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MODERN CHINESE SOCIETY AND THE FAMILY [Compton's] Traditionally the family has been the most important unit of society, and this is still true. In rural areas, where about 74 percent of China's people live, the traditional family consisted of the head of the household, his sons, and their wives and children, often living under one roof.Common surnames gave families membership in a clan.In some villages all families had the same surname, or four or five surname clans might account for most of the villagers.

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Thus, as China's population grew, the landholdings became smaller and smaller, and many people were very poor.

In the first half of the 20th century the family as a social unit came under severe stress.

Rural conditions were bad, income was low, and food was often scarce.

Health care was poor or nonexistent for most peasants, and mortality rates were high.

Civil unrest, warfare, and foreign invasions added to the difficulties.

After the Communist revolution in 1949 rural conditions stabilized.

Private ownership of land was abolished, but each peasant family was given a small plot to farm. The fluctuations in the food supply leveled off and life expectancy increased.

Living conditions for the average peasant are generally better today than they were in 1949, and there are opportunities for at least some education.

All these things have meant a considerable improvement in the quality of life and greater security for the family as a social unit.

Today some rural families are still likely to have three generations under one roof.

Despite state ownership of the land, they once again serve as basic production units.

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