By Terry Cheng, Member of Culture Committee, Yew Chung Education Foundation
In June 2014, YCIS Hong Kong organised the first China Classroom trips for Years 7–9. The destination for Year 7 is Huizhou, a historical region in south-eastern China renowned for its clanship, mercantile mores and the Confucian dominance.
While the scenic Huangshan is a must go when visiting Huizhou, one cannot miss out its cultural landscape which provides clues to understanding Chinese culture. With the large amount of well-preserved Huizhou documents, the study of Huizhou has become a prominent research subject nationally and internationally. The documents include many contracts, such as dividing family property among brothers, which highlight the commercial culture of Huizhou.
Clanship among Huizhou civilians was formed during the rule of the Song Dynasty and became mature in the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, when it was also the most flourishing period of Hui culture. Then every individual was bonded with others through the network of clans. There were many big families in Huizhou started by immigrants from the Central Plains, and these families used their influence and power to take care of their members. For examples, they built schools to provide members with good education and used large network to link up business. With the preponderance established by those big families, Huizhou produced many scholar-officials, great scholars, and successful merchants. In return, local merchants contributed a lot to education and culture in Huizhou.
The patriarchal clan system had already lost its social base and ceased to exist; however, clan culture still has some merits. In view of this, we should review clan culture and use its positive aspects to try to deal with the ethical and moral issues of today’s China.
(Originally appears in Issue no. 20, Minbaowuyu)