Chinese Family and Marriage
Dr. Lynn Sun
Family matters. According to Confucianism, it is the family not the individual that has been the
fundamental unit of Chinese society. After Mao’s socialist revolutions and Deng’s market-oriented
economic reforms, how have family structures, courtship patterns, and gender relations been changing
across different regions and groups? And what new ethical configurations and new forms of inequality
are emerging in the process?
This English-taught course goes beyond the idealized family patterns to examine critically recent
transformations in family forms, reproductive technologies, politicized sexualities, and gender relations
in China. After an introductory discussion of key concepts and debates on Chinese family and
marriage, it will move on to specific ethnographic case studies to highlight the connections between
everyday practices and large-scale political and socioeconomic processes.
Readings, drawn from anthropology, history, and sociology, examine the Chinese (Han and non-Han)
family systems, marriage patterns and gender relations as well as their transformations during the
Maoist and post-Mao eras. Case studies of contemporary social challenges facing Chinese families will
also be discussed in depth.
Jan. 11 Introduction: Chinese Family in Transformation
Jan. 18 Kinship and Lineage
Jan. 25 No Class, Lunar New Year Vacation
Feb. 1 Marriage, Family, and Gender I
Feb. 8 Marriage, Family, and Gender II
Feb. 15 Reproduction and Childrearing
Feb. 22 Love and Sexuality
Mar. 1 Family and Marriage among Non-Han Groups
Mar. 8 NO Class, Reading Week
Mar. 15 Contemporary challenges I: Doing Family
Mar. 22 Contemporary challenges II: Parenting
Mar. 29 Contemporary challenges III: Property
Apr. 5 NO Class, Public Holiday
Apr. 12 Contemporary challenges IV: “Left-over Women”…and Men
Apr. 19 Course Wrap-up and Individual Consultation
Assessment & Assignments
1. Class Participation (15%): Regular, active attendance in lectures and tutorials is an important
aspect of the learning experience in this course and is, therefore, both expected and required.
All reading must be completed prior to the class meeting for which they are scheduled.
Unexcused absences will result in a loss of points, and students with more than 3
unexcused absences will receive no points for class participation. Extreme lateness will
be counted as an absence.
2. Précis (20%): Students need to write a 700-to-800-word précis (in 12-point Times New
Roman font, 1-inch margin at all sides, single-spaced, page numbered, with word count in the
end) to summarize and evaluate one of the listed readings for this exercise. Students should
submit a soft copy (in PDF form) of the précis to Blackboard together with a signed
Veriguide receipt any time before Mar. 29, 2023.
3. Group Presentation (25%): Starting from Week 4, each student will join a group to present a
topic on marriage and family in contemporary China (according to the weekly theme one
chooses) for 20-25 minutes during the tutorials with the aid of PowerPoint or other visual
materials. Students will be asked to sign up for a group in Week 2.
Your cardinal job is to raise critical questions and lead the class to discuss particular issues
that your group finds important. While you need to prepare your presentation based on the
course readings provided by the below weekly reading list, feel free to bring in outside
materials (news stories, interesting cases, illustrations, film clips, charts/figures, etc.) and use a
variety of formats (role play, debate, games etc.) to facilitate learning. As facilitators, it is
important for you to think through these exercises carefully before coming to class, planning it
step by step with clear instructions.
4. Final Exam (40%): Students will have a take-home exam, answering two essay questions by
synthesizing and applying some of the theoretical arguments and/or case studies from the
readings. Each answer should be a short essay of about 1000 to 1200 words (in 12-point Times
New Roman font, 1-inch margin at all sides, single-spaced, page numbered, with word count in
the end of the essay). A soft copy of the essays (in PDF form) together with a signed
Veriguide receipt must be submitted to Blackboard by the end of Apr. 26 (Wednesday),
2023. Unexcused late submission will NOT be accepted.
Honesty in Academic Work
Students should submit written assignments to the Veriguide system and print out the Veriguide
receipt and scan it into a PDF file before submitting to the Blackboard. See the website:
https://services.veriguide.org/academic/login_CUHK.jspx. Any cases of plagiarism will be severely
penalized and reported to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, which could result in failure or expulsion
from the University. http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/policy/academichonesty/.