qi guanyan

(henpecked husbands)
Qi guanyan, literally ‘my wife controls me strictly,’ is a pun on the Chinese word for bronchitis. Although dating back to the Republican era, the term became popular in the 1980s as a description of a man whose wife controls his everyday activities, social relations and expenditures. As a joke about gender relations in the early reform era, the discourse of qi guanyan represented a perceived crisis of masculinity among urban males during the transition to a market economy. Because of socialist policies of roughly equal pay and employment opportunities for men and women, urban Chinese men contributed more time to housework and childcare than men in most other societies, probably contributing to the reputation of Chinese men as overly domesticated and willing to be controlled by their wives. Under socialist living conditions neither men nor women had much time or money for leisure outside the home. In contrast, reform-era men increasingly were expected to succeed at making money through business activities.
A wife’s complaints about everyday household chores were now seen as incompatible with the new image of entrepreneurial masculinity. The successful new man was expected to spend more time outside the home, including business entertainment, leading to more complaining and suspicion from his spouse and consequently his own complaining of qi guanyan, itself a display of masculinity. Many Chinese commentators argued that qi guanyan was a desired condition among Chinese husbands, since it demonstrated the concern and love of the wife for her husband and family.
Parish, William and Farrer, James (2000). ‘Gender and the Family’. In William Parish and Wenfang Tang (eds), The Changing Social Contract: Chinese Urban Life During Reform. New York: Cambridge University Press, 232–72.
Zhong, Xueping (2000). Masculinity Besieged? Issues of Modernity and Male Subjectivity in Chinese Literature of the Late Twentieth Century. Durham: Duke University Press.
JAMES FARRER

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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