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“The strength of a nation derives from integrity at home,”
How Much Do You Know About Chinese Culture?
Since China encompasses such a great geographical region, with an area of 9.6 million square kilometers – it isn’t easy to hone in on components for the so many different groups that reside in this great expanse.
Nevertheless, this culture, which is one of the world’s oldest, spanning back thousands of years, does have some important elements that are well regarded throughout the world, such as Chinese martial arts, and Chinese characters and calligraphy. But, as well regarded as they are, quite often – not too much is known about them.
For example, did you know that Kung Fu is not just one type of martial art? In fact, Kung Fu is a collective term for all Chinese martial arts, meaning “human achievement.”
Kung Fu is actually a term that refers to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete. In its original meaning, it even referred to any discipline or skill that is achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily exclusively to just martial arts.
|Learn more about kung-fu, here.|
As is well known, the Chinese written language does not use an alphabet. It uses logograms, which are characters that are used to represent a word or a phrase. There are more than 100,000 different Chinese characters, where most are not in use. The educated person will know between 3,000 and 6,000, which – as you can imagine – is not easy to learn at all.
If we take the Chinese characters for the name of the country “China” we can get a beginner’s sense for the system. Namely, 中国: where the first character usually means "middle" (as we can see the line going through the middle of a rectangle), and the second character translates to "country" or "kingdom" (where it's also part of many other country names). Together, the two characters mean "China" or "Middle Kingdom.”
The influence of Chinese characters has been great – particularly on the traditional Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese written languages. Although each has developed and uses their own script today, the Chinese script did have an impact for many years.
As for Chinese writing, did you know that according to archaeological findings, Chinese characters can be traced back to 4000 BC.
Calligraphy, the art of writing, was the visual art form prized above all others in traditional China. The genres of painting and calligraphy emerged simultaneously, sharing identical tools—namely, brush and ink. Yet calligraphy was revered as a fine art long before painting.
The elevated status of calligraphy reflects the importance of the word in China. This was a culture devoted to the power of the word. For example, in pre-modern China, scholars, whose main asset was the written word, came to assume the dominant positions in government, society, and culture.
|To learn more about Chinese Calligraphy, click here.|
The Chinese Culinary Experience
A Big Country With Many Flavors
Chinese cuisine is world famous for its distinctive dishes. What people may not know though, is that the variety of styles and ingredients is as great as China itself.
Chinese food has countless different dishes that hail from several different regions each with their own unique styles of cooking, and whose ingredients are based on the natural and agricultural products of each region.
The main features of China’s regional differences are as follows:
- Northern - salty, simple, less vegetables with wheat as the staple food, such as noodles and dumplings;
- Western - hearty food with lamb the main meat;
- Eastern - sweet and light;
- Central - spicy with a lot of seasonings;
- Southern - sour and a lot of chilies.
Which is your favorite?
Did You Know . . . ?
- Rice is not the main staple in all of China. In fact, wheat noodles are the main staple diet in the North.
- Restaurants in China usually provide a round table for more than four people who are dining together. They share the dishes that are placed on a spinning round plate in the middle of the table. The plate swivels and everyone takes what and how much they want.
- There are usually no salt or pepper shakers, or bottles of ketchup in Chinese restaurants. Rather, you will find bottles of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili paste.
- If the Chinese friend you are eating with puts food on your plate, it's meant to express closeness and friendliness.
|Want to know what are the 7 must eats in Southern China? Click here to find out.|
It’s a Family Affair
In fact, eating together is an important and ancient mark of Chinese culture and society. This is clearly demonstrated by the wealth of evidence unearthed by archaeological excavations – where we see that the kitchen and dining room were one and the same. Namely, the kitchen was located at the center of the home, with a chimney above it, a fire below, and with the diners seated around the fire. This ancient custom of eating together has survived to the present and reflects the importance of the family in Chinese culture.
The Chinese Family
Family at the Center
While Chinese culture has gone through many dramatic changes in recent years, the family structure and the importance of family values remain a focus. In fact, the importance of family in Chinese culture cannot be understated, being central to everyday life and having far-reaching impact even on business and other more formal interactions.
Family has long been a key component in Chinese society, and many aspects of Chinese life can be tied to honoring one’s parents or ancestors. In fact, the majority of the “five relationships” espoused by Confucius, the Chinese philosopher from the 6th-5th century BC, which were intended to explain the order needed for social harmony, are mainly centered on the family.
Namely, father to son, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, and friend to friend, with specific duties prescribed to each.
Chinese Family Structure
The Chinese family structure has traditionally been rigid, with elders receiving the largest degree of respect and obedience, a practice that has continued into the modern age. And while Confucius may have preached that showing respect and piety to one’s elders did not require blind obedience, in actual practice throughout Chinese history, many parents and grandparents expect their children and grandchildren to comply.
The 5 Pillars of Family Values
- Filial piety: respecting parents and grandparents.
- Family interdependence: where, contrary to Western practice, children are not to taught to be independent, rather to be integrated into the family. This enables family members to receive care and support from each other rather than turning to outside help.
- Educational success: in ancient Chinese society, social status was assigned by occupation rather than wealth, with the highest status reserved for scholars. And even today, great value is assigned to earning excellent grades, getting into high-ranking schools, and receiving advanced degrees.
- Marriage traditions: while arranged marriages are no longer part of the modern Chinese experience, some traditions remain. For example, a son is expected to remain in his parents' family even after marrying, while a daughter is expected to join the family of her husband.
- Gender roles: men are traditionally considered the head of their household, and ancestry is traced only through the male line.
China’s One Child Policy
China’s famous one-child policy was introduced in 1979 and came to an end in 2016.
It was established in an effort to pre-empt a food shortage crisis with the country’s booming population. The policy was not an all-encompassing rule, however, as it was restricted to Han Chinese living in urban areas only. Citizens living in rural areas and minorities living in China were not subject to the law.
The one-child policy has been estimated to have reduced population growth by as much as 300 million people over its first twenty years.
The government put an end to the policy last year to balance population development and address the challenge of an ageing population.
18 points of interest
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