This article is situated in the humanistic sociology and social anthropology approach. In this approach, civil society is viewed as a society's style of culture with respect to individual participation in group life based on common moral order. Its objective is to try to determine the extent to which western conceptions of civil society can be transferred to Chinese culture. It also strives to reconstruct civil behaviour patterns in China from a historical perspective. The basic tenet of this article is that, in the course of its evolution, Chinese culture developed various motivation and action patterns which may be the beginnings of a civil engagement. It is possible to formulate such a tenet on the assumption that civil society in contemporary China is largely based on tradition. It is tradition which defines the forms of non-institutional, self-organizing 'second society.' One of the consequences of the adoption of this tenet is this article's focus on analysis of the barriers against, and opportunities for, further development of civil society in contemporary China.