Chinese Familism and Leadership Formation


The display of the slogan ‘harmony’ in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing seems to signify that China is moving toward a new conception of Communism.[1] However, the pursuit of a harmonious society is not new in Chinese history. It is actually rooted in the complex Chinese tradition, especially that of Confucianism. The idea of ren (benevolence) is often considered as the prime ideology of Confucianism, but through a closer look at Chinese traditions, one will find that Chinese familism is positioned at the core of Chinese culture. The harmony the Confucianist seeks is situated in the unequal relationship in propriety defined by familism which has a profound impact on Chinese leadership formation as shown in the Chinese imperial system. Since Confucianism is deeply rooted not only in Chinese culture but also in the cultures of its neighborhood, understanding leadership formation in the context of Confucianism can be crucial to the effectiveness for mission leaders involved in Asian leadership in the marketplace as well as in its ecclesial practices. It is my argument that harmony, as expressed in the unequal relationship of Chinese familism—which is the driving force of leadership formation for the Chinese over the last two millennia—can be revitalized through the expression of harmony as defined by Max De Pree in his concept of leadership formation: mutually edifying participation between persons who are stewarding God-given gifts. The first task of this paper is to define Chinese familism. This is followed by a comparative analysis of leadership formation within the Chinese cultural context, in light of the current leadership discoveries emanating from the West. The paper concludes with a presentation of potential ways in which familial ideals might be integrated with De Pree’s leadership principles.


In the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, the world watched the display of the slogan ‘harmony’ (和諧) signifying the future direction for China. It seems that Communist China is moving toward a new conception of Communism. However, a closer look at the ideology of harmony reveals its root in much more complex Chinese traditions, especially that of Confucianism. For the Chinese, harmony has been a significant ideology since before Confucius, who upheld propriety to be the expression of harmony, as recorded in the book Liji (禮記 Book of Rites).[2]

The change to harmony in Communist China prompts questions regarding the meaning of harmony and how the ideology of harmony affects the concept and exercise of leadership. These questions are highly significant for those who are concerned with Chinese affairs politically or economically, and also highly significant for Christian mission. As David Bosch states: “Theology must undoubtedly always be relevant and contextual” (Bosch 1991:187); Christian mission in China must engage in the Chinese context. Since Confucianism is deeply rooted not only in Chinese culture but also in the cultures of its neighborhood, understanding leadership formation in the context of Confucianism can be crucial to the effectiveness of mission leaders involved in Asian leadership in the marketplace and in the ecclesial practices.

The imperial system in China typified the leadership in China until the downfall of the Qing dynasty (清, 1636-1911) in 1911. The change of political systems reflected the search for different leadership styles that was most likely inaugurated long before 1911 as China encountered the industrialized West that challenged, and continues to do so, Chinese traditions and ideologies. Within fifty years following the collapse of the imperial system, China adopted Marxism and Leninism, and became a Communist country. China’s continuing economic rise and growing influence on world leadership since the latter part of the twentieth century have attracted ever-increasing attention to its future. Although the adaptation of Communism implies the espousal of Western ideology, it is my argument that harmony, as expressed in the unequal relationship of Chinese familism, is the driving force of leadership formation for the Chinese over the last two millennia, and that it can be revitalized through the expression of harmony as defined by Max De Pree in his conception of leadership formation: mutually edifying participation between persons who are stewarding God-given gifts. Accordingly, the paper begins by defining familism—the core value of Chinese culture. This is followed by a comparative analysis of leadership formation within the Chinese cultural context, in light of current leadership discoveries emanating from the West. The paper concludes with a presentation of potential ways in which familial ideals might be integrated with De Pree’s leadership principles.

Defining Chinese Familism

What is Chinese familism? I define it as a familial ideology based on the father-son relationship, characterized by the centrality of ancestors expressed in ancestral rites and enforced by the doctrines of filial piety, demonstrating interdependence in the context of differentiated interpersonal relationships and hierarchical social structure, all for the best interests of the person’s family. Scholars have recognized the importance of ren (仁, benevolence) in Confucianism but only a few like Ruiping Fan (2010) comprehend its proximity to filial piety, the principle virtue of Chinese familism. Confucius and his followers adopted, systemized, and integrated familism into the ideology of harmony. The result is a familial ideology based on unequal relationships in kinship as harmony of propriety expressed in the proper social structure that has dominated Chinese culture following the ascension of Confucianism in the second century BCE. This will be elaborated in the first part of the paper highlighting the unequal-relationship characteristics, and its impact on leadership formation is the focus of the second part of the paper.

The numerous references to junzi (君子, a person of integrity)[3] in the Confucian Analects depict a model of a leader who is a person of high integrity in his constant effort to cultivate virtue and maintain harmony. In the context of familial hierarchical structure, the ideal of junzi, however, turns into an instrument of control for the imperial ruler through the pervasive teaching of filial piety. The phenomenon of Chinese autocracy testifies to the sustaining power of Chinese familism and modern psychology confirms its ability to satisfy psychological needs.

Investigating the psychological dynamics between leadership and followership, Jean Lipman-Blumen (2005) reveals several deep human desires and most of them are intertwined with the pursuit of strong leadership that ends up as a toxin that abuses not only the power entrusted but also the followers. Her survey provides powerful tools to examine leadership formation under the cultural milieu of Chinese familism. Here we will notice the negative impact of the harmony in propriety on leadership formation particularly in the area of accountability, but we cannot ignore its positive features that satisfy the longings for belonging and security and placate the anxiety about death through the pursuit of immortality.

Harmony also has a long history in Western culture that can be traced to the Greek philosophy.[4] This is especially evident in musical expression, where various instruments or voices take part in one composition. This concept of harmony is reflected in the practice of leadership in the West. Max De Pree, one of the most prominent authorities on leadership in the twentieth century, provides a succinct description of harmony in leadership using music as a metaphor in his book, Leadership Jazz (1992). He compares the operation of an organization to the performance of a jazz-band.

Jazz-band leaders must choose the music, find the right musicians, and perform—in public. But the effect of the performance depends on so many things—the environment, the volunteers playing in the band, the need for everybody to perform as individuals and as a group, the absolute dependence of the leader on the members of the band, and the need of the leader for the followers to play well. What a summary of an organization (1992:8-9)!

This attitude of stewardship stems from De Pree’s Christian belief that humans are created in God’s image and that we are stewards of God-given gifts (1992:57). This is the cornerstone of his concept of harmony, and the driving force behind his approach to leadership formation. Moreover, his recognition of integrity, relationship nurturing and community building as the essential themes of leadership (1989:ix-xi) resonates well with the centrality of kinship relationship in Chinese familism and echoes the Confucian stance of leadership as exemplified in junzi.

The emphasis on harmony between Chinese familism and De Pree’s work makes it worth considering De Pree’s concepts within the Chinese context. It also requires that leadership theories be viewed by looking into the unequal relationship in familism as the cornerstone of Confucian harmony and the driving force of leadership formation in Chinese society. In what follows, it is argued that the embedded toxicity of leadership in Chinese familism can be overcome by integrating De Pree’s leadership principles through the core values of integrity, relationship nurturing and community building.

Chinese Familism – Core Value of Chinese Culture

In a discourse with Confucius, the Duke of Yeh presented what he thought to be upright conduct through the example of a son witnessing in court regarding his father’s misconduct of stealing a sheep. Confucius replied that upright conduct in his community would be for the father to conceal his son’s misconduct and vice versa.[5] For the Duke of Yeh, law has supremacy and everyone is equal before the law, a view that echoes Western morality and is in contrast with Confucian family-based virtues. This example shows the precedence of family over law within Confucianism that has dominated Chinese culture for over two millennia (Fan 2010:3, Goldin 2011:28).

From a sociological stand point of view, Daniel Harrison Kulp gives the following definition to Chinese familism in his sociological examination of the country life of Phenix Village in Guangdong province, China in the early twentieth century:

a social system wherein all behavior, all standards, ideals, attitudes and values arise from, center in, or aim at the welfare of those bound together by the blood of reference, the criterion for all judgments.  Whatever is good for the family, however that good is conceived, is approved and developed; whatever is inimical to the interest of the family, however they are formulated, is taboo and prohibited (Kulp 1925:xxix).

Kulp’s work reveals the centrality of family to the Chinese.

Francis Fukuyama develops an additional analysis of the self-focused interests within Chinese familism as he explores the cultural impact of these interests upon the growth of organizations in terms of trust. Analyzing the dynamics of trust in different cultures, Fukuyama affirms that the core belief of Chinese Confucianism is jia (家 family). In spite of the fact that in ancient China the country was run like a “super family” with the emperor as the father to the people, jia has priority over any other relationship outside the family including the state (Fukuyama 1995:84-86). While the communists tried to undermine the belief in jia in the second half of the twentieth century, the political movements in the twentieth century produced adverse effects that resulted in the Chinese people being more firmly attached to jia (1995:94). What Fukuyama refers to as jia is Chinese familism as described within this paper.

The prominent role of family in Chinese culture has been noted by most Euro-American missionaries in China, both Jesuits and Protestants, with or without anthropological training. The Jesuits cultivated the accommodation effort in China modeled after Matteo Ricci’s approach with an understanding of the importance of the ancestral rites. This produced voluminous cross-cultural enlightenment for both the Chinese and the Europeans in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. However, the effort came to a tragic end in the ban of all Western missions activities due to the Papal decree by Pope Clement XI in 1704 regarding the Chinese Rites Controversy (Ross 1994:135-193).[6]

A century later, when the Protestant missionaries arrived in China, they encountered the same issue regarding how to handle ancestral rites, though they recognized the overwhelming role of family in Chinese society. Arthur Smith,[7] a Protestant missionary among the pioneers who lived in inland China with common people in the late nineteenth century, notes that the evolution of the concept of family into Chinese familism differentiates it from the Western concept of family:

In the West, when a son marries, he usually separates and becomes the head of a new family. For the development of his own individuality and that of his wife, this is undoubtedly the wisest course. In the East, the development of the individual is not taken into consideration; the maintenance of the family as a unit is alone of importance. Even after the branches of the family separate into different households, the worship of their ancestors preserves a bond between them, and beyond this lies the constraint of clan, the members of which live together in villages and have an ancestral temple in common (Smith 1907:56, 58).

These observations confirm my definition of Chinese familism: a familial ideology based on the father-son relationship, characterized by the centrality of ancestors expressed in ancestral rites and enforced by the doctrines of filial piety, demonstrating interdependence in the context of differentiated interpersonal relationships and hierarchical social structure, all for the best interests of the person’s family. This ideology that has become dominant in Chinese culture is not by chance but due to Confucian systemization of familism.

Chinese Familism and Confucianism

As noted above, the Chinese family is quite different from the Western one, not only in the extended structure beyond the nuclear family, but also in the connection with ancestors. Liji, one of the classics edited by Confucius around the sixth century BCE, contains detailed records of ancestral rites for different ranks of officials and commoners. By the time Confucius began editing literature from previous dynasties, the practice of ancestral rites had been transformed from honoring the virtuous late emperor to remembering the departed father, indicating the prominent role of the dead through the rituals of remembering the deceased (Wei 1985:120-124).

Thus, Confucius did not invent the Chinese familial system or filial piety, he and his followers adopted and systemized it. According to the history compiled in the Han dynasty (漢, 206 BCE-220 CE), one reason Confucius engaged in the editorial work of ancient classics was because he lived in a time when the old social order had collapsed due to the decline of the rule of the Zhou dynasty (周, c. 1046-221 B.C.E.) as the feudal lords ascended to the throne (Sima 1976:1-54). In addition to Confucianism, ideologies competing for the feudal lords’ endorsement included Daoism,[8] Muoism[9] and Legalism,[10] all of which upheld different views regarding filial piety (Zhu 2003:53-112).  Having dominated Chinese culture since the Han dynasty, Confucianism gained the exclusive support of the ruling class and became an integral part of Chinese life. Of all the historical ideologies that exerted powerful influences on Chinese culture and Confucianism, the full adoption and adaptation of familism is the most significant.

The book of Zhongyong (中庸, The Doctrine of the Mean) records Confucius’ answer to an inquiry about government, which is related more to relationships than to office, finance, or military. It is probably the original record of the well-known Confucian five cardinal relationships: the king and his officials, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brothers, and friends (Confucius 1965b:18).[11] The order of the first four dyads communicates plainly the male-dominant hierarchy, and three of them are about familial relationships, which indicates the acknowledgement by Confucius and his followers of the importance of kinship values and family ties.

Combining this acknowledgement with the power of the emotional roots of related ancestral rites, Confucians integrate the rites into the practices of life in order to bring stability to the kinship system as the basic unit of social organization. In addition, they replace the sentimental supernatural belief in the perpetuation of the human with a nontheistic ritual emphasizing the moral aspect of the rites. Though they do not seem to have been fully successful in excluding the supernatural elements, they are able to perpetuate certain moral values expressed in filial piety through these cultic traditions (C. K. Yang 1961:51-52).

After the turmoil of the warring years (戰國, 480-221 BCE) and the ruthless Legalism rule of the Qin dynasty (秦, 221-202 BCE), the officials in the peaceful years at the beginning of the Han dynasty favored Confucian familial ethics as the ideology to bring stability to the society and the ruling order. They found the relational strength of filial piety to be appealing to human nature and thus easily adopted. Moreover, they extended the love and loyalty between parents and children to the political system, requiring subordinates’ loyalty to the emperor as children to their parents. By 140 BCE Confucianism had been elevated over other ideologies. Ever since, the familial kinship reinforced by Confucianism through the teachings of filial piety and the practice of ancestral rites has become foundational to the patrilineal, patriarchal, and patrilocal Chinese familism that underpins the Chinese imperial system (Zhu 2003:113-115).

Familial Kinship

Chinese society is saturated with various “social networks” among relatives, classmates, and fellow townspeople, which are “modeled after affective familial relationships, involving intimacy, closeness, and informality” (Fan 2010:23). It is not unusual for a person who is introduced as a friend to someone’s Chinese family to be called “aunt” or “uncle” by the children. Even within a first-name based society, such as the United States, Chinese children will politely add the title “aunt” or “uncle” to the first name. Fenggang Yang testifies to this phenomenon through his observations in the Chinese church in Washington, D.C. During the intercessory prayer in Sunday services, the pastor would refer to the congregation members as sister, brother, uncle and aunt (1999:3). In the Sunday services of the Chinese church I attend, when the worship leader welcomes newcomers, without exception, he or she would refer to our church as a big family of love in God. These are just a couple manifestations of the ideology of Chinese familism in Chinese churches among the Chinese diaspora. However, the salutation does not mean that the person becomes a family member, but it expresses the acceptance of a stranger into one’s comfort zone. There are numerous occasions when close friends deepen their friendship through developing blood-tie kinship, such as becoming sworn brothers or sisters, or committing to marrying their son and daughter to one another, even before their birth. A prime example is the case of sworn brotherhood among Liu Bei (劉備), Guan Yu (關羽), and Zhang Fei (張飛) during the three kingdom period (220-280 CE)[12] (Luo 1973:3). Revered as a descendant of the Han emperor, Liu reinforced the loyalty of these two lion-hearted generals by adopting them as brothers; they fought until death to defend his crown. Liu’s case conveys the quintessential role of familial relations in Confucianism.

Personal identity in the Confucian definition cannot be separated from a person’s relationships rooted in kinship. At the same time, treating people as relatives does not mean individuals have equal status. On the contrary, every person in a familial network bears a specific title, which denotes the closeness of their blood-ties to each other and their status (C. K. Yang 1959:86-93). Title and status in the familial network define a person’s proper role and responsibilities. The closer the relationship, the larger the favor which may be expected (Fan 2010:29). Proper conduct requires that interaction among people is suitable to their title and status and thereby reflects proper relationships. This is Confucian propriety, a virtue which must be maintained in order to preserve social stability.

Harmony among Unequal Relationships in Propriety

As indicated previously, although ren is commonly recognized as the central theme for Confucianism, Ruipin Fan asserts that ren is rooted in filial piety and fraternal submission (Confucius 1965a:1).[13] Familial love serves as the underpinning of human emotion and moral obligations (Fan 2010:30). Applying these principles to leadership and governance, Confucius presents the model of having people behave according to their proper roles in the relationship, as shown in his reply to Duke Jing of Qi (齊景公) regarding governance by maintaining proper relationships and order show in the four roles: the king, the official, father and son who should behave according to their title.[14]  Such propriety originates from Liji.

Liji is the book of li (禮, rituals) that regulates people’s behavior. Different rituals are designated for different relationships (Fan 2010:30). In seniority-oriented hierarchical familism, ren seems to be overwhelmed by rituals, even though leaders are advised to express love in caring for followers as parents would care for children. The Confucian emphasis on proper conducts includes assigning all individuals certain roles and responsibilities in societal networks, which are modeled after familial networks, and expecting everyone to behave accordingly. This is the propriety Confucians consider to be a virtue and seek to maintain. In the Confucian concept of utopia,[15] harmony is expected to emerge as everyone performs according to their roles and responsibilities.

In his analysis of familial network, C. K. Yang addresses how Confucian familism maintains propriety (C. K. Yang 1959:86-93). He illuminates the hierarchy and authority that are intrinsic to the four Confucian relationship dyads: ruler-official, father-son, husband-wife, and elder-younger brothers. The opening chapter of Xioajing (孝經, The Book of Filial Piety) further explicates the progression of filial affection: 1) serving parents as the preliminary requirement for all people, 2) serving the rulers as a requirement for intellectuals and officials, and finally, 3) self-actualization for the rulers.[16] Beyond the intent of serving parents, it appears that Xiaojing extends filial piety into different ranks for the purpose of regulating people’s loyalty to the ruler. The next five chapters in Xiaojing continue with this theme of comparing loyalty to the ruler with obedience to parents (Zhu 2003:133). This teaching echoes the aforementioned example of Confucius’ reply to Duke Jing, which describes successful governance as keeping propriety among the four dyads and as maintaining proper order through people behaving according to their title. This teaching of obedience, relationships and loyalty in Confucian familism finds its expression in various aspects of life, and the modern social science studies affirm its implications for leadership.

Obedience and Loyalty

In the eminent studies of cultural impact on organizations conducted in IBM Corporation, Geert Hofstede identified five variables that distinguish the “mental programs” of a given national culture. One of the variables was “power distance,” which refers to the extent of inequality between two parties such as parent-child, boss-subordinate, teacher-student (Hofstede 2001:80-82). Hofstede has discovered, in various research projects since the 1970s covering fifty nations and three regions, that the values of power distance were relatively higher for countries whose population were mostly Chinese. The IBM studies that applied the Rokeach Value Survey intended for American society to three Chinese countries (Hofstede and Bond 1988:12-13) define power distance from below, based on how the less powerful members of organizations perceived and endorsed inequality between the followers and their leaders (1988:10). The higher the value of power distance, the larger the inequality. Data from the chart[17] below suggests that leaders in these countries have much higher authority over their followers as compared to many other countries.

Data from Culture Measurement: The IBM Studies Data from Chinese Value Survey
Country Power Distance Individualism Masculinity Confucian Dynamism
Index Rank Index Rank Index Rank Index Rank
Hong Kong 68 15-16 25 37 57 18-19 96 1
Singapore 74 13 20 39-41 48 28 48 8
Taiwan 58 29-30 17 44 45 32-33 87 2

Additional compelling data generated by the Chinese Value Survey may be even more pertinent to non-Western societies than the result of the Rokeach Value Survey in the IBM studies. The Chinese Value Survey measured what was termed as “Confucian Dynamism,” rating the relative importance of four dimensions: 1) persistence, 2) ordering relationships by status and observing this order, 3) thrift, and 4) having a sense of shame. The high values of Confucian Dynamism confirm the four key principles of Confucian teaching observed by Hofstede and Bond.[18] Two of these principles are related to familism: “[t]he stability of society is based on unequal relationships between people” and “[t]he family is the prototype of all social organizations” (Hofstede and Bond 1988:8, 14-16). They recognize that “quintessential Confucianism in action” lies in “the shared value of ‘ordering relationship by status and observing this order’” (1988:18). This reflects the core value of familism expressed in the unequal relationship in propriety as discussed above. In addition to their discovery that the economic growth over the period between 1965 and 1985 for the countries surveyed may be correlated with Confucian Dynamism, the Hofstede and Bond data reveals captivating evidence of the influence of familism on leadership-followership dynamics.

In the first few years at the turn of the third millennium, in-depth studies of twenty-five societies regarding leadership effectiveness were conducted. Again the consistent high values of power distance in Chinese communities (China 5.04, Hong Kong 4.96, and Singapore 4.99) were presented (Global 2009:887, 915, 955), affirming the aforementioned historical analysis of the impact of obedience and loyalty in Chinese familism on leadership in the twenty-first century. Understanding certain Chinese cultural patterns is helpful not only in interpreting the cultural dynamics in leadership-followership complexity, but also in understanding the ecclesial practices and mission activities in the Confucian contexts, which have profound implications on leadership formation.

The Impact of Unequal Relationship on Leadership Formation

As mentioned above, Confucianism finds its expression of familism through filial piety. Familism also solidifies its stronghold in Chinese culture through the political elevation of Confucianism over all other ideologies. The uniqueness of Chinese familism lies not only in the bonding among family members, but also in the extended application within every aspect of life, including leadership-followership.

The elevation of Confucianism over all other ideologies has produced both positive and negative effects. For example, during the early Han dynasty Confucianism provided stability for the society to rebuild and prosper after a long period of social turbulence. At the same time its ideological dominance through political amalgamation stifled creativity and caused the ideology to be enslaved to the political rulers (Zhu 2003:115). Similarly, this elevated Confucianism stressing an unequal relationship in propriety produced positive and negative effects on the interplay of leadership and followership. In this part, we will examine the prominence and abusive application of the Confucian leadership model, junzi, the strength of Chinese familism in meeting deep psychological needs and its weakness in lacking accountability structures that breeds leadership toxicity.

Junzi – A Confucian Ideal Leader

Junzi, a person of high integrity pursuing moral perfection and relationship harmony, is the ideal leader in Confucianism. The designated ruler in the Confucian utopia[19] conforms to this model—a humble and learned person with integrity who constantly cultivates his personal virtue and harmonious relationships in family and community. In fact, everyone is instructed to cultivate self-perfection, and thus everyone has the potential to become a Confucian junzi and serve as a leader. Here the ideal image of a junzi is one who works constantly on self-perfection and harmonious relationships within the community.

For Confucians, leadership centers round obedience of the less powerful to the more powerful in the unequal relationship described in filial piety (Zhu 2003:116-138). The reward for those who follow a junzi is to have the benefit of harmonious relationship in the community: being well cared for, and having the opportunity to achieve one’s full potential. However, this understanding ignores the reality of sinful human nature, especially in the presence of power, as John Dalberg-Acton states (Acton and Fears 1985:383), “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In the Confucian hierarchical structure, with few built-in accountability mechanisms, the ideal of junzi becomes a primary tool used by leaders demanding others to focus on internal self-cultivation and external relational harmony. When the only safeguard is the leader’s personal morality and virtue, there is the possibility of great corruption. The disastrous consequences are evident throughout Chinese history in the drama of palace coups and dynasty transitions because the emperors knew that, under the disguise of loyalty through filial piety, the followers would comply, even when the leaders revealed their ferocious desires. It did not take any effort for the emperors to learn the trick of condemning their antagonists by creating a false charge. Prior to emperor Wudi’s (武帝) adoption of Confucianism as the guiding ideology of the nation, his father, Jingdi (景帝), accused his prime minister, Zhou Yafu (周亞夫), of treason because Zhou often reminded him of his improper decisions such as replacing the firstborn son with his favorite younger one to be prince (Sima 1999:1157-1172). The adoption of Confucianism simply rationalized the accusation of disloyalty for the later emperors.

The imperial system has been over more for than a century, but male dominance and hierarchical structure continue to influence the Chinese life, including the church. In the survey of churches in Wenzhou (a coastal town in Zhejiang province that is south to Shanghai), Nanlai Cao notes the rise of the leadership of “Boss Christians,” entrepreneurs of the economic boom in the reformed years. These churches exhibit “a striking parallel between traditional Chinese patriarchal ideology and the conservative evangelical ideal; both emphasize feminine submission, subordination, purity, piety, and domesticity” (Cao 2010:25, 100). The highest authority often is a committee of church affairs, and most of the time, the members of the committee are not elected. The system has a nickname, “system of patriarchy” (jia-zhang zhi, 家長制) meaning that the chair of the committee makes all the important decisions for the church, from budgeting to preacher invitation. The “boss” usually is the one who contributes the most to the church finance, and often has the full control over church affairs (2010:83). Obedience and loyalty are assumed.

By demanding obedience and loyalty, the harmony produced through familial-like relationship in propriety seems to bring captivity rather than the invigorating liberation of a person’s potential. Next we will examine the possible reasons for the sustained Confucian familial ideology through the modern psychological lens. The all-encompassing family system provides for pervasive teaching of politicized filial piety that fortifies unbalanced Confucian leadership-followership dynamics. Though earlier Confucians did not study psychology or sociology, they knew the power of childhood development, particularly the imprints made by the family on children. Leadership formation is no exception.

Family: The Initial Phase of Leadership Formation

Psychological research reveals that every adult carries an imprint from his or her family of origin and continues to seek leaders to fill the void left by parents. James Burns considers these discoveries in humanistic psychology crucial to the understanding of leadership formation (Burns 1979:3). The interactions with adults and with other children in one’s childhood serve as the role models of leadership. Since all children are born in and by families both whole and broken, the family is where the first lessons of leadership and followership take place for everyone.

Belonging and Security

Jean Lipman-Blumen, a contemporary leadership expert, notes that the universal psychological needs of feeling safe and being special, and the deep desire of belonging, make people look for leaders. In the childhood years of formation, caretakers assume the role of leaders by meeting these needs, and this process in turn shapes our social and cultural norms. The anxiety of satisfying these needs continues into adulthood and is expressed in the need for: “reassuring authority figures” to replace the caretakers’ role, “security and certainty,” feeling “chosen or special,” and belonging to human community, in addition to the fear of “ostracism, isolation, and social death” and “personal powerlessness to challenge a bad leader” (Lipman-Blumen 2005: 29-31).

For those in individualistic social settings, the need for belonging may drive people to join a community outside of the family, such as a social club, while Chinese communal familism meets this need within the family. Moreover, as revealed in the conversation between Confucius and the Duke of Yeh to clarify uprightness, the implied message is the supremacy of family that dictates people’s obligations to their kin over the state (Goldin 2011:27). The constancy of familial care and the moral lessons at home through filial piety provide a secure base for one’s physical and emotional needs. Compared to the perplexing complications of the outside world, the Chinese familial network provides a reliable resource.

As noted above, the Confucian unequal relationship in propriety designates for everyone a proper role and status within one’s own family network, social context, and beyond. This definition of relationship provides people with a sense of belonging and minimizes the fear of isolation and social death. In addition, the teaching of filial piety conforms to the mandate of familism that upholds the interests of the family. Thus, personal achievement equates to the family’s achievement, and individual life purposes serve to glorify the family line (Zhu 2003:3). Individual accomplishment not only contributes to a personal feeling of being special, but also validates the family as “chosen.” This in turn reinforces the individual’s desire to stay within the family network. Thus familism eliminates the anxiety of standing alone, yet also allows the collective will to be imposed on an individual.

Individuals not only contribute to the glory of the family, but also receive benefits, as familism approves only those behaviors that are good for the family and can be translated into provision for all family members. Familism thus provides a sense of security for those who participate in this system. A positive effect is that people benefit from the status quo, but this can also produce a negative effect when people tolerate corrupted leaders out of a desire to preserve the status quo.

Immortality Found in Familism

Chinese familism seems to have pacified the anxiety of facing the uncertainty of death. Lipman-Blumen notes that the feeling of powerlessness in facing death deepens the sense of uncertainty and compels people to search for ways to overcome death, often through the pursuit of immortality, which finds its expression in the “infinite possibilities of life” (2005:50) that would prolong life not in the physical but in the spiritual realm, such as in people’s memory. One expression of this is leadership. In the complicated web of intertwined needs and fears, she insightfully points out how leadership can provide a larger-than-life vision that matches people’s yearning for immortality by giving meaning to life, transcending life and death, and producing the feeling of being “chosen” when one participates in that vision. In this way, leadership seems to be able to appease the angst aroused by the intrinsic needs and fears deep within.

In addition to meeting the need for security and belonging, Chinese familism also satisfies a person’s longing for immortality. In the universal quest for immortality, the individualistic persons often seek meaning through noble visions, while Confucians opt for the answers found in familism. Before Xiaojing was compiled, ancestral rites had already existed as a way to remember the dead by providing a look backward into the origin of the family line. In contrast, Mencius identified having male offspring as the prime filial piety (Mencius 1965),[20] which opens the way for familism to look forward into the future of the family line. Combining ancestral rites and the mandate for having sons, Chinese familism asserts that immortality is attained through the continuation of the family line, which includes both living and dead family members. Furthermore, a son symbolizes the continuation of the family line, not only in the physical form, but also in the spiritual sense as the son carries the family name and prolongs the family traditions. He also carries the hope of glorifying the family through his achievements. This positions the parent in the eternal life line (Xiao 2001:14, 154) with a sense of triumph over mortality and of gaining a meaningful life through the possible achievements of offspring.

By satisfying the needs of security and belonging, and the yearning for immortality, familism appears to successfully prevent the possible causes for toxicity in leadership. However, Chinese history proves otherwise. In reality, the vision of leadership as satisfying desires and fears often turns out to be an illusion because of the insatiability of the yearning for immortality. Worse yet, when the desire to satisfy the insatiable yearning is too strong to let go of the illusion, leadership often turns sour, and its toxic manipulation, corruption, even threatening of life is tolerated (2005:50-64).

In summary, Confucian familism is able to meet the psychological needs of belonging and security by situating each individual in a familial network and allowing them to enjoy the benefit of the network. In addition, a person’s relationships to his ancestors through ancestral rites, and the hope of achievements by male descendent soothe the anxiety over death. The only stipulation is moral cultivation as exemplified by filial piety, which mandates obedience and loyalty to parents and superiors. Lipman-Blumen’s analysis validates the role of Confucian teaching of filial piety that addresses the psychological needs of belonging and security, and the pursuit of immortality.

Imbedded Toxicity in Chinese Leadership

By satisfying some basic psychological needs mentioned above, Chinese familism avoids a number of ways in which leadership might become toxic. However, its infrastructure and its concept of an ideal leader allows for situations that might cause leadership to become toxic. Top-down process and authority without accountability stand out as major concerns.

Top-down Process

An unequal leader-follower relationship that demands obedience and loyalty without any leadership accountability has an additional effect on the operation of an organization: top-down process. This process can provide the leader with advantages because they can demand the trust of followers. At the same time, a top-down approach can disadvantage followers as their exceptional ideas have to wait for the leader’s endorsement for execution. One positive aspect of this process is that an idea can be implemented efficiently once it is approved.

A successful top-down structure can be found in the Yoido Full Gospel Church (YFGC) established by Rev. Yonggi Cho in South Korea, a country with deep Confucian influence. Exploring Cho’s leadership, Dong Sung Lee offers an organizational chart of the church’s cell group as a pyramid with Cho on the top as the Director of Pastoral Care, twenty-three district pastors under the director, 406 sub-district pastors under the district pastors, 6,740 lay section pastors under the sub-district pastors, and 50,030 home cell unit lay leaders at the bottom rung (Lee 2001:134). The YFGC is known for its rapid growth since the 1970s and this top-down context cannot be ignored. The top-down process also finds its expression in Wenzhou churches.

Jackson Wu gives the following description about the effect of this process in some Chinese churches:

[M]any older believers tend to minimize the potential of younger Christians to minister and lead in a local church. Typically, this stems from a cultural supposition that age and education are the basis of position and authority. Accordingly, younger believers feel disrespected, discouraged, and eager to exchange the older congregations for a younger one (Wu 2011:11-12).

His description of the struggle between the generations of old and young reveals a negative aspect of the exercise of authority in the context of familism, seen in the stifled gifts of the less powerful. Another highly negative characteristic is that there is no standard for priority except the leader’s personal considerations. The result of this can be disastrous.

Authority without Accountability

As mentioned above, the unequal relationship in propriety situates everyone within a familial network that can contribute to a harmonious society if people perform according to their status and responsibilities. The mandate of obedience and loyalty in filial piety ensures followers’ cooperation. The only stipulation for leaders is to cultivate personal virtue centered on ren which is rooted in filial piety. This results in no obligation for a leader other than cultivating personal morality in order to assume existing capacities for self-regulation and competence. This means that the followers will bear the full consequences of their leader’s incompetence or self-indulgence, as leaders do not have to bear these consequences themselves.

Zi Zhi Tong Jian (資治通鑑, Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government), the chronological general history book covering imperial governance during the period 403 BCE to 959 CE, discloses the toxic leadership dynamics of the emperors and their inner circles dynasty after dynasty. Though the emperors were brought up in the Confucian teaching of cultivating self-perfection, they held supremacy over all the resources and people under their rule. The hope for a harmonious society was a sage king who exhibited competence and virtue. Likewise, as the head of a Chinese household, a man has almost unlimited privileges which include taking as many wives as he can afford in the name of having a son. The hope for a harmonious family life is a virtuous and caring man. Boyang, who translated Zi Zhi Tong Jian into vernacular Chinese, keenly points out the fallacy of the illusion of a sage king or wise and able leadership due to the absence of accountability (Sima 1999:13). The reliance on self-perfection stems from Confucian belief in the human potential of seeking good through moral cultivation.[21] The price of ignoring sinful human nature is too heavy to bear.

In summary, Chinese familism generates strength sufficient for meeting deep psychological needs and providing general benefits, but the weaknesses of the top-down approach and the lack of accountability overshadow its strengths. As argued below, however, its strengths can be redeemed by a new understanding of harmony.

A New Perspective of Harmony in Propriety

Both Max De Pree and Confucius express the same themes of leadership: integrity, relationship nurturing, and community building. The difference between them lies in their various principles of harmony. De Pree’s ideal leader seeks the fulfillment of each person’s potential by cultivating and coordinating each person’s voice and touch; this may be described as harmony among diverse gifts. In contrast, Confucius’ junzi cultivates ren, which is based on filial piety, the doctrine of Chinese familism that situates every person in unequal relationships in propriety; this may be described as harmony among diverse statuses.

Although the intended goal for junzi is harmony in propriety among diverse statuses, due to the imbedded toxicity in leadership, junzi remains a myth and harmony, a lost fable. However, by recognizing the diversity of human gifts, De Pree’s concept of leadership liberates everyone to cultivate their potential and brings harmony to diversity through each person’s voice and touch. The realization of this goal is necessarily gradual, but feasible, as it provides different perspectives on harmony, that is, that everyone leads according to his or her gifts and collaborates with others as followers. The propriety lies not in the proper role or status, but in the beauty and diversity of gifts.

Junzi and De Pree

The discussions so far confirm the close affinity between the qualities of junzi, which are high integrity, moral-cultivation, and nurturing harmony in community, and the three essential themes of leadership in Max De Pree’s book, Leadership Is An Art (De Pree 1989:ix-xi): integrity, relationship building and nurturing, and community building. However, a closer look reveals the fundamental difference. On the surface, the ideal image of a junzi is similar to De Pree’s ideal leadership, where junzi is one who works constantly on self-perfection and on harmonious relationships within the community. Putting the principles into action differentiates them. For De Pree, effective leadership is rooted in the principle of “liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible” (1989:1). This principle recognizes both the potential and weakness of humanity, and acknowledges the interdependent relationship between leaders and followers. Through the metaphor of harmonious, life-giving coordination of voice and touch, De Pree describes leadership formation as the harmony between expressing one’s belief (voice) and demonstrating one’s competence and resolve (touch) (De Pree 1992:1-5). In this way, De Pree’s junzi will constantly cultivate the connection between a person’s voice and touch.

In presenting the context for service without power, De Pree rightly points out the urgent issue of the family at risk (De Pree 1997:40). The strong support for family in Chinese familism may provide a remedy, but the toxicity of leadership needs to be mitigated. After thousands of years of recorded leadership failures, the Confucian ideal of junzi needs a breakthrough. The affinity between Confucian familism and De Pree’s work grounded in a shared desire for harmony, offers hope. De Pree’s leadership themes of integrity, relationship nurturing, and community building present promising pathways toward the desired breakthroughs that would enlarge the impact and scope of Chinese leadership that is currently impeded by the constrictive application of familism.

Integrity: Upheld by Accountability

Integrity represents the inner strength of a person. De Pree regards it as the cornerstone of leadership and Confucius holds it as a personal virtue. In both cases, it cannot be hidden from the public and must be held accountable. In De Pree’s view of vital organizations, accountability is just one of the fourteen interconnected attributes[22] (De Pree 1997:99-113), along with truth, discipline, authenticity, and fidelity to his/her mission, that nurture a leader of integrity.

In addition, the tools of cultivating competence presented in the book, Primal Leadership, can provide needed safeguard measures. Digging into the neurology of human emotion, the authors of Primal Leadership affirm the “primordial emotional role” of leaders because they exert the most influence on the group’s collective emotions due to the power bestowed upon them (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 2004:5). When a leader is able to “manage and direct” the group’s feelings toward accomplishing the group’s goals, “resonant leadership” takes place. On the other hand, when a leader fails to recognize the group’s feelings and moves the group into negative responses, such as resentment, “dissonant leadership” occurs (2004:19-21).

Therefore, primal leadership is measured by the leaders’ ability to “handle themselves and their relationships,” which includes two spheres of competence: personal (self) and social (relationships) (2004:6, 39). A closer look at the capabilities that assess the competences of leaders shows that subjects include not only matters of feelings but also of gifts, knowledge, capabilities, skills, etc. Moreover, the nurturing of social competence compels a leader to receive and reflect on feedback from the community. The emphasis on cultivating personal virtue for Confucian junzi finds augment in the development of both personal and social competence for primal leadership, especially in the manner of feedback from the community that can keep the leadership accountable. Primal leadership formation tools thus free junzi from the trap of absolute power through accountability to the community and equip junzi to become more competent in the twenty-first century.

Relationship Nurturing: Integrating Top-down and Bottom-up Processes

By definition, a Confucian junzi is a relational person, but top-down processes typically undermine nurturing relationships. People have been suppressed often do not have many opportunities to cultivate their potential. A junzi can adopt the attributes of vital organizations noted by De Pree (1997), such as access, nourishment for persons, justice, respect, and hope, to allow followers to fulfill their potential. Consistent with the qualities of management for primal leadership, these attributes encourage the followers’ participation in the decision-making process, which can therefore be defined as bottom-up.

Although the authors of Primal Leadership discourage the use of dissonant leadership styles, they admit the effectiveness of dissonant leadership style when applied properly (Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee 2001:71-72). Likewise, top-down processes may be necessary at times and have their place in certain relationships, especially in crisis situations. The inclusion of resonant with dissonant leadership styles expresses the integration of top-down and bottom-up processes. Two of the positive effects are within reach. One is that the vision of the group, which is no longer held hostage by the leader as in the top-down process, can be beneficial for both leaders and followers, and the other is an organization with an enlarged pool of resource from the follower’s ownership developed through a bottom-up process.

Community Building: Vision beyond Kinship

Chinese familism exerts collective thinking on its members by requiring family members to situate everyone in familial relationships and place familial benefit over individual goals. This may give the impression that Chinese persons are team players, but Chinese history testifies against such an illusion. For example, the officials in the palace court often played tricks to remove those they found offensive in order to gain their own promotion (Sima 1999). Similarly, siblings turned into enemies when fighting for their share of inheritance (Fukuyama 1995:89-90). The paradox of being both collective and uncooperative seems to originate from the delineation of family benefits, as defined by familism, in which loyalty to family is narrowed down to one’s immediate family members. Fukuyama astutely notes the peril of such narrowed trust to modern-day organizations, which require trust beyond family members (1995:26). Confucian utopia builds upon family ties. Ironically, its foundation, familism, undermines its effort because the self-interest of familism works against important elements of effective teams. These elements, such as vision, trust, and encouraged growth (Wright 2005:5), thrive within one’s family, but wither in circles beyond family.

Fukuyama ranks Chinese societies in the low-trust group on the scale of promoting honesty, charity, and benevolence toward the community at large. The effect of low-trust on corporations is manifested in the incapability to sustain growth. On the contrary, those belonging to the high-trust group often exhibit the ability to enlarge their radius of trust that results in the formation of new associations and corporations beyond the original circle of trust. Fukuyama contends that even in low-trust nations like South Korea, another Confucian society, breakthrough is possible by channeling resources into private sectors to overcome the cultural tendency toward small organization (Fukuyama 1995). The examples prove that trust beyond the kinship circle is crucial to bring a breakthrough for the Chinese leadership.

In the Chinese church I attend, an effort is to make people at home, a home not by blood-tie but by kingdom-tie, God’s kingdom, which provides a common vision for the church. Moreover, church members are encouraged to grow into the fullness of Jesus stature (Eph 4:13) in order to carry out good deeds. Chinese familism actually supplies the ingredients of trust and encourages growth, the remaining issue is how to instill a vision toward the community at large. For De Pree, community is where life is actualized, and community includes people beyond one’s family (De Pree 1989:xi-xii). If the common vision can include non-kin members within one’s family, this offers a way to enlarge the community concept beyond family, while drawing its intrinsic strength in the collective mindset.

In summary, Confucians affirm the reality that human relationships are intrinsically unequal with status depending on the closeness of the parties involved, giving priority to blood-ties over any other relationships. Instead of looking for ways to level out such imbalance, Confucians reinforce the imbalance through filial piety, which results in a society where individuals are merged into the familial system and seek family benefit while ignoring the benefit of the larger community. However, the relationships nurtured through integration of top-down and bottom-up processes provide a solid pathway to effective teamwork that can become the key to community-building beyond family. Cultivating the vision of family beyond kinship has great beneficial potential.


Leadership and family are facing unprecedented challenges in our age. Can we embrace both the Western morality, based on the Christian faith that all humans are created equal before God, and also the Chinese unequal relationship that differentiates priority according to the degree of closeness? Leaders shaped by Chinese familism may exhibit strengths of virtue and relationship cultivation, but lack accountability. Leaders may be caring, parent-like figures, but also skewed toward paternalism and therefore lacking in teamwork. Due to the lack of accountability, leaders may miss important feedback regarding their shortcomings and can fall into abusive behaviors.

One remedy is an external frame of reference that transcends the familial network and the reliance on human virtue. Filial piety may bring the family together, but it should not be extended into the civic arena. The pursuit of a distorted harmony, regulated by the propriety of a person’s role and title, distorts leadership. Redeeming leadership in Chinese familism needs to start with correcting the distortion. De Pree’s leadership principle of liberating people to fulfill their potential using their God-given gifts can be an antidote to the distortion. Instead of aligning propriety with a person’s role and title, propriety is aligned with a person’s gifts. Harmony is no longer regulated by propriety of unequal relationship, but is celebrated by people of diverse gifts joining together in effective teamwork to reach their full potential for the benefit of the community and beyond. Leadership is most effective in organizations pursuing this harmony.

Family affects numerous areas of life. This paper only touches the surface of leadership formation in Chinese familism. Further research and reflection on various topics, such as female leadership, the perception of sinful human nature, and the role of virtue, immortality and meaning in life beyond continuation of the family line, would be valuable and beneficial.

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[1]Republished with permission from the author, Shi-Min Lu, and the editor of Mission Studies, Kirsteen Kim. See Lu, 2015, “Chinese Familism and Leadership Formation,” Mission Studies: Brill, 32, 87-114.

[2]Liji begins with the instruction of proper conduct: 毋不敬,儼若思,安定辭 (Confucius and Jiang 2012:1). This reverence of propriety permeates Liji and culminated in the selection of two volumes, Daxue (大學 Great Learning) and Zhongyong (中庸 The Book of Mean) by Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200), the leading character of neo-Confucianism in the Song dynasty, with Confucian Analects and The Works of Mencius to form The Four Books as a must-read for the Chinese intellectuals. This conception of harmony can be found in Confucian utopia recorded in Liji, chapter 9 describing a harmonious society in the spirit of propriety.

[3] Here are a few examples from Confucian Analects: 4:5, 子曰:「…君子無終食之間違仁,造次必於是,顛沛必於是。」 This paragraph indicates that junzi will not be enticed by wealth and fame nor forsake love due to harsh circumstances but will cultivate ren constantly. 6:18, 子曰:「質勝文則野,文勝質則史。文質彬彬,然後君子。」 This paragraph describes junzi as having prudence and temperament. 8:2, 子曰:「…君子篤於親,則民興於仁;故舊不遺,則民不偷。」 Here, junzi leads by modeling true love for relatives and old friends, inspiring people/followers to show love and care (Confucius 1965a:23, 42, 57).

[4] In ancient Greek writings, harmony is associated with the subject of music in the study of the formation of melody represented by two traditions: Aristoxenian harmonics—systematic analysis of music as we hear it, and Pythagorean harmonics—discovering the mathematical ratio of melodic intervals as a proof of the mathematical nature of reality. The latter exerted great impact on Plato’s harmonic cosmology. But a diversion took place that focused the study on “relationships between notes, properties of chords, consonance and dissonance, and tonality and key” in the Middle Ages, so harmony became the organizing principle of Western music (Sullivan 2005).

[5] Confucian Analects 13:18, 葉公語孔子曰:「吾黨有直躬者,其父攘羊,而子證之。」孔子曰:「吾黨之直者異於是。父為子隱,子為父隱,直在其中矣。」 (Confucius 1965a:111-112).

[6] Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit, arrived in Macao, China in 1582 and passed away in Beijing in May 1610 (Ross 1994:120, 153, Ricci and Zhu 2001:1). According to Ricci’s journals, his first impression of the pervasive ancestral rites was that they were superstitious (Ricci 1953:4). With this initial attitude, it is of no surprise that his first reaction to ancestral rites was rejection. Vincent Cronin provides some details of Ricci’s deliberation over the issue in his handling of a Chinese convert’s funeral and the decision towards the simple Christian ritual (Cronin 1955:198-199). However, a dream in 1595 seems to have changed his attitude (Ricci 1953:273), and initiated the vigorous association with the mandarins that eventually led him to Beijing in 1598. The Jesuits gained imperial trust and their mission continued to prosper partly due to their tolerating attitude toward the Chinese Christians’ practice of the rites that venerate ancestors and Confucius. Their accommodation approach faced strong challenges from the Dominicans and Franciscans beginning 1632 (Ross 1994:178). Andrew Ross points out the watershed point of the Chinese Rites Controversy may have occurred with the translation of some Chinese words into Latin that colored the rites for funeral, ancestors and Confucius with heavy religious tones (1994:191). I concur with Ross that underneath the debates is the deep sense of Euro-centrism that leads to the issue of Bull of Benedict XIV, Ex quo singulari in 1739 to recall any missionary in China who would not comply with the previously issued documents by Pope Clement in 1704, Maigrot in 1710 and the Bull Ex illa die of 1715 (1994:198) banning the practice of ancestral rites. The focus on the religious meaning of the rites not only brought the mission in China to a halt, but also deterred their comprehension of the centrality of familism for the Chinese.

[7] Arthur Smith was a missionary of North China Mission of the American Board sent to China in 1874.  He stayed in the village of Pangchiachuang (龐家莊) in Shandong (山東) province from 1878 till 1900. His books about village life and Chinese characteristics made him an expert on China in his time (Hayford 1985).

[8] Represented by Laozi (老子) and Chuangzi (莊子), Daoism (道家) appeals to the natural way of life and considers filial piety unnatural.

[9] Muoism (墨家), represented by Muozi (墨子), promotes love for all people as equals and situates family relationship in the frame of community, which is contrary to the Confucian way of extending family relationship to community.

[10] Legalism (法家), represented by Hanfeizi (韓非子), emphasizes the dark side of humanity and places filial piety in the service of the ruler in strict hierarchy.

[11] In Zhongyong, section 20, Confucius refers to the five relationships (君臣、父子、夫婦、昆弟、朋友) as universal human obligation (Confucius and Jiang 2012:779-780).

[12] The Han dynasty could not sustain itself due to self-indulgent rulers, who pushed their docile followers past the point of tolerance. However, though kingdom and dynasty may change, familial relationship and Confucian filial piety remains. This history of self-indulgence continued until the overturn of the Qing (清) dynasty.

[13] In Confucian Analects 1:2, 有子曰:「其為人也孝弟,而好犯上者,鮮矣;不好犯上,而好作亂者,未之有也。君子務本,本立而道生。孝弟也者,其為仁之本與!」 (Confucius 1965a:1). In Confucius’ opinion, if a person is filial and fraternal, he will not offend his superiors. It is unheard of that those who are not prone to offend their superiors would commit treason. Thus, junzi will cultivate the root of all virtues in order to establish the proper worldview. In conclusion, filial piety and fraternal submission can be considered as the root of ren, all benevolent actions.

[14] Confucian Analects 12:11, 齊景公問政於孔子。孔子對曰:「君君,臣臣,父父,子子。」(Confucius 1965a:99). The four pairs mean that the king, the official, father and son should behave according to their title and thus maintain the proper relationships and order.

[15] Liji, chapter 9 provides the blueprint for the Confucian utopia: 大道之行也,天下為公,選賢與能,講信修睦,故人不獨親其親,不獨子其子,使老有所終,壯有所用,幼有所長,鰥寡孤獨廢疾者皆有所養;男有分,女有歸,貨惡其棄於地也不必藏於己,力惡其不出於身也不必為己,是故謀閉而不興,盜竊亂賊而不作,故外戶而不閉,是謂大同。 The seventh to the twelfth phrases describe the roles of people in their various life stages and gender roles. The moral base for its realization is familial relationships when people care for the marginalized as they would care for their own family members (Confucius and Jiang 2012:335).

[16] Chinese text in Xiaojing: 夫孝,始於事親,中於事君,終於立身。(Makra 1961:2-3).

[17] The chart includes two other variables from the IBM studies for reference: individualism “is the degree to which individuals are supposed to look after themselves or remain integrated into groups, usually around family” and masculinity “refers to the distribution of emotional roles between the genders, which is another fundamental problem for any society to which a range of solutions are found; it opposes ‘tough’ masculine to ‘tender’ feminine societies” (Hofstede 2001:xix). The variable, “Confucian Dynamism” comes from Chinese Value Survey, which was designed for non-Western societies.

[18] The four key principles of Confucian teaching in Hofstede and Bond’s opinion are: “1.The stability of society is based on unequal relationships between people. 2. The family is the prototype of all social organizations. 3. Virtuous behavior toward others consists of treating others as one would like to be treated oneself: a basic human benevolence. 4. Virtue with regard to one’s tasks in life consists of trying to acquire skills and education, working hard, not spending more than necessary, being patient, and persevering.” (Hofstede and Bond 1988:8).

[19] The third and fourth phrases refer to the characteristics of the designated leader: 大道之行也,天下為公,選賢與能,講信修睦…

[20] Chinese text of Mencius 7:26, 孟子曰:「不孝有三,無後為大。…」(Mencius 1965:177).

[21] In The Works of Mencius, 11:6 records the debate of Mencius with Gong Du regarding human nature.  告子上:孟子曰:「惻隱之心,人皆有之;羞惡之心,人皆有之;恭敬之心,人皆有之;是非之心,人皆有之。惻隱之心,仁也;羞惡之心,義也;恭敬之心,禮也;是非之心,智也。仁義禮智,非由外鑠我也,我固有之也。」  Mencius’ view of human nature being good comes from his belief that the following characters are intrinsic: commiseration, shame and dislike, reverence and respect, and discernment of good and bad. Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge are not infused into us from without, but are furnished within. In 11:8, Mencius contends that the reason for the weakening of this good nature is due to the lack of cultivation. He quotes Confucius to support his argument, “Hold it fast, and it remains with you. Let it go, and you lose it. Its outgoing and incoming cannot be defined as to time or place.” 孟子曰:「人見其禽獸也,而以為未嘗有才焉者,是豈人之情也哉?故茍得其養,無物不長;茍失其養,無物不消。孔子曰:『操則存,舍則亡;出入無時,莫之其鄉。』惟心之謂與?」 (Mencius 1965:257, 263).

[22] The fourteen attributes are: truth, access, discipline, accountability, nourishment for persons, authenticity, justice, respect, hope, workable unity, tolerance, simplicity, beauty and taste, and fidelity to a mission. De Pree is wise to advise that they cannot be separated from one another since they have mutual effects.