Posted: September 3rd, 2013
Traditional Confucian Family Organization
Traditional Confucianism was more focused on social behavior. Therefore, the families were characterized by respect and love. There is a head, the father, who shows the rest of the members how to love. He had to be an example for the rest of the members to emulate him. People respected each other and the children were expected to honor their elders. The elders were required to be kind to their children and other younger people. They helped each other and worked in unity. Teachings of Confucian expected them to co-exist and mind each other. The loyalty and solidarity expressed in those days is still there today. This is why Chinese families and Confucian groups are united.
This paper focuses on highlighting the organization of a traditional Confucian family. I chose to review family interaction in the movie Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. This movie revolves around a family in a traditional Chinese setting with a frictional relationship, probably caused Western cultural influence on the young generation. The movie is about a widower father, Chu, who lost his wife sixteen years ago and had to comprehend the challenges of raising three daughters alone. Every Sunday, the three daughters Jia jen who works as a teacher, Jia Chien, an attendant in an airline company and Jia Ning who is a student, adhere to the family’s custom of sitting at the dining table for a family meal (Bernstein, 59).
This custom of having is more of the family’s way of recollecting after a long strenuous week, and it is the only time they get to mingle. However, the current atmosphere of this custom is one that has become quite cold. Instead of a bonding opportunity, this family gathering has developed to more of an opportunity of making important announcements. Chu the head chef of a local restaurant and there is no denying his talent as we see him steam, boil, and barbeque astonishing meals that result in an over proportioned banquet for him and his daughters. Because of the poor verbal interaction among the four family members, this food serves as means of communication. Chu displays his affection towards his daughters by cooking them good food despite the difficulty he faces when relating to them (Bernstein, 60). In this case, we get the perception that food metaphorically assumes the role of love in a family.
When describing the dynamics of this family, we can affirm that Chu is the central authority of the family, and his daughters are answerable to him and treat him with due respect. It is him who holds responsibility of his three daughters as he struggles to impart the values of life to them. To show his authority, Chu instructed his daughters to be making themselves every Sunday for the family custom, and they always do so without fail regardless of their personal obligations. Furthermore, it is Chu who presides over the meals, from the cooking, organizing up to the serving. In my opinion, he does not impose his authority on his daughters, but rather attempts to teach them responsibility and family values.
Nevertheless, when watching the movie I noticed an attitude of negativity among Chu’s daughters in the course of the meals. With scowls on their faces, the three daughters eat through the carefully prepared food in a way that seemingly rejects their fathers love and effort in preparing the food (Evans, 12). As the movie rolled on, I could identify a father daughter rift within the family. In reality, Chu puts a lot of effort when preparing his meals and wants them to enjoy it. However, his daughters pretend to like it and even falsely complement him but they do not enjoy it at all. The truth probably could be that Chu cooks visually enticing food but unsatisfying to taste. In my opinion, this is a reflection of a loss of interest in his work due to the lack of support from his daughters.
From what I saw in the movie, the authority of Chu is not questioned directly. Rather, his daughters treat him with respect as is per the Taiwanese custom. This is visible through the relationship between Chu and Jia Chien. Her obligations as a flight attendant leave her with minimal family time, and she has a desire of moving out of the family as soon as possible. She announces this in one of the family’s and it therefore becomes evident that she has the most difficult relationship with her father among the other daughters (Evans, 16). Chu is going to have none of this and decides that she will stay put. We can therefore conclude that the sole authority of Chu in the family is supreme and unquestionable.
The fears of the three Daughters in the family are that Chu’s authority and influence is going to prevent them from achieving their desired goals. These fears have the family developing a frictional relationship where communication with each has hit rock bottom. They only have one opportunity to bond on a weekly basis but can only use it to raise important matters. It is my expectation that family should engage in communication talking about how their current achievements and challenges. This is however no the case in Chu’s family. In relation to personal goals, Chu is very aware that his daughters are now grown and at the brink of moving out no matter how much he may try to prevent it. The truth is, Chu misses his wife and fears having to live alone. When his daughters inevitably eventually leave, Chu is planning to take Mrs. Liang as a sole companion to comfort him (Evans, 4).
Jia jen, is also single despite her age. Her status can be attributed to the motherly role she took after their mother passed away (Bernstein, 60). As the oldest daughter, she could not help but feel responsible for taking care of the rest of the family. Her salvation in Christianity seemingly gave her the driving force to push on. However, she now feels that she needs to find a soul mate and settle down. This is her goal. Jia chien on the other, is not traditional minded but rather ambitious. She has set goals of leaving the family and pursuing her life. Jia Ning is the youngest in the family and is studying in college. Her goals perhaps lie behind successfully completing college and pursuing her life just like Jia Chien. The goals of the entire family lie behind the wishes of Chu. He only wants their daughters to lead better lives than he provided them. Originally, Jia Chien expressed her wish to pursue a career similar to her father’s; she even had the Talent to show for it. Chu however discouraged her as he wanted her lead a good life and had her apply for university (Evans, 8). The mother is the figure missing in the family. Our reading of the movie is affected because the perception is that her presence would have been able to seal the family values. If she was around, the family would be relating better.
According to the Confucian family relationship model we learnt in class, I found that family relationships, values, filial piety and ancestor worship are the main points in the philosophical system. These concepts are deemed priceless virtues and are cultivated in a family by the relevant authority, in this case, parents and guardians. The ideology behind filial piety lies behind the respect and honor children ought to show to their parents or guardians. The family relationship in the movie Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is in connection with the Confucian family organization. Chu, the supreme authority in the family has unquestionable authority. His daughters honor and respect him. He shows this by presiding over family decisions such as the weekly dinner custom. He makes decisions that are followed without fail and question. This is the same relationship highlighted by Confucian family organization.
In my opinion, the fact that communication among the family members is strained makes up the difference with the ideal Confucian family model. The Confucian family organization model is one that upholds essential moral and ethical units in the family. These kinds of values establish a relationship among the family characterized by respect, love, and free flow of communication. In Chu’s family model, love is depicted through his love for the family through his attempts of keeping them together through the weekly dinner custom, and his selfless acts cooking for daughters to display his affection. In turn, his daughters grant him the respect that he deserves, but free flow of communication is lacking. In my opinion, this is how the film complicates my understanding of the model of a typical Chinese family.
Evans, Jade. Eat Drink Man Woman. Film Review. South Florida: HubPages Inc. 2012. Print
Bernstein, J. “Eat Drink Man Woman.” Premiere New York. 2001: 59-61. Print.
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