CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

Based on an ethnographic survey conducted in five villages and a court in northern China, this article proposes a new angle for analyzing intergenerational relationships of reciprocity in rural China by examining how elderly people are cared for by their children. To ensure they receive such help in their old age, these elderly people must have fulfilled a series of duties toward their descendants, particularly in terms of inheritance. While the logic of reciprocity between generations still plays an important role, the content of gifts and countergifts, as well as the preconditions for exchanges, have changed in recent decades. The exchange seems increasingly unequal, to the disadvantage of the elderly, who then develop more individual strategies of survival in old age, in a context of the absence of an old-age policy at the national level and the reluctance of the judiciary to intervene in intrafamily conflicts.


  • family solidarity
  • intergenerational relations
  • gift–countergift
  • rural China
  • the elderly
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