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The Triumph of Conjugality: Structural Transformation of Family Relations in a Chinese Village

Yunxiang Yan
Ethnology
Vol. 36, No. 3 (Summer, 1997), pp. 191-212
DOI: 10.2307/3773985
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3773985
Page Count: 22
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The Triumph of Conjugality: Structural Transformation of Family Relations in a Chinese Village
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Abstract

This article examines the increasing importance of the conjugal relationship in a north China village. The traditional Chinese family is characterized by the centrality of the parent-son relationship in family life and its superiority over all other family relations. Such a configuration has been altered in the 1990s: the horizontal, conjugal tie has become both the central axis of family relations and the foundation of the family ideal shared by most villagers. This transformation results from a series of social changes under socialism, whereby several generations of villagers have gradually redefined the family ideal and adjusted their behavior patterns accordingly. This study also explores the full complexity of the family institution in contemporary rural China. It is indeed a vehicle for the performance of public functions, but it is also a private haven where the private lives of individuals unfold.

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