Last Updated 28 Jan 2021

A Brief Introduction for Chinese Culture

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Cultural background China, as one of the four homes of the world’s earliest civilization, has a recorded history of nearly 4,000 years. Through centuries of migration, merging and development, it has formed a distinctive system of language, writing, philosophy, art and political organization, which came to be recognized as Chinese culture. It originated from Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasty, which was known as slave culture period. Xia culture represented the early Chinese culture and Zhou culture contributed to the form of more than 2000 years of feudalism culture in China.

The May 4th Movement of 1919 was also an important date because it symbolized that it entered into a new culture period. In the spring and autumn and warring-states period, slave society gradually turned into feudalism society and a lot of thinkers sprang up with their immortal work. Among those, Confucianism was the most successful, which helped to build up the norms and values of Chinese people in the following centuries and also was used as a method for emperors to rule the country.

However, after the fall of Qing dynasty, the last feudalism dynasty, Confucianism, which was seen as the product of feudalism society lose its dominant position. But its influence still lasts until now. Besides Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism also once played an important role in ancient Chinese. Nevertheless, nowadays most of Chinese are atheists. Buddhism is the biggest religion in China with a history of about 2,000 years. Then Muslim comes the second. It is popular within minority nationalities such as Hui and Uygur.

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Christianism and Catholicism are also believed in by some people. However, Taoism as indigenous religion has the fewest followers. Moreover, China is a multi-national country with quiet different 56 groups, in which Han has the largest population. Every group has its own language, customs, festivals and some fixed residence. In order to solve the problems of communication between groups and facilitates management, the government standardized language through popularizing mandarin, which is mostly based on Beijing dialect. Cultural values

The development of Chinese values can be divided into two phrases: the former is the traditional cultural values; the latter is modern cultural values, which is affected by the western culture since the 20th century. Confucianism is the core element in traditional values. Deeply influenced by Confucianism, Chinese people tightly adhere to the Doctrine of Mean and try to avoid conflicts. Afterwards, with time going by, Confucianism experienced improvements by combining with Taoism and Buddhism. In this period, Confucianism focused on human, for example, the relationship between human and human, human and nature and so on.

Under the influence of the above factors, Chinese traditional values can be concluded into the following aspects: -believe in self struggle ‘Man’s determination can conquer the nature’ is an old Chinese saying. Chinese people believe that through their efforts they can change their life. -emphasis on the art of tolerance Tolerance is another characteristic for Chinese nation. Chinese people won’t be easily infuriated by others. They are used to avoid conflicts and keep peace. It seems to be a little cowardly. But the truth is that many great men succeed because of temporary tolerance . -follow the majority

This is still a serious problem in today’s society. Conformist mentality has proved to have negative effect on building up one’s confidence and independence. People are not willing to express its own opinion to keep conformity with the majority and become passive. -respect the old Respect for the old is a Chinese traditional virtue. Not like western individual consciousness, Chinese parents think it’s their duty to look after their children and do all that they can do for them. So when children grow up, they tend to be grateful for their parents’ contribution. As a result, the old enjoy a high position in the family.

Moreover, since the old experience much more than the young, young people are willing to listen to their opinions when making decision. -collectivism This means that Chinese, in general, is a collective society that strives for harmony and group belonging, whether to family, friends, work, or country. The Chinese are more willing to suppress their own feelings and needs for the good of the group. This value has been passed down the Chinese culture from folklores where martyrs sacrificed their lives for their community or country ever since the dynastical eras 5,000 years ago.

The arrival of western cultural value stroke Chinese traditional culture values and helped to discard some backward or bad parts of traditional values. Moreover, it also brought something new such as freedom, charity, democracy and etc. Cultural norms -saving face and losing face ‘Fcae’ stands for one’s position in a certain social group. It’s related to honor, good reputation or respect. Consequently, loss of face is not simply a form of embarrassment. Saving face is another concept. Chinese people respect a person who is friendly and who carefully avoids hurting the feelings of others.

Loud, untactful or boisterous behavior is usually regarded as very poor taste. - greeting When meeting for the first time, a handshake is the most common greeting. In order to express some special esteem, to those elderly people or government officials, a slight bow might be given. -gift When visiting a family it is appropriate to bring a small gift, such as fruits, to the host, especially around New Year’s time. Gifts should be given and received with both hands. It is also a Chinese custom when receiving a gift to thank you for it and then place it to the side without opening it. eating ·Chopsticks and a soup spoon are common eating utensils. Food is not passed around the table, but remains in the center. The host usually chooses the food for his guests and serves it to them from the central dishes on the table. Refusing to drink is sometimes thought as dishonor to the people who toast to you. -relationship (guan-xi) Guan xi is a Chinese word which means relationship. One’s guan-xi, is an important factor in the individual’s social status. It is also an important Chinese business element.

Having a right guan xi helps companies to minimize the risks, frustrations, and disappointments. Guan-xi relationship, like face behavior, is obligation between individuals for the purpose of maintenance of group integrity. -parents dominant Parents are accustomed to interfering children’s decision and sometimes just determine for them regardless of their own wishes. -look down on girls In some remote areas, the natives still prefer boys to girls. If a family has two children and they can’t afford the education fees for both of them, the boy will have more chance to go to school.

Ways of communication -nonverbal communication Chinese is a high context country. Nonverbal communication is as common as verbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes facial expression, tones of voice , gestures, and eye contact. They’re quiet important in Chinese daily life and sometimes it is even more powerful than the verbal interaction. Different gestures have different meanings. Due to different cultural background, even the same gesture has different meaning for people in certain context. -avoid speaking directly Speaking directly is often considered rudeness.

Try to be “diplomatic” and tactful where possible, as the Chinese may be offended by directness in some situations. For example, it is a terrible thing to be criticized in public due to the fact that harmony is highly valued in Chinese society. -conversation tips Find some common areas to talk about such as family, sports and etc. Don’t verbally attack China and be careful about criticizing things there, as many Chinese will feel personally attacked by this. Avoid political arguments, as many Chinese feel reluctant to speak or explore their true opinion about the current government. saying “Thank you” “Thank you” is said a lot less than in the West. In a lot of instances, for example when someone opens a door for you or passes the soy sauce, saying “thank you” is seen as being over polite and without meaning, and is often met with requests for you not to be so polite (over-polite). -saying “Excuse me” “Excuse me” is not used as often in China. People are expected to give way naturally to one another on the street or when walking around, without anything being said.

Interrupting somebody talking or doing something else to ask a question, make a request, etc. also happens regularly without any warning or apology. -compliments Be careful when complimenting someone’s possessions or somebody because they may think it’s a kind of flattering rather than appreciation. In conclusion, Chinese culture is based on the wisdom of Confucius and quiet different from western culture in many aspects. But nowadays because of the process of globalization, Chinese people are striving to learn from mainstream culture and improve and develop their own culture.

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