The patriarchal system


The patriarchal system evolved from the patriarchal system of clan society and was a system in which the royal nobility distributed state power according to blood ties in order to establish hereditary rule. It is characterized by the merging of clan and state organizations into one, and the complete alignment of the clan hierarchy and political hierarchy.

This system was established in the Xia Dynasty, developed in the Shang Dynasty, completed in the Zhou Dynasty, and influenced all subsequent feudal dynasties. According to the patriarchal system of the Zhou Dynasty, the clans were divided into major clans and minor clans. The hereditary king of the Zhou Dynasty was called the Son of Heaven, who was the political master of the world, and the throne was inherited by the first-born son. The other sons of the Son of Heaven could be divided into vassals, and the throne was also passed to the eldest son. The other sons of the vassals were divided into the ranks of the great lords, and the position of the great lords also passed to the eldest son, while the rest of the sons were the lowest rank of the nobility – no fiefs or coveted cabs. These hereditary first sons became the heads of all levels of power.

The great patriarchs enjoyed not only the right to rule over the clan members but also political privileges. Later, rulers of various dynasties modified the patriarchal system and gradually established a feudal patriarchal system consisting of power, clan power, divine power, and husband power.


The purpose of the patriarchal system was to keep the political privileges, titles and property rights of the slave-owning nobles from being dispersed or weakened, and to maintain the internal order of the ruling class and strengthen the rule over the slaves and commoners.


Patriarchy originated from the patriarchal patriarchy of the late primitive society. As society developed, the long primitive matrilineal clan society was gradually replaced by a patrilineal clan society, and the dominance of patriarchy in the family was finally established, bringing to an end the history of the Swastika ancestors who “knew their mothers but did not know their fathers”. Patriarchal patriarchal families generally practiced “polygamy” and separated the first from the second among the wives.

In the Xia dynasty, the throne was succeeded by sons and occasionally by brothers. In the Shang dynasty, the throne was mostly passed to the younger brother, who then passed it to the eldest son of the eldest brother, or to his own son by line. In the 11th century B.C., King Wu of the Zhou dynasty destroyed the Shang dynasty and established the Zhou dynasty, with the capital at Haojing, and changed the name of “Emperor” to “King”. The throne of the Zhou dynasty was clearly stipulated to be passed to the eldest son only, and it was “passed to the first son, not to the concubines, and to the eldest son, not to the virtuous”.

This system of the Zhou Dynasty is the “patriarchal system”, which has a direct relationship with Chinese family names. The patriarchal system is a very complex system, the main spirit of which is the “first-born son succession system”, which is a kind of “inheritance (including ruling power, wealth, fiefdom) law based on the paternal blood relationship as a criterion.

The patriarchal system of Western Zhou was closely integrated with the feudal system. The son of heaven was the “great clan” of the son of heaven according to the system of primogeniture, while the other sons and sons of the common people who could not inherit the throne were also the royal family and were divided into vassals, who were the “small” subordinate to the “great clan”. They were subordinate to the “lesser” of the “greater” clan. These lords were passed down from generation to generation according to the principle of primogeniture, while the non-first-born sons were subordinated by the lords to the lords as the chief officials. The vassal is the “great clan” for the vassals, and so on. Below the Dafu, there was the Shi, the lowest level of the noble class, which was no longer subdivided. Under such circumstances, a patriarchal system based on the Son of Heaven was formed nationwide.

Patriarchal system and feudal system



The symbol of the power of the sons of the clan was the clan temples they presided over. In the Zhou dynasty, the great clan was the clan temple lord of the common clan temple of the clan members. The lesser clans were also the clan temple lords of the common clan temples of close relatives within their respective spheres.

Ancestor worship by common clansmen must generally take place at all levels of the clan temple presided over by the major or minor clan, and the major or minor clan presides over the worship ceremony. Ancestor worship was very important in the social and spiritual life of ancient China. In addition to the rituals, many daily ritual activities and social events were also performed in the clan temples. For example, crown rites (rites of passage for men), weddings, and vows of alliance for clan members. Therefore, the existence of the clan temple was regarded as a symbol of the clan’s existence, and the clan lord status of the clan sons became a guarantee that they had the clan chief status among the clan members. Even the name of the clan sons came from their clan temple lordship.

Ordinary authority

The clan sons also had the power to command, dispose of and shelter the clansmen within their respective spheres. The clans of the Zhou Dynasty had their own armies, and the commander in chief was the clan son of each clan. These armies often fought alongside the national army in foreign battles. For example, in the battle of Yanling in the Spring and Autumn period, the Jin army fighting the Chu army was dominated by the clan armies of the Luan, Fan, Zhongxing and Qie clans.

In the domestic political struggle, clan armies also often play a pivotal role. The Duke of Song “made Dai, Zhuang, Huan’s clan to attack the Wu’s in Sima Zibo’s pavilion” is an example of lords using some clan armament to destroy some other clan forces.

Clansmen also had the right to dispose of the property and person of their clansmen. During the Spring and Autumn period, Zhao Yang, the great clan member of the Zhao clan of Jin, had forced his clan member Zhao Wu to hand over all his “Wei Gong 500 families”. Later, because of Zhao Wu’s negligence, he was even killed. This kind of killing of clansmen was considered reasonable under the patriarchal system of the Zhou Dynasty. In the Zuo Zhuan, there is a record of a nobleman of Jin who expressed his willingness to be punished by death by the clan when he was released from captivity. The personal treatment of clansmen by their patriarchs also included banishment, as Zhao Ying of Jin was “banished to Qi” by the great patriarch Zhao for adultery. The state recognized and respected the right of the patriarch to dispose of clansmen, and often consulted the patriarch first when imposing punishment on clan members.

The state also recognized the patriarch’s right to shelter clansmen. The patriarch’s patronage included giving various kinds of care to clansmen and defending them in lawsuits. The Zuo Zhuan records the case of a person from Teruyang who “had a prison” and “his great clan bribed him with female music”.


(1) The son of the clan had the right to conduct the rituals, and the right to officiate symbolized a status that was highly valued in the patriarchal society.

(2) The patriarch had the right to be in charge of the property of the clan.

(3) The patriarch also has the right to take charge of the affairs of the clan members such as marriage and funeral. (3) The patriarch also has the right to be in charge of the affairs of the clan members, such as marriage and funeral. On the other hand, the patriarch has the responsibility to help the clan members with their weddings and funerals.

(4) The patriarch has the right to teach and punish members of the clan.

The patriarch was the main authority on which the clan members relied and obeyed, and was also the intermediary through which the state governed the clan population. The clan’s extensive power within the clan essentially took on the nature of the state’s grassroots administrative and judicial power.

During the Zhou Dynasty, clansmen commonly had vassals. They included the chamberlains and clan lords (also called clansmen or clans) who were in charge of the internal affairs of the clan, the family and euphemism lords who were in charge of the people in the areas under the clan’s jurisdiction, and all the departments that were subordinate to the lords. For example, the suzerain (in charge of land and finance), the suzerain (in charge of military and military duties), and the engineer (in charge of construction). This organization of clansmen was essentially a kind of grassroots power of the state. However, the clan was still a private group based on blood, so there was inevitably a conflict of interest between the clan and the state.

During the Zhou Dynasty, people called the clan a family, meaning a private group opposed to the state. Members of the clan often only knew that they were loyal to the “family” but did not know that there was a “state”. This relationship between the clan and the state, which was both compatible and contradictory, was an important reason for the changes in social relations in ancient times.


The patriarchal system led to the widespread implementation of the principle of patrilineal monophyly in China

The term patrilineal monophyly refers to the complete exclusion of female members of the lineage group from the lineage arrangement and the lack of power of women in inheritance. Family relations in the Western Zhou were closely linked to the patriarchal system, which was highlighted by the concept of “patriarchal dominance, male superiority and female inferiority” and the inequality between husband and wife. In order to strengthen the dominant position of the husband in the family, the rulers of the Han Dynasty also created the theory of “the husband is the wife’s platform,” and Han Confucianism summed up the “seven rules for women”. “These seven rules were all due to the violation of the principle of patriarchal law.

Women did not have the right to inherit family property, and “a married woman’s daughter splashes out water”, and after her marriage, even her surname had to follow her husband, so she could not inherit the property of her mother’s family. There are family rules and regulations regarding certain professional skills and techniques, such as “pass on the son but not the daughter, and pass on the daughter-in-law but not the daughter”. In the Rites of Passing on the Son, the daughter-in-law is not passed on to the daughter-in-law. In the Rites of Passing on the Son, it is stated that “A woman is subordinate to her father and brother when she is young, to her husband when she marries, and to her son when he dies. The only female emperor in Chinese history, Wu Zetian, has been regarded as unorthodox and condemned by officials and historians, but in Europe and India, female emperors and queens are very common.

Patriarchal manufacturing into the longevity of the family system

The patriarchal system clearly reflects the clan morale. In feudal society, the clan was mainly embodied in the family way, and the basis for the longevity of the family were ancestral halls, genealogy, and clan rights.

The ancestral halls were mainly dedicated to the ancestors’ gods and goddesses, and the worship of ancestors was an important feature of traditional Chinese cultural psychology. The worship of ancestors is the most important, serious and heavy ritual, “There are five rituals, none of which is more important than the sacrifice”. The ancestral hall is also a place of worship for the clan, and a place where family rules and regulations are instilled in clan members. Therefore, the ancestral hall plays a role in strengthening family consciousness, maintaining family unity, and spiritually disciplining the family to respect the clan.

The genealogy is a family file, a classic, and a family law, which mainly serves to stop the disorder of blood relations caused by wars and flows and to prevent the disintegration of the family, or to solve family disputes and to punish unfilial children and grandchildren based on words.

The main symbol of the longevity of the family system is the clan power, which has had a profound impact on Chinese history and has become one of the four shackles around the neck of the Chinese people.

The patriarchal system led to the emergence of the “family-state homogeneity” in China

The same structure of family and state is the most distinctive structural feature of patriarchal society, and this distinctive feature of the patriarchal structure has been preserved in Chinese feudal society for a long time. The family or family and the state have a common organizational structure, that is to say, whether it is the state or the family or the family, their organizational system and power structure are strictly patriarchal. The commonality of the family and the state is expressed by the fact that “the family is a small state and the state is a large one. Within the family or clan, the father has the highest status and power; within the state, the monarch has the highest status and power. Therefore, parents are like monarchs in the family, i.e., “The family has a strict ruler, and the parents are also called parents. The monarch is the father of the nation by name, and the chief executives at all levels are also regarded as the parents of the people, as the saying goes: “The ruler is the parent of the people.

In this regard, Marx said: “Just as the emperor is usually revered as the father of the nation, so the various officials of the emperor are regarded as the representatives of this paternal authority in the area under his jurisdiction”. Therefore, the family and the state can be seen as the father as the ruler of the family and the king as the father of the state, and the king and the father are mutually exclusive, and the state and the family are in communication with each other. Therefore, as an old Chinese saying goes, “If you want to rule your country, you have to first unify your family”. This structure indicates that patriarchal relations permeate all aspects of society, concealing class and hierarchical relations, and that the homogeneity of the family and the state leads directly to the unification of the qualities of the family or family members and the people of the state, which means that loyalty and filial piety are synonymous, i.e., “seeking loyal subjects at the door of filial sons”.

The influence of patriarchy on modern Chinese society

This is a primitive organizational structure, but it is this primitive structure that still influences modern China on many levels, including social, political, and cultural levels, etc. If these pieces are put together, it is not difficult to find the spirit of many so-called “Chinese characteristics” phenomena. The roots of the so-called “Chinese characteristics” phenomenon.

The Chinese culture of ruler, subject, father, and son seems to be based on the word “virtue”, and this “virtue” is originated from the patriarchal system. The patriarchal system used to rely on morality to organize and manage the community, because they found that the law was obviously too pedantic and dull in the management of the community, but often with the intervention of morality, many things could be handled not only efficiently, but also more flexibly and with considerable continuity. Therefore, “morality”, which has the lowest social cost, has become the preferred management method of the clan system.

In modern society, when we look at life, it is still not difficult to find such moral signs and systems. “Respect for the old and love for the young”, which seems to be a national virtue, is actually no different from “ruler, subject, father and son”, while “ruler, subject The “ruler-subject” and “respect for the elderly” are not identical either. Although the imperial system has been abolished in modern society and the relationship between superior and inferior is not so secure, the moral relationship between father and son and respect for the elderly is still strong, and this seemingly natural moral value is in fact no different in its inner logic from the respect for superiority and inferiority of ruler and subject. Therefore, the system of remonstrance has been developed under this establishment, which means that the remonstrance system is not based on patriarchal law, but on law and benevolence as the first, and the lower can remonstrate with the upper, so it is said that when benevolence is not allowed, even if the ruler, the minister, the father, the son, the teacher and the student encounter something contrary to the law and righteousness, it has become a unique system in China. The system of advising the Emperor is also regulated by the Emperor’s orders, so that subordinates can stop the Emperor from violating the laws of the day. However, this system never existed in Western societies, so European societies remained in feudal societies until the Industrial Revolution.


The disadvantage of the patriarchal system was that the power of the vassal states would grow and expand. The control of the Zhou emperor over his covens was gradually lost, and the titles of dukes, marquises, bosons, sons, and males gradually changed from the titles of heaven to adult titles. During the Western Zhou Dynasty, most of the vassal states were small, and some of them were only one city. However, after the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the status of the Zhou Emperor was greatly reduced, and the vassals annexed each other, still to the formation of the Spring and Autumn Period, the five hegemons, and the Zhou royal court to become independent kingdoms.

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