Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 April 2022
Grandfathers took great pride in their grandchildren and in the continuation of the family line, but they contributed far less to their families than did their wives. As they aged they moved into a pleasant, quiescent stage of life. There were/are many gentle, calming pursuits to pass the time: keeping songbirds, practising taiji, doing calligraphy, writing poetry. Old men spent time in the company of other old men, often in teahouses or parks. Their remaining family responsibilities were agreeable. The literate ones taught their grandchildren calligraphy. They were responsible for the complex practices of choosing the grandchildren’s names. They passed on family history and lore.
Affluent men could practice polygamy. A woman could only marry once, but her husband could take as many concubines as he wanted – and could afford. He might have children who were younger than his oldest grandchildren. Polygamous families were usually full of conflict, far from the men’s ideal. Formal polygamy is now outlawed, though the practice of keeping a ‘little wife’, in a separate establishment, is not.
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