Under the Ancestors' Shadow: Chinese Culture and Personality

By Francis L. K. Hsu | Go to book overview

the rich, so that it will at least be plausible to expect that the fortunes of West Town big families will hold out longer than elsewhere in China. However, as far as my investigation is concerned, I have discovered no definite evidence for such optimism. Of the four highest-ranking families, only the sons of one show that they will at least be able to maintain the status quo if not to improve matters. The sons of two others show signs of the usual weaknesses. The fourth family does not yet present any consistent picture. Outside of these families, I can point to several loafers whose forebears only one or two generations ago were great names in the community.


SUMMARY

In the preceding chapters I have attempted to describe and analyze West Town culture and its general bearing on the formation and development of personality.

Briefly, the most basic element of the culture is the pattern of a close father-son tie, which is characterized by authority on the part of the parents and filial piety on the part of the son. All other relationships in the family and kinship structure have this tie as their basic point of reference. Coexisting with this tie are five other basic patterns of behavior which are interrelated: (a) estrangement between the sexes, (b) the big-family ideal, (c) education to emulate the old, (d) emphasis on the solidarity between living and their dead relatives (ancestor worship), and (e) equality among males or females of the same generation.

The characteristic of the close father-son tie plus (a) through (d) is authority. The characteristic of the sixth basic pattern is competition. Authority stresses difference in status. Competition emphasizes equality in status. This competition is strictly circumscribed by the authority of parents, ancestors, and tradition. These several sources of authority dovetail into and re-enforce each other. They never conflict with one another. They provide the groundwork and the limitation for both the means and the

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Under the Ancestors' Shadow: Chinese Culture and Personality
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Plans and Diagrams xiii
  • Chapter I- Introduction 3
  • Chapter II- Yin Chai and Yang Chai - Worldly and Other-Worldly Residences 29
  • Chapter III- Life and Work under the Ancestral Roof 56
  • Chapter IV- Continuing the Incense Smoke 76
  • Chapter VI- How Ancestors Live 131
  • Chapter VII- Communion with Ancestors 166
  • Chapter VIII- Introduction to the Ancestral Ways 198
  • Chapter IX- The Ancestors'' Shadow 236
  • Chapter X- Culture and Personality 256
  • Summary 276
  • Chapter XI- Wider China 279
  • Appendices 291
  • Index 311
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