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Three Types of Male Bonding in China Essay

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Updated: Dec 15th, 2020


The concept of male bonding as a cultural phenomenon is an inseparable part of Chinese society. In her article, Susan Mann addresses the nature of male bonding in the early history of China. Built based on Confucian norms, these types of bonds allow examining the nature of relationships between Chinese men and understand the social hierarchy in Chinese society better. According to Mann, three key types of a male bond can be defined based on the Confucian principles. These include family relationships, fraternities as secret societies, and relationships between close friends (Mann 1603). Exploring the specified concepts closer will help develop a profound knowledge of the Confucian principles of relationships between men as a part of the Chinese culture.

Types of Bonds and Their Effects

Family Bonds

The concept of a family bond was typically represented by the connection between family members, in most cases, siblings. According to Mann, the specified phenomenon occurred due to the presence of a rigid family hierarchy in Chinese society (1603). While being rather innocent and even bearing significant importance in principle, the family bond was usually affected by the hierarchy mentioned above.

With the elder son being the subject of the parents’ attention and pride, the younger ones suffered from the lack thereof. The bond between the brothers only reinforced the status quo. Moreover, the focus on male bonding prevented boys from developing a connection to their sisters, which led to an emotional separation between them (Mann 1603). Each of the outcomes caused boys and men irreparable psychological harm, making it difficult for them to communicate with women.

Sworn Brotherhoods

A rigid social hierarchy could also be observed in Chinese schools, where boys studied separately from girls. Due to the focus on the importance of school exams as the means of receiving an important job opportunity, and schools being represented mostly by the elite, ale students built their relationships respectively. As a result, students formed brotherhoods and created strong bonds. In these brotherhoods, patronage of younger students by older ones was seen as a natural scenario (Mann 1605). Consequently, the levels of rivalry between students for the patronage of their mentors and the honor of beaming a disciple were very high.

Similarly, to the scenario involving the development of family bonds described above the effect of brotherhoods was twofold at best. While it promoted communication and support between students, it also implied rivalry that could scar students emotionally and distort their interpretation of interpersonal relationships significantly. On the one hand, the specified system encouraged comradely; on the other hand, it usually demanded viewing each other as rivals (Mann 1605), hence the confusion and the threat of developing an emotional attachment to others. The specified system contributed to students having a distorted idea of social interactions and leaving them potentially incapable of building trust toward others in the future.


The third type of bond between men that is defined by Mann is friendship. According to the author, the specified concept of interactions typically implied developing connections within the elite community and rarely manifested itself in the economically challenging environment (Mann 1609). In contrast to the patronizing relationships that family ties and school brotherhoods implied, the specified type of bonding was linked directly to forming “cliques of friends” (Mann 1609).

The concept of friendship in the described setting usually aggravated the economic gap between the representatives of different social classes and affected those belonging to economically challenging backgrounds extensively. The presence of a “common high purpose” that inspired the creation of friendships in the context mentioned above also led to the development of political tensions within the Chinese society (Mann 1609). Therefore, the phenomenon in question had a detrimental effect on men in China.

However, the creation of friendships also led to profound emotional attachments. According to Mann, there are memoir records that prove the existence of a deep emotional connection between men developing friendships in the social environment of the Qing Dynasty’s reign (1610). Nonetheless, the rigid social hierarchy that defined the development of friendship in the specified setting could be deemed as a negative factor affecting men’s perception of communication and interactions within the society.


Although the era of the Qing Dynasty and the Confucian philosophy that it supported encouraged Chinese men to develop strong ties within the community, it also had drastic effects on them. Chinese men had to follow a very strict hierarchy that defined their decision and did not allow them to make decisions freely. Furthermore, the described types of friendship distorted Chinese men’s ideas of gender and gender relationships.

The focus on the class structure of the Chinese society that the specified types of bonding implied also affected men greatly, causing a great divide between people of different classes. Therefore, the types of friendships described above should be seen as a relic of the era that misrepresented gender relationships and social communication considerably. Although being rather innocent in theory, these relationships reinforced the status quo and hindered the promotion of change.

Work Cited

Mann, Susan. “The Male Bond in Chinese History and Culture.” The American Historical Review, vol. 105, no. 5, 2000, pp. 1600-1614.

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