If you haven’t yet heard about the complexity of the Chinese Family Tree, I am sure you will hear about it once your kiddos start learning it in school. Here is a brief overview of the basics with a detailed video below. In Chinese culture, your relatives are referred to and defined by more than their generation and gender but also by their age, maternal vs. paternal lineage, and whether they are your blood vs. marriage relation. All these things are taken into consideration when you go to say “Hey” to Uncle Joe, your mothers older sisters husband. You are expected to address each particular family members by their correct identity in relation to you, especially when it comes to the older generations. Furthermore, your families knowledge and proper address of these kinship terms also reflects well on your parenting skills.
My son started learning these kinship terms in his first grade immersion program. With a little practice he is pretty good at the basics. I’ll demonstrate below the different titles for your children’s grandparents. Keep in mind, in Chinese, your “cousin” can be defined one of eight different ways, depending again on if they are from your mother’s side or your father’s side, their gender, as well as their relative age will define their formal title in relation to you. Check out the wonderfully hilarious and fast talking video below to give you more perspective on detailing the entire family tree.
(Mother’s side) Grandmother 外婆 (wàipó)
(Mother’s side) Grandfather 外公 (wàigōng)
My Mother - 妈妈 (māma)
(Father’s side) Grandmother 奶奶 (Nǎinai)
(Father’s side) Grandfather 爷爷 (Yéyé)
My Father - 爸爸 (bàba)
My Husband - 丈夫 (Zhàngfū)
My son – 儿子 (Érzi) My daughter - 女儿 (Nǚ'ér)