Family Values, Family Education and Family Tradition

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China II Updated: 2021-12-27

Family Values, Family Education and Family Tradition*


December 12, 2016


The Chinese nation has always valued the family. As an ancient saying goes, "The family is essential under Heaven."1 Traditional Chinese family virtues include: One should respect the elderly and love the young; a virtuous woman brings her husband good; a kind mother brings up children dutiful to the family; the younger brother should respect the elder brother and the elder brother should be gentle with the younger brother; passing good traditions of reading and farming from generation to generation; one should run the family diligently and thriftily; one should be learned and practice etiquette; one should observe discipline and the law; a peaceful family will prosper. These family values have been imprinted on our people's minds and mixed into our blood. They have been passed on through generations as a vital moral strength while being treasured as a precious legacy of Chinese family civility.

Thanks to continuous reform and opening up, and further economic and social development, changes have taken place in family structure and people's lifestyles throughout the country. However, no matter how the times change and how the economy and society develop, for a society, family is irreplaceable in terms of its economic and emotional support, social functions, and civic education. Most of us have always been and will always be part of a family. We must enhance civility in Chinese families and make it an important foundation for the country's development, progress, and social harmony. Here I would like to share with you some of my hopes.

First, I hope you will continue to value family. Families are cells of society. Family harmony contributes to social stability, family happiness fosters social peace, and family civility promotes social civility. Both history and reality show that the future of families is closely connected with that of the nation. We must be conscious that a nation can do well only when its families do well. A prosperous and strong nation, the national rejuvenation and the happiness of the people are embodied by the happiness of the families and the better life of hundreds of millions of people. Similarly, only when a nation does well can its families do well.

Currently, the Chinese people are forging ahead along the new Long March towards the Two Centenary Goals and the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. To ensure that the dreams of families come true, we must realize the Chinese Dream. Chinese people have always thought highly of loyalty to the nation. During the revolutionary war, many mothers encouraged their sons to fight against the Japanese aggressors and wives sent their husbands to the battlefields. During the challenging first three decades of the PRC, Chinese people prioritized national interests over their family matters, which demonstrated their pursuit of family virtue and deep feelings for the motherland.

We should combine the love we have for our families with our love for our nation and integrate our family dreams with the dream of the nation. We should work together with one heart to weave the wisdom and enthusiasm of our 1.3 billion people from 400 million families into a powerful force to realize the Two Centenary Goals and the Chinese Dream.

Second, I hope you will continue to value family education. Family is the first school, and parents are their children's first teachers. Family education begins as a child learns to talk. The kind of family education a child receives determines his or her future conduct. Though there are many aspects to family education, the most important is character-building. As ancient Chinese scholars put it, "If you love your children, teach them the right path"2, and "Love your children the right way, or you will cause them harm."3 Young people are the hope of the future for not just families but also the nation. The ancient Chinese believed that to feed without teaching is the father's fault. Parents should educate their children.

The impact of family, especially parents, may influence a person throughout his or her life. This is manifested in Chinese folktales such as "Mencius' mother moving home three times" to find the neighborhood she believed to be favorable for his education, and "Ouyang Xiu's mother teaching him to write with a reed". When I was a child, my mother gave me a picture-story book series – The Legend of Yue Fei. One of its more than 10 volumes illustrates Yue Fei's mother tattooing four characters meaning "serve the country with the utmost loyalty" across his back. The story deeply impressed me. Parents should pass down sound moral values to their children from an early age, and guide them to develop integrity, help them cultivate sound minds, and ensure their healthy growth, so that they will be useful to the country and the people when they grow up.

Parents should instruct their children through word and deed, giving them both knowledge and virtue and practicing what they teach. They should help their children button the first button in their lifetime and take the first step on the ladder of life. We should all strive to foster and practice the core socialist values in families, encouraging family members, especially the younger generation, to love the Party, the motherland, the people and the Chinese nation. We should also disseminate traditional Chinese ethics by spreading the concepts of respecting the elderly and loving the young, gender equality, marital harmony, frugality, and neighborhood solidarity, while promoting loyalty, responsibility, family affection, learning, and public welfare. The goal is to enhance people's moral outlook and foster civic virtue in society for family happiness, extending care to others and contributing more to society.

Third, I hope you will continue to value family culture. Family culture is an integral part of social ethos. Family not only provides a place for the physical body to reside; it is also where people's hearts lie. A family will thrive with a good culture while a bad culture can bring trouble to a family and even to society. Just as an old saying goes, "Families doing good deeds will reap benefits; those doing bad deeds will suffer misfortune."4 The admonitions of Zhuge Liang (181- 234) to his son, the family instructions of Yan Zhitui (531-c. 591), and the family mottos of Zhu Xi (1130-1200) all advocate positive family culture. Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, and other revolutionaries of the older generation all highly valued family culture. I have read the last touching testaments of many revolutionary martyrs to their children, which are filled with their instructions and hopes.

Fine values should be promoted among all the families so as to nurture healthy social conduct. Officials at all levels must play a leading role in the promotion of good family culture. As the ancient Confucian classic Book of Rites puts it, "What is meant by 'in order to govern the state rightly, it is necessary first to regulate the family' is that it is impossible for one to teach others while he cannot teach his own family." The family culture of officials will have an impact not only on their own families, but also on the Party and the government. Officials at all levels, especially high-ranking ones, should inherit and promote the best of Chinese culture and the communist family values of older generations of revolutionaries. They should cultivate moral virtues and regulate the family, learning from role models such as Jiao Yulu, Gu Wenchang and Yang Shanzhou5 and taking the lead in maintaining family virtues. They should maintain moral integrity and a healthy lifestyle, while at the same time placing strict demands on their spouses and children and teaching them to be self-disciplined and law-abiding, frugal and self-reliant, and be aware that sacrificing principles for profit, taking bribes, and violating the law are immoral acts. They should set the example for society.

Families who have received rewards today should treasure the honor and work harder to mobilize all Chinese families to strive together for improved family harmony and affection, healthy growth of the younger generation, guaranteed old-age care, and a more civil society.

All Party committees and governments should be fully aware of the importance of developing family virtues, bear total leadership responsibility, and place the development of family values high on their agenda. Trade unions, the Communist Youth League, women's federations and other people's organizations should actively organize suitable activities to promote family virtues. All sectors should care for and help families in difficulty. Departments for cultural and ethical progress should play a coordinating, guiding and supervisory role, encourage wide participation from all walks of life, and work towards a set of new socialist family morality and values featuring love for the country, family, and one another, devotion to progress and kindness, joint efforts, and shared benefits.


* Part of the speech made at the meeting with representatives to the First National Conference of Model Families.


1  Xun Yue: Extended Reflections (Shen Jian). Xun Yue (148-209) was a historian and thinker of the Eastern Han Dynasty. 

2 Zuoqiu Ming: Zuo's Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals (Zuo Zhuan). Zuoqiu Ming (556-451 BC) was a historian of the Spring and Autumn Period. 

3  Sima Guang: Historical Events Retold as a Mirror for Government (Zi Zhi Tong Jian). Sima Guang (1019-1086) was a statesman and writer of the Northern Song Dynasty. 

4 Book of Changes (Yi Jing)

5  Yang Shanzhou (1927-2010) was secretary of the CPC Baoshan Prefectural Committee in Yunnan Province. After retiring in 1988 he stayed in a forest farm in Daliangshan of Shidian County, where he led workers in a campaign of afforestation that produced more than 3,700 hectares of trees. In 2009, he handed over forest management rights worth more than RMB300 million to the government free of charge. In 2011, he was named posthumously a national moral model and an outstanding Party member.

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