While researchers have questioned the suitability of classic Western models for accommodating Chinese linguistic politeness phenomena, inadequate attention has been devoted to the role of ideologies in understanding Chinese language use. This study examines the key ideological notion of jia wenhua 家文化 ‘family culture’, and uses it to model some typical discursive practices of (im)politeness in contemporary China. As an ideology, ‘family culture’ has its roots in ancient Chinese philosophy, and it continues to prevail to the present day. Adopting this ideological notion as an analytic construct, this study seeks to formulate a set of new maxims to account for some discursive practices of Chinese politeness, which neither previous Western nor Chinese models have captured. In so doing, it contributes to emancipatory pragmatics by demonstrating the necessity of deploying culturally-grounded ideologies as analytic constructs, such as ‘family culture’ in this study, to rationalize some types of Chinese sociopragmatic behaviour.