Ghost Culture, Face Culture and Illusion of Demand—A Cultural Perspective of Pension Real Estate


The aging of the population and the continuous development of the real estate industry have brought about the rise of pension real estate. Nowadays, the academic and real estate enterprises have passion for pension real estate and do a lot of discussions. However, in fact, the study of China’s pension real estate theory is still in its infancy, the practice has been stalled. From the traditional culture point of view, Chinese ghost culture and face culture affect the effective demand of the pension real estate. For the elderly, the elderly live together; the death of an elderly person will cause fear, then affecting physical and mental health. For sons and daughters, few of them will send their parents to pension institutions because of concept of saving face whether the sons and daughters are rich or not. This cultural conflict is the cause of China’s pension real estate in trouble. Therefore, for the development of pension real estate, we must take into account the unique cultural background of China, and take the localization of the road.

Share and Cite:

Gao, D. and Zeng, Y. (2017) Ghost Culture, Face Culture and Illusion of Demand—A Cultural Perspective of Pension Real Estate. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 7, 160-169. doi: 10.4236/ajibm.2017.73012.

1. Introduction

In 1999, the population over 60 years old in our country was more than 10%, which marked our country entered the aging society. The population of the aged people reached 185 million, accounting for about 13.26% of the total population by the end of 2011. The aging population is still growing at an average annual rate of 3.4%. According to information released by National Bureau of Statistics, by the end of 2014, China’s population over the age of 65 reached 137 million 550 thousand people, accounting for the proportion of the country’s total of 10.1%. With the rapid increase of the elderly population, the demands of life care, rehabilitation nursing, medical care and spiritual culture of the elderly are becoming more and more serious.

With the continuous development of the real estate industry, market segmentation has become the inevitable trend of the development of the real estate market. The current residential market is influenced by the national macro-control policy. The problem of product homogeneity leads to the fierce competition among real estate enterprises. Therefore, looking for new breakthrough and innovation point is a new developing direction of each real estate company. Traditional real estate may have 15 to 20 years to develop. Most of the traditional real estate companies are faced with a long-term development issue. At this stage, the effective development of new business areas is the basis for long-term development.

The aging of the population and the continuous development of the real estate industry have brought about the rise of pension real estate. In academia, many domestic and foreign scholars believe that China’s pension industry has ushered in an unprecedented opportunity. The development of pension real estate can not only promote the further development and improvement of the real estate market, but also alleviate the pressure of the government’s social security, and effectively strengthen the development of the old economy [1] . In the business com- munity, pension real estate has become the focus of attention of the real estate industry and social capital. Vanke, China Resources, Evergrande, Poly and other key real estate enterprise have done something about pension estate. Vanke put forward the layout of the pension real estate business in 2010, and developed the first pension real estate projects―Beijing Fangshan happiness. Insurance capital is also heavily inroads into the pension industry, for example, Ping An, Tai Kang and Xinhua [2] . At the policy level, the planning and construction of the system of social services (2011-2015) issued 2011 No. 60 point that the construction of social pension service system is a long-term strategic task to deal with the aging of population, we should adhere to government-led, encourage social participation. Home-based, community-based, institutional support, in order to meet the needs of the elderly pension service, improve the quality of life in elderly people as the goal, for all the elderly, providing life care, rehabilitation care, spiritual solace, emergency rescue and social participation facilities, organization, personnel and technology elements of the network, as well as supporting the standard of service, operation mechanism and supervision system.

In the real sense of the old real estate refers to the continuous refinement of the professional, market segments after a new industry, is a new industrial chain. Under the huge pressure brought by the aging society, the state, academia, real estate enterprises and social capital set off a real estate. But the development of pension real estate is still in its infancy, and there is a trend to stop. Academia is difficult to unify, some critics pointed out that more than 90% of the pension real estate projects are under the banner of pension real estate gimmick staking, pen- sion and real estate hook is a complete pseudo proposition [3] . Pension real estate project is difficult to profit, and is a long-term investment projects. Domestic developers are high debt, fast turnaround mode of operation, not suitable for such projects. It is difficult to implement national policies, although the Ministry of Civil Affairs has issued a social pension service system construction in 12th Five-Year plan. Many local governments also actively encourage the support of the pension industry, but few take action. In full swing of the real estate in the case of how to get into a halt, has not understood the Chinese social and cultural background.

This article will analyze the plight of China’s pension real estate from the pers- pective of China’s unique ghost culture and face culture, and puts forward some suggestions for Chinese pension problems. The first part is an introduction. The second part is about the discussion of the Chinese ghost culture. The third part is about the discussion of the Chinese face culture. In the fourth part, we will analysis the real needs of Chinese pension real estate through the questionnaire data. In the fifth part, we will analysis the conflict between ghost culture, face culture and Chinese pension real estate. In the final of the article, we will put forward some proposal for Chinese pension problems according to Chinese local characteristics.

2. Ghost Culture

“Ghost” refers to the death of the body and the body after the existence of a variety of “soul”. In all generations of Chinese society there are a lot of rumors and description about the “soul” problem. Regardless of dignitaries, or civilians, when talk about ghosts issues, they are relish. We refer to this kind of phenomenon around the “soul” problem and the ancient books, judgments, rituals and customs related to it are called “ghost culture” [4] .

2.1. The Cause and Development of Ghost Culture

Like any other social consciousness, the production of ghost culture also has its profound socio-economic roots, but also can be found from the social existence of the basis.

In ancient times, people still do not know their own body structure, by the impact of the dream scene, then produce a concept which their minds and feelings are not their physical activity, but a unique activity that falls among the body and leaves the body when the person dies [5] . The soul in the life before the sojourn in the human body, after death, can leave the body to continue activities, immortal soul to change to “ghost”. China’s ancient family patriarchal system on the concept of ghosts is quite profound, making the concept of ghosts and ancestral spirit closely integrated. Before the Western Zhou Dynasty, Yin people’s concept of spirits is revered control nature spirits. With the establishment of the fa- mily law and the change of social structure, ghosts and gods start to play a role of law enforcement of supervising the moral behavior and law enforcers. There have been a variety of rituals of ancestors. As an important part of the family patriarchal system, the rites increase family affection and cohesion, and carry forward Chinese traditional virtues.

Confucianism as the mainstay of traditional Chinese culture, making the ghost culture has a “loyalty, filial piety, benevolence, justice”, ethical mantle. Taoism will be civil witch, god, immortal as the main element, which “witch” as the core of Taoist culture, has become a bridge between people and spirits.

2.2. The Connection and Influence of Ghost Culture and Human Society

In the traditional Chinese ghost culture, people can be transformed into each other, after the death of people can be born again. In the “ghost” of literary works, such as “Strange” and so on, depicts the fear of death. Ghosts also play a unique role in Chinese history, at first, mankind created the ghost, but also tied to the ghost, and spirits will have been above the people. Ghost, the spirit of the monster, become a special ability and beyond the existence of mankind, which people fear and respect. Until the scientific development of modern society, ghost culture still exists in the people’s lives. Some ghost culture spread so far, such as the traditional festivals Dragon Boat Festival, Ching Ming, the yuan, etc., as well as some exorcism, ghosts of the custom.

2.3. The Influence of Ghost Culture on the Development of Pension Real Estate

Suffering from Chinese traditional ghost culture, most Chinese people have fear of ghosts, especially the old. When many elderly people living in the pension institutions, the death of any one of the elderly, will have an impact on the elderly around. On the one hand, other people will think himself is facing death. If things go on like this, their health will suffer hurt. On the other hand, the pen- sion agency will create a terrorist atmosphere. Compared to the warm family and noisy school, pension institutions become lonely corner. Therefore, based on the identification of ghost culture, the demand for pension real estate is limited at this stage. The development of pension real estate is depended on the on the concept of ghost culture in the future. But the change of concept is a long-term process.

3. Face Culture

Facing is an important factor that governs the psychology and behavior of peo- ple in today’s society. It is also an increasingly prominent social phenomenon. Face culture is one of the historical products of Confucian culture, and the influence on the society is becoming more and more prominent.

3.1. The Connotation of Face Culture

Face is any one in China or people who have come into contact with the Chinese people can feel a cultural and psychological phenomenon. This important phenomenon will naturally lead scholars to attach great importance. Since the end of the nineteenth century, American missionary AHSmith saw it as the first feature of the Chinese character in the book “The Character of the Chinese People”, the study of face began. Ten years later, Yu-tang Lin points out a very similar view in his famous book “my country and my people” (1935) that “face” is the rule of the three Chinese goddess of the most powerful one. In the 1970s, Stowe in the “cultural ecology of Chinese civilization” further realized that “face” is the key to explain many of the behavior of the Chinese people [6] . American psychologist Domino, in summing up the history of the development of Chinese com- munity psychology and the status quo also pointed out that in the control of Chinese society, five social forces (to expand the family, government functions, filial piety, face and road), the face influence the social culture and interpersonal behavior [7] . Therefore, Face refers to the moral and social position of the indivi- dual from the different social environment to get their own and others agree, and access to social significance and social exchange. Face culture refers to the face of a certain period of time in the formation of ideas, ideas, behavior, and so on, and by the overall consciousness of radiation out of all activities, refers to the phenomenon in the community under the influence of the material culture and spiritual culture [8] .

3.2. Characteristics of Face Culture

China’s face culture includes two main characteristics: social and moral coexistence, universality and special coexistence.

First, face culture is social, but also moral. Face culture is generated in the pro- cess of communication, is to adapt to the social environment and gradually formed a sense. Face culture has become a potential social binding, and have a social characteristics. Face culture is also a carrier of moral model. Ethics is the most basic standard of practice in practice. People’s behavior is ethical, and people do not want their reputation to be destroyed and make them “lost to face”. The face culture keeps people aware of morality, so face culture also has a moral character. The social and moral coexistence of the face culture, so as to live in the social groups of everyone have a strong binding and normative role, people interact with others in the process of interaction through the face culture.

Second, face culture has the characteristics of universality and particularity. Face culture is an objective reality, people in society will be affected by the face of culture, a variety of performance of face culture has become a common social phenomenon, For example: fight face, to face, reciprocity, shame, and so on. So the face culture for everyone is ubiquitous. Chinese society is composed of different groups of groups, each person’s social status, economic strength, prestige are not the same, this difference led to each person has a different face size, so that face culture has different effects on different people.

3.3. The Influence of Face Culture on the Development of Pension Real Estate

The face culture is a unique cultural phenomenon in China. It exists in the minds of Chinese people deeply, and has a profound impact on Chinese behavior, social communication and consumer behavior. Of course, it also has an impact on the choice of the ways of supporting the old. Under the special cultural background of China, it is regarded as an act of filial piety to send the old man to the pension institution. This behavior is not worthy of respect. Therefore, whether a family is rich or poor, few people choose to send the elderly to a pension institution. People with poor economic foundation may choose to take care of the old by themselves, which is very common in the rural areas of China. Wealthy families in the city, due to the lack of time, most choose to hire a nanny to take care of the elderly. Therefore, only a small number of families will choose to pension institutions for irresistible reasons. So the development of pension real estate is lack of demand to support.

4. The Huge Demand for Pension Real Estate Is an Illusion

With the arrival of an aging society, the number of elderly people increased, from the intuitive figures, the pension industry had a huge demand. However, we need to further explore the simple increase in the elderly population will create a huge pension market or not. From the above analysis of China’s pension industry development process, the market in China is still very difficult to develop.

At present family-style residence still occupies the main position in the country. The old are more willing to stay at home because of the traditional concept. Although the target customer base of the pension real estate is gradually increasing, but it is still uncertain. According to the questionnaire survey of 124 elderly people in Beijing, the results show that, even in Beijing, such a high degree of modernization of the city, most of the elderly are relatively conservative ideas (Figure 1).

So, despite the fact that an aging society has arrived, the size of the effective demand for pension land is limited. The lack of effective demand, make China’s pen- sion industry in the development process present many problems, such as financing difficulties, planning and design difficulties, operational difficulties, nursing

Figure 1. Results of intentions for future pension plans.

difficulties and so on.

5. The Analysis of Cultural Conflict and the Plight of Pension Real Estate

Unlike Western culture, as mentioned above, China has always been a ghost cul- ture, in the infiltration of traditional Chinese culture, most Chinese people are always afraid of ghosts, especially for the elderly. If many elderly people live together, one day, an old man died, which have an impact on around the old man. Other elderly people will think of themselves is the candle of the poor, life soon carry on, the long run, their mind will be traumatized.

The attitude between Chinese and Western towards death is different. Chinese people are always inexplicable when they face death, because death means that a friend or a loved one will ever leave, and this grief may be complete, desperate. But for westerners, we basically did not see on television some of the westerners cry in the face of the death, not that they do not attach importance to the feelings, but they think the soul of the death has been better Destination, which is heaven. Aristotle put forward the syllogism: “The end result of all is death, and the living is actually the person with the possibility of death, so that man should pursue immortality through constant thinking” [9] . This is a reflection of the West’s death.

Chinese face culture also has an impact on the demand for pension real estate. Face culture is a unique cultural phenomenon in China, which reflects the special cultural psychology of the Chinese people, and is closely related to the identity, age, social status and social background of the Chinese people. It is deeply rooted in the minds of every Chinese, deeply affecting the behavior of the Chinese people, social interaction and consumer behavior, etc.

The social and moral characteristics of face culture form the moral restraint to people. Face culture is social, generated in the process of communication, to adapt to the social environment. Face culture is awareness which will not change with the arrival of an aging society in a short time, will not be destroyed by the refinement of the real estate industry, and will not change because of the introduction of various policies. The social and moral coexistence of the face culture creates a strong binding and normative role for everyone living in social groups. The choice of the way of providing for the aged in China is restricted and regulated by the face culture.

The universality and particularity of the face culture also affect the way of Chinese pension. Face culture is common for everyone; the difference is that the needs are different. Face needs to be divided into four dimensions: moral face needs, ability type face needs, status type face and relationship type face needs by Zhuo-ming Shi. The moral face needs mainly comes from the individual’s desire to recognize his own character and moral standards, as well as the inner constraints of the individual on behalf of the individual’s most basic dignity and respect for the quality [10] . Chinese has always respected the good filial first, children put their parents to the pension agency, under Chinese peculiar cultural background, it is often regarded as unfilial practices, so filial piety as a quality will most fundamental personal dignity and respect is challenged, they face moral need is not meet. Therefore, few people will send their parents to pension institutions, resulting in the real needs of pension real estate greatly reduced.

Ghost culture and face culture deeply influences of different ages, different levels of Chinese people. Cultural influence is widespread, and subtle, especially in China which has profound historical culture. It can be better explained why endowment real estate cannot get fast development from the perspective of culture.

6. Conclusions and Policy Recommendations

Although the aging society has indeed come, but in China’s special cultural background, it does not mean that it will create a huge pension market. On the contrary, the development of the market in China is still very difficult and small. Pension real estate must be combined with national conditions to follow the localization of the route, and cannot copy the western model.

6.1. Small-Scale Development of Pension Real Estate

In China’s current cultural background, it is not suitable for large-scale development of pension real estate. It is advisable to develop small-scale pension real estate to adapt to the needs of the pension real estate. The change of concept is not a short duration of time. It is not suitable for excessive investment in pension real estate from the perspective of national policy, or the real estate business is concerned. Otherwise, for the country concerned, it only results in the suspension of the old real estate situation. For the real estate business is concerned, pension funds early huge investment, cannot achieve profit model. A reasonable reference to the experience of foreign pension real estate, in the small-scale development of old-age real estate at the same time must proceed from the following aspects; through the actual effect gradually changes the traditional concept.

First, the current domestic pension projects, land use rights are not allowed to split the sale; the state should achieve a breakthrough in this area. Administrative regulations and a series of technical requirements should be introduced as soon as possible. There are rules to follow.

Second, to strengthen the planning and design of pension real estate, according to the physiological and psychological characteristics of the elderly, the planning and design of pension real estate must provide human care, which is the key of pre-pension marketing and post-operation. In the pre-planning area, the site selection should be selected in areas where the environment is good quality; the traffic is convenient; the public facilities are complete; the living atmosphere is rich, and the core part of the pension-service matching plan is matched, including catering, nursing, medical care and health management, cultural and sports activities. Secondly, in the aspect of architectural design, according to different physical condition of the elderly, having indoor difference design, fully considering the convenience, safety and comfort, and focusing on barrier free design, functional layout and other details, combined with the traditional Chinese concept of the East, the concept of neighborhood, through a special design, to increase family communication and care, to promote exchanges between the elderly, to increase the elderly into the natural opportunity.

Third, it is to explore the effective mode of operation. The traditional residential business model is the sales and rental, and the sale dominates. This model can get funds back fast. However, pension real estate profit focuses on the long-term management of the property. Investment payback period is relatively long, and in the development process, often needs to face with cash flow pressure. Therefore, the model of selling and holding is sensible. That is, part of the property estate sold to consumers, and then receives a service fee to provide professional pension services. But the proportion of sales and holdings and how to manage the parts need to take different models for different projects.

6.2. To Develop New Model of Housing

Changes in the social background cause changes in the pattern of pension. The background of the times gave birth to moving pension. For the separation of two generations because of the flow of people, different places to school and job search, many people are not living with their parents. But because of the one- child policy, Children must bear the responsibility of pension. In the case of abi- lity, most young people still want their parents to live around. Now young peo- ple are more independent; the elderly are the same; living under the same roof may bring many conflicts and contradictions. Therefore, from the perspective of young people and the elderly, it seems to be a better arrangement that the two generations live nearby which they are independent and support each other. Most families want to live in the same city or community. The elderly can help care for the third generation, and when the elderly feel uncomfortable, young people can also provide timely care; this mode of residence can be achieved economic support between the intergenerational, and save time and the cost of life, which is suitable mode of residence for the current social.

From the reality of the concept of family ethics in our country, we should develop a new type of “residential” type house vigorously. It is important to encourage children and elderly to live together or adjacent to live, to improve the “young and old” type of residential, and to explore the traditional family model of modern “residential”. Now there are some families in our country, especially in large and medium-sized cities to choose the adjacent model. Their children are independent of each other and adjacent to live. The model in which between the elderly living alone and the elderly and children living will be more popular among urban households. Therefore, when we develop China’s real estate, we should also learn from the experience of Singapore and other countries, giving appropriate subsidies to encourage the pension model of the family support in accordance.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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