The Family in Chinese | Learn Chinese | HSK 1 – HSK 4


Anyone interested in studying Chinese or being fully immersed in Chinese culture must have a solid understanding of how the Chinese see family. It is not only a common conversational topic but also profoundly ingrained in the nation’s culture and language. This article examines the concept of family in China, family-related language, and several widely used idioms and proverbs. It strives to give students a comprehensive understanding of the value of family in Chinese culture.

Importance of Family in Chinese Culture

The family occupies a crucial position in Chinese society and is frequently seen as representing harmony, reverence, and traditional values. Confucian Confucian philosophy highly values family responsibilities, which has had a long history of influencing Chinese society. Filial piety (‘孝,’ xiào) is a cardinal virtue where younger members are expected to respect and care for their elders. This concept has been so deeply ingrained that it is reflected in the daily language and idioms.

Basic Family Vocabulary

Before we delve deeper, let’s learn some basic family-related vocabulary in Mandarin:

  • Family: 家庭 (jiātíng)
  • Father: 父亲 (fùqīn)
  • Mother: 母亲 (mǔqīn)
  • Brother: 兄弟 (xiōngdì)
  • Sister: 姐妹 (jiěmèi)
  • Son: 儿子 (érzi)
  • Daughter: 女儿 (nǚ’ér)
  • Grandfather: 祖父 (zǔfù)
  • Grandmother: 祖母 (zǔmǔ)

Extended Family and Titles

Chinese vocabulary for family members is quite specific, differentiating between the maternal and paternal sides.

  • Maternal Grandmother: 外婆 (wàipó)
  • Paternal Grandmother: 奶奶 (nǎinai)
  • Maternal Grandfather: 外公 (wàigōng)
  • Paternal Grandfather: 爷爷 (yéye)

Similarly, depending on which side of the family they come from and how old their relatives are, there are many titles for uncles, aunts, and cousins. This precise language connects to Confucian principles about duties and obligations and emphasizes the value of understanding one’s place within the family structure.

Idioms and Proverbs

Learning idioms (成语, chéngyǔ) related to family can enrich your understanding and conversations. Here are some examples.

  1. 家和万事兴 (jiā hé wàn shì xīng) – “If the family lives in harmony, all affairs will prosper.”
  2. 百善孝为先 (bǎi shàn xiào wéi xiān) – “Of all virtues, filial piety comes first.”

Cultural Contexts

In traditional Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year, family takes center stage. Family members from all over convene for a reunion dinner (‘团圆饭’, tuányuán fàn) on New Year’s Eve, symbolizing unity and harmony. Dishes served often have symbolic meanings, wishing for prosperity and longevity for the family.


It is essential to comprehend the concept of family in Chinese culture and language. The Mandarin language is full of phrases that denote complex connections and idioms that emphasize the benefits of families. A firm understanding of this idea will help you communicate successfully as you continue to learn Chinese and will also enable you to appreciate the cultural quirks that distinguish the language.

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FAQ: The Family in Chinese Culture and Language

Why is the family so important in Chinese culture?

In Chinese culture, which has been heavily influenced by Confucian philosophy, the family is considered the essential unit of society. Family harmony, reverence for elders, and filial piety are fundamental principles emphasized for countless generations. The family is a central theme in many traditional celebrations and rituals.

What is filial piety?

Filial piety, or ‘孝’ (xiào) in Chinese, is a concept that describes the virtue of respect and care for one’s parents and elders. It is a fundamental concept in Confucian philosophy and remains an essential value in modern Chinese society.

Why does Chinese vocabulary have specific terms for extended family members?

Mandarin has particular terminology for extended family members that emphasizes how important it is to understand one’s place within the family structure. These expressions frequently denote the person’s relative age and whether they come from the father’s or the mother’s side of the family. It is consistent with Confucian ideas about the duties and roles of the family.

What are some common idioms related to family in Chinese?

  1. 家和万事兴 (jiā hé wàn shì xīng): “If the family lives in harmony, all affairs will prosper.”
  2. 百善孝为先 (bǎi shàn xiào wéi xiān): “Of all virtues, filial piety comes first.”

These idioms often underline the importance of family unity and filial piety, central tenets of Chinese culture.

How is the concept of family highlighted during traditional Chinese festivals?

During festivals like the Chinese New Year, family takes center stage. Families convene for a reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve, and dishes served often have symbolic meanings, wishing for prosperity and longevity for the family. Many traditions, like giving red envelopes (‘红包,’ hóngbāo) to younger family members, are also practiced within the family context.

Why do Chinese people often ask, “Have you eaten?” as a greeting?

The phrase “吃饭了吗? (Chīfàn le ma?)” is a common way to show concern for someone’s well-being and is often used among family members. In a culture where food is an essential part of social interactions and a symbol of care, asking if someone has eaten is a way to express concern and affection.

How can understanding the concept of family benefit someone learning Chinese?

One’s comprehension of the Chinese language can be improved by being aware of the cultural and social intricacies that underlie the Chinese idea of family. Having a firm grasp of this idea can help learners communicate more effectively and enjoy the richness of the language because many idioms, proverbs, and everyday expressions have roots in the family.

Please ask us any more questions if you have any. A fascinating and crucial aspect of learning the language and comprehending society in China is understanding the function of the family.

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