Chinese Family Relationships Are More Important Than I Knew

Understanding Chinese Family Relationships - via MilliGFunkUnderstanding Chinese Family Relationships - via MilliGFunkOriginally written and published on my blog, A Year in Taipei on August 7, 2006

Chinese family relationships are more important than I knew: The Chinese language and culture require that siblings and familial relationships be treated differently than in English language and American culture.

How Siblings Are Called

Siblings are identified by their birth order when they are addressed by other siblings or by parents. For instance, in a family with three sons, the eldest son would be called “first-eldest-son,” the second would be called, “second-eldest-son,” and the third would be called, “third-eldest-son.”

The same goes for daughters. The count always begins with the eldest child and works its way down to the youngest child. For daughters, it would be “first-eldest-daughter,” “second-eldest-daughter,” etc.

There are also different words for older sister and younger sister, older brother and younger brother. These words are “jie jie,” “mei mei,” “ge ge”, and “di di,” respectively.

Asking About Siblings

One way to ask if someone has any brothers or sisters is to combine each of these four types of sibling relations into one question. Like this: “Ni yo mei yo ge jie di mei?” (Do you or do you not have any older brothers, older sisters, younger brothers, or younger sisters?”)

Extended Family Names

Extended familial relationships also involve different types of addresses than in America. Aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers are not just referred to generally as Aunt X, Uncle Z, Grandma, or Grandpa. Their address is determined based on whose side, the mother’s or the father’s, of the family they are on.

For instance, you would call your mother’s mother a different name than you would call your father’s mother. I don’t actually remember what these specific addresses are, because we only covered them briefly, but conceptually, what I’ve explained about extended familial addresses is correct.

Finishing Up in Ithaca

Tomorrow is my final day of class. Tuesday we have our final written exam at 9:05, and we begin presenting our group skits at 10:40. After that we’ll have a big group lunch to celebrate the end of FALCON. They’ll have completion certificates for us, and they’ve given us the opportunity to order t-shirts, which we’ll be able to pick up after lunch.

That evening I’ll be going to Syracuse to see my friend there and also the “toxic lake” he’s told me about. If I grow a third arm or leg, I’ll be sure to have him take a picture. Wednesday I’ll check out of my dorm at Cornell and pick my mom up from the airport, and Thursday after a quick tour of Ithaca, we’ll start towards Missouri.

I’m ready for some Missouri BBQ, fried pork chops and mashed taters n’gravy, watching movies with my brother, and playing in the woods with my dad!

I wrote more than 300 blog posts during my year in Taipei, Taiwan. I don’t know yet how many of those posts I’ll recreate on, but for now, at least, you can come back each Thursday for a #ThrowbackThursday to my #YearInTaipei.

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