Tang represents, in one sense, the traditional virtues of China. He possesses a kind of wisdom and endurance founded on common sense, good humor, and hard work. In another sense, Tang represents the traditional virtues of any master craftsman in any society; one of the primary lessons he teaches Young Fu is summed up in the saying: "To be a good craftsman is an honorable estate." Tang can be a hard taskmaster, expecting the finest quality in all things, and he is capable of a hard bluntness when someone is lazy or dishonest.
Also related to tradition is what might be called the "foreign devil" motif, which expresses the traditional Chinese distrust of all foreigners. According to this view, only evil can come from dealing with foreigners. However, Young Fu learns to discard this viewpoint because of his dealings with the yellow-haired foreign lady, a kind woman involved in missionary work.