Yanghui Zhang

Abstract 摘要

In Chinese culture, the preservation of the integrity of the body is greatly significant, which has led to a shortage of corpses in medical teaching and research and become a major problem restricting the development of medical research and treatment in China. Accordingly, it is generally believed that traditional Chinese culture has been a barrier to body donation in China. However, based on interviews and literature analyses, this paper shows that the factors leading to the body donation shortage in China are much more complicated than this simple “cultural” belief. The core problem, as our investigation finds, is that children and parents are in conflict over the value of the body and death and the virtue of filial piety. The cultural root of this conflict is not merely the nature or content of the traditional Confucian culture as identified by most researchers. Rather, it is a result of the complex interplay between modern scientific, revolutionary and traditional ethical views on the role of the body, the function of the Chinese patriarchal clan system and the blending of elastic spirit and modern secular culture. Finally, the paper argues that although donators and their children may have different understandings and value conflicts, their ultimate goal is highly consistent, that is, to achieve human dignity as expressed in modern Chinese society.