that are then reflected in aspects of gender, culture, and social status.

Linked to the understanding of yin and yang as functionally codependent categorizations, differences between genders are characterized on the basis of their distinguishing features, and defined correlatively. This means that behavior and identity largely arise within the context of male-female relations. Thus there are more physiological and cultural aspects to human tendencies, as well. In these diverse ways, Chinese philosophy emphasizes the difference between males and females, believing that each has their own particular aspects to offer, which are complementary and can be unified to form a harmonious whole though this does not necessarily imply their equality.

In fact, in one of the earliest references to the distinction between men and women, the Record of Rituals asserts: Once there is a difference between males and females, then there can be love between fathers and sons. Once there is love between fathers and sons, obligations are generated. Once obligations are generated, rituals are made. Once rituals are made, all things can be at ease.

The original difference between genders is—presumably through the generative power of their combination—the foundation for obligations or morality and thus ritual or social moral patternswhich allows finally for harmony in the cosmos as a whole.

Through the establishment of the concept that human tendencies are formed and act in line with nature, Chinese gender cosmology applies an analogous generative model of yin and yang to a general understanding of the world.

Another early text, the 3rd century B. To heal illness [one] must seek its root. This weaves together human beings, nature, and dao way in a manner that creates a dynamic wholeness pervaded by and mediated through the interaction of yin and yang. This Chinese cosmological view sees all things, including humans, as borne of both yin and yang and thus naturally integrated with one another.

husband and wife relationship in confucianism what is shen

In essence, dao represents the interaction between yin and yang, and it is in this respect that the Laozi tells us that dao is both the source and the model, or pattern, for all things Laozi More directly, the Laozi comments that all things in turn carry yin and embrace yang Laozi This shows that through yin and yang and their patterns of interaction dao provides the rhythm of the cosmos.

From this perspective the genders also complement and nourish one another, and are even vital to one another. The idea that the interaction of yin and yang generates the myriad things in existence corresponds to intercourse between male and female as the only means for reproducing life.

Therefore, the nature of men and women in Chinese philosophy is not only based on purely physiological characteristics and differences, but is also the embodiment of yin and yang forces in gender. The dao of men and women are linked to the dao of the universe in terms of reproducing life. There, eight trigrams are given, which represent eight natural phenomena and can further be combined to form sixty-four hexagrams.

These are expressions of the function and movement of yin and yang. They are composed of two contrasting symbols: Some scholars see these as referring to the male and female genitals respectively. They are also responsible for the formation of general gender stereotypes in Chinese thought.

husband and wife relationship in confucianism what is shen

They provide the gateways for change, and are considered, quite literally, the father and mother of all other hexagrams which equates to all things in the world. The broad system of the Book of Changes attempts to explain every type of change and existence, and is built upon an identification of yin and yang with the sexes as well as their interaction with one another. Their interaction generates all things and events in a way that is similar to the intercourse between males and females, bringing about new life.

The Commentary on the Appended Phrases makes the link to gender issues clear by stating that both qian and kun have their own daos ways that are responsible for the male and female respectively. The text goes on to discuss the interaction between the two, both cosmologically in terms of the heavens and earth and biologically in terms of the sexes. The conclusion is that their combination and interrelation is responsible for all living things and their changes.

Interaction between genders is thus the primary mechanism of life, which explains all forms of generation, transformation, and existence. Gender and Social Order Theoretically, the social order of gender in Chinese thought is broadly formed on the concepts of the heavens and earth and yin and yang. When these notions are applied to the social field, they are likened to the male and female genders. In the aforementioned Commentary on the Appended Phrases, heaven and yang are considered honorable, while the earth and yin are seen as lowly in comparison.

Filial Piety (孝) in Chinese Culture | The Greater China Journal

Since the former are coupled with qian, which comprises maleness, and the latter with kun, which marks femaleness, these gender roles are valued similarly. Men, being equated here with yang, are also associated with superiority, motion, and firmness, while women are coupled with yin and so seen as inferior, still, and gentle.

Gender cosmology then largely replaced more dynamic views of gender roles with sharply defined unequal relationships, and these were generally echoed throughout the culture. The social order that emerged from this thought saw men as largely in charge of external affairs and superior to women.

The specific operational mode for maintaining this social order and its gender distinctions is li, propriety or ritual. The Record of Rituals focuses much of its discourse on specific rules regarding distinct practices reserved for certain individuals through gender categorization. In this way, wedding ceremonies are the root of propriety.

Marriage is especially important because it is politically valuable for establishing and sustaining social order through designated male-female relations. In the Record of Rituals, men and women are asked to observe strict separation in society and uphold the distinction between the outer and inner. Social roles were thereby moralized according to gender. The Record of Rituals also tells us that the rites as a couple begin with gender responsibilities.

It states, for example, that when outside the home the husband is supposed to lead the way and that the wife should follow. However, within the home women were supposed to obey men as well, even boys. Before marriage, a girl was expected to listen to her father, and then after marriage to be obedient to her husband, or to their sons if he died.

She believed that women should be conservative, humble, and quiet in expressing ritual or filial propriety as their virtue. She should also pay close attention to her appearance, be clean and proper, and act especially carefully around guests and in public. Her work consists mainly in household practicalities, such as weaving and food preparation. The three cardinal guides were put forward by the aforementioned Dong Zhongshu and contributed greatly to integrating yin and yang gender cosmology into the framework of Confucian ethics.

These guides are regulations about relationships—they are defined as the ruler guiding ministers, fathers guiding sons, and husbands guiding wives. Although these rules lack specific content, they do provide a general understanding for ordering society that is concentrated on proper relationships, which is the basic element for morality in many Confucian texts.

Here a strong gender bias emerges. The partiality shown toward the elevated position of husbands is only further bolstered by the other two relationships being completely male-based.

The only time females are mentioned they are last. Moreover, the ranking of the relationships themselves are hierarchical, relegating women to the lowest level of this order. Dong also elaborated on distinguishing goodness from evil based on elevating things associated with yang and its general characteristics as ultimately superior to yin, and at the same time emphasized their connections to gender characteristics.

This further reinforces deep gender bias. The text explicitly argues that even if there are ways in which the husband is inferior to the wife, the former is still yang and therefore better overall. Even more drastically, it states that evilness and all things bad belong to yin, while goodness and all things good are associated with yang, which clearly implicitly links good and evil to male and female, respectively.

There are places where, due to the interrelated correlative relationship between yin and yang, the female might be yang and therefore superior in certain aspects, but since she is mostly yin, she is always worse overall. The text even goes so far as to require that relationships between men and women be adjusted to strictly conform to the three cardinal guides. Rules require that subjects obey their rulers, children their fathers, and wives their husbands.

This gives cosmological support to his social arrangement, equating male superiority with the natural ordering of all things. During this time, Confucianism was established as the official state ideology and heavily influenced many areas of politics, including court functioning, policies, and education. Conceived of as analogous to the relationship between rulers and ministers, teachers and students, or parents and children, the two sexes were generally assumed to be a natural ordering of the superior and inferior.

Although these sexist trends are not found in earlier texts—at least not explicitly—they became quite common after the Han dynasty. The most controversial exception to this is in Analects By the Song dynasty C. Later, during the Ming dynasty C. Although he did not expound much on this idea, it was taken to mean that women were both unable and ought not contend with others, including their husband. Their obedience was a display of morality. Similarly, men were expected to dominate their wives in a somewhat disrespectful manner in order to display their own ethical cultivation.

During this time, imperial law stated that any man over forty without a male heir must take on a concubine to aid him in producing one. The domination of these views in both culture and philosophy caused the Chinese tradition to attach great importance to hierarchical gender roles. Social order based itself on cosmological theories that were automatically normative and constituted guidelines for moral cultivation. Family Patterns Ideal political and social order in the state was regarded as a replication of the family model on a larger scale.

The way neighbors interacted, friends treated one another, and ministers served rulers were all based on models of familial relationships. Early Confucian texts provided the ideological foundation for this pattern by arguing that morality must be cultivated at home first before it could be adequately practiced in society. In terms of gender, the hierarchical relationships in socio-political spheres were simply extensions of the superiority of husbands in spousal relations. Zhu Xi bolstered this order by arguing that children should respect both parents, but that the father should be absolutely superior to the mother.

In line with the mutual relationship of yin and yang emphasized by the Book of Changes and Daoism, marriages were largely understood as being a deferential equivalence. The wedding rites in the Record of Rituals say that marriages are important for maintaining ancestral sacrifice and family lineages. The text describes that when a groom gives a salute, the bride can sit, and that during the ceremony they should eat at the same table and drink from the same bottle to display their mutual affection, trust, and support.

The Xiaojing Classic of Filial Piety also says that rulers should never insult even their concubines, let alone their wives. Although only leaders are mentioned, according to Chinese ethical systems people are supposed to emanate their superiors, so this deference would ideally be practiced in every household. However, such roles were largely based on function. For men this meant learning, working, and carrying on the ancestral line.

Women were in charge of household affairs and principally responsible for producing a male heir. If they failed in the latter, their martial function was largely unfulfilled, which reflected poorly on the husband, as well. Legally, men owned their wives, and there was often little practical recourse for a woman against her husband, even though the laws of certain periods allowed for it.

The Book of Poetry contains a large number of poems and songs describing marriage and love between men and women, some of which express the joys and sorrows of women.

They are meant to remind husbands of social expectations and moral responsibilities. Liu Xiang 77 B. He grouped virtuous women into six categories, or virtues: Later editions of this text became less gender specific, but Liu emphasized women who were able to carry out certain female-related duties in role-specific conditions including those of daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. Although Liu did not mention it, later texts argued that widows should not remarry or take on lovers. Zhu Xi, who disagreed with Cheng on many issues, argued that this was not practical; yet it was generally regarded as virtuous, even if not widely practiced.

However, this distinction is not equivalent to the Western concepts of private and public. In fact, during the Wei-Jin period of national disunity C. Chinese families often believed that educating their daughters well though not necessarily in literary learning was the precondition for improving the family and encouraging orderliness.