September 06, 2005
Chinese Family

I notice myself when talking to my friends (especially my fiancé), that I tend to say "my mom's younger sister" instead of my aunt.

Chinese has a very complex way of calling relations. It depends if they are related to your mom/dad's side. If you had kids, they will call your brothers/sisters by a certain name depending if they are older/younger than you. It's all puzzling, but I always wondered why back then.

My dad said it is a good way to know who belongs to which side of the family, and where they are in the "hierarchy". It's a very traditional thing for Chinese. I can grasp the simple names as far as grandparents.. but what about grand uncle/aunt? Or cousins i.e. twice removed (still biu gou/dai/dje/mui?). What about great-grandparents/uncles/aunts etc...?

I found a cool site that covers the family basic name calling in Cantonese.

If I get a change, maybe I'll draw out some sort of chart? I think it is great to be able to see which side of the family your relatives are, plus you know if they are older than you.

Other than that, any other Chinese have a seating arrangement based on family hierarchy when you go home for family dinner? Ours use to be dad, followed by mom, then me and my siblings. But this has changed, as my youngest brother (who is now the baby of the family, even though he is 12!), sits besides my mom. But then it's me, and my other 2 brothers. I was always brought up that way. It's nice to have order in the family. But that is just my opinion.

Posted by whykay at September 06, 2005 08:25 PM