Culture of China

Culture of China

The Culture of China (traditional Chinese: 中國文化; simplified Chinese: 中国文化) is home to one of the world's oldest and most complex civilizations covering a history of over 5,000 years. [cite web|url=|title=Chinese Dynasty Guide - The Art of Asia - History & Maps|publisher=Minneapolis Institute of Art|accessdate=2008-10-10] [cite web|url=|title=Guggenheim Museum - China: 5,000 years|publisher=Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation & Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum|accessdate=2008-10-10] The nation covers a large geographical region with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces. "Chinese culture" is a broad term used to describe the cultural foundation, even among Chinese-speaking regions outside of mainland China.

People in the culture


Many ethnic groups have existed in China. In terms of the numbers, however, the pre-eminent ethnic group is the Han Chinese. Throughout history, many groups have been assimilated into neighboring ethnicities or disappeared without a trace. At the same time, many within the Han identity have maintained distinct linguistic and regional cultural traditions. The term Zhonghua Minzu has been used to describe the notion of Chinese nationalism in general. Much of the traditional cultural identity within the community has to do with distinguishing the family name.

=RegionalTraditional Chinese Culture covers a large geographical territories, each region is usually divided into distinct sub-cultures. Using modern names, here are some distinction:

* The Yangtze River areas include Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.



Since the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors period, some form of Chinese monarch has been the main ruler above all. Different periods of history have different names for the various positions within society. Conceptually each imperial or feudal period is similar, with the government and military officials ranking high in the hierarchy, and the rest of the population under regular Chinese law.Mente, Boye De. [2000] (2000). The Chinese Have a Word for it: The Complete Guide to Chinese thought and Culture. McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 0658010786] Since the late Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BCE), traditional Chinese society was organized into a hierarchic system of socio-economic classes known as the four occupations. However, this system did not cover all social groups while the distinctions between all groups became blurred ever since the commercialization of Chinese culture in the Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE). Ancient Chinese education also has a long history; ever since the Sui Dynasty (581–618 CE) educated candidates prepared for the Imperial examinations that drafted exam graduates into government as scholar-bureaucrats. Trades and crafts were usually taught by a sifu. The female historian Ban Zhao wrote the Lessons for Women in the Han Dynasty and outlined the four virtues women must abide to, while scholars such as Zhu Xi and Cheng Yi would expand upon this. Chinese marriage and Taoist sexual practices are some of the customs and rituals found in society.


Most social values are derived from Confucianism and Taoism with a combination of conservatism. The subject of which school was the most influential is always debated as many concepts such as Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism and many others have come about. Reincarnation and other rebirth concept is a reminder of the connection between real-life and the next-life.


Spoken Chinese has consisted of a number of Chinese dialects and languages throughout history. In the Ming Dynasty standard Mandarin was nationalized. Even so, it wasn't until the Republic of China era in the 1900s when there was any noticeable result in promoting a common unified language in China.

The ancient written standard was Classical Chinese. It was used for thousands of years, but was mostly reserved for scholars and intellectuals. By the 20th century, millions of citizens, especially those outside of the imperial court were illiterate. Only after the May 4th Movement did the push for Vernacular Chinese begin. This allowed common citizens to read since it was modeled after the linguistics and phonology of a spoken language.

Mythology and spirituality

A large part of Chinese culture is based on the notion that a spiritual world exists. Countless methods of divination have helped answer questions, even serving as an alternate to medicine. Folklores have helped fill the gap for things that cannot be explained. There is often a blurred line between myth, religion and unexplained phenomenon. While many deities are part of the tradition, some of the most recognized holy figures include Guan Yin, Jade Emperor and Buddha. Many of the stories have since evolved into traditional Chinese holidays. Other concepts have extended to outside of mythology into spiritual symbols such as Door god and the Imperial guardian lions. Along with the belief of the holy, there is also the evil. Practices such as Taoist exorcism fighting mogwai and jiang shi with peachwood swords are just some of the concepts passed down from generations. A few Chinese fortune telling rituals are still in use today after thousands of years of refinement.


The extensive collection of books that have been preserved since the Zhou Dynasty demonstrate just how advanced the intellectuals were at one time. Indeed, the era of the Zhou Dynasty is often looked to as the touchstone of Chinese cultural development. The Five Cardinal Points are the foundation for almost all major studies. Concepts covered within the Chinese classic texts present a wide range of subjects including poetry, astrology, astronomy, calendar, constellations and many others. Some of the most important early texts include I Ching and Shujing within the Four Books and Five Classics. Many Chinese concepts such as Yin and Yang, Qi, Four Pillars of Destiny in relation to heaven and earth were all theorized in the dynastic periods.

Notable confucianists, taoists and scholars of all class have made significant contributions from documenting history to authoring saintly concepts that seem hundred of years ahead of time. Many novels such as Four Great Classical Novels spawned countless fictional stories. By the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese culture would embark on a new era with Vernacular Chinese for the common citizens. Hu Shih and Lu Xun would be pioneers in modern literature.


The music of China dates back to the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE - 256 BCE). Some of the oldest written music dates back to Confucius's time. The first major well-documented flowering of Chinese music was for the qin during the Tang Dynasty, though it is known to have played a major part before the Han Dynasty.


Different forms of art have swayed under the influence of great philosophers, teachers, religious figures and even political figures. Chinese art encompasses all facets of fine art, folk art and performance art. Porcelain pottery was one of the first forms of art in the Palaeolithic period. Early Chinese music and poetry was influenced by the "Book of Songs", Confucius and the Chinese poet and statesman Qu Yuan. Chinese painting became a highly appreciated art in court circles encompassing a wide variety of Shan shui with specialized styles such as Ming Dynasty painting. Early Chinese music was based on percussion instruments, which later gave away to string and reed instruments. By the Han dynasty papercutting became a new art form after the invention of paper. Chinese opera would also be introduced and branched regionally in additional to other performance formats such as variety arts.

Martial arts

China is one of the main birth places of Eastern martial arts. The names of martial arts were called Kung Fu or its first name Wushu. China also includes the home to the well-respected Shaolin Monastery and Wudang Mountains. The first generation of art started more for the purpose of survival and warfare than art. Over time, some art forms have branched off, while others have retained a distinct Chinese flavor. Regardless, China has brewed some of the most renowned martial artists including Wong Fei Hung and many others. The art have also co-existed with a variety of including the more standard 18 arms. Legendary and controversial moves like Dim Mak are also praised and talked about within the culture.


Different social class in different time eras boast different fashion trends. China's fashion history covers hundreds of years with some of the most colorful and diverse arrangements. Fashionable but questionable practices such as footbinding have also been part of the culture. Many symbols such as phoenix have been used for decorative as well as economic purposes.


Chinese architecture, examples of which can be found from over 2,000 years ago, has long been a hallmark of the culture. There are certain features common to Chinese architecture, regardless of specific region or use. The most important is its emphasis on width, as the wide halls of the Forbidden City serve as an example. In contrast, western architecture emphasize on height, though there are exceptions such as pagodas.

Another important feature is symmetry, which connotes a sense of grandeur as it applies to everything from palaces to farmhouses. One notable exception is in the design of gardens, which tends to be as asymmetrical as possible. Like Chinese scroll paintings, the principle underlying the garden's composition is to create enduring flow, to let the patron wander and enjoy the garden without prescription, as in nature herself. Feng shui has played an important part in structural development.


The overwhelmingly large variety mainly comes from the emperors hosting a banquet of 100 dishes each mealKong, Foong, Ling. [2002] (2002). The Food of Asia. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0794601464] . Countless number of imperial kitchen staff and concubines were involved in the food preparation process. Overtime, many dishes became part of the everyday-citizen culture. Some of the highest quality restaurants with recipes close to the dynastic periods include Fangshan restaurant in Beihai Park Beijing and the Oriole Pavilion. Arguably all branches of Hong Kong eastern style or even American Chinese food are in some ways rooted from the original dynastic cuisines.


A number of and pastimes are popular within Chinese culture. The most common game is Mah Jong. The same pieces are used for other styled games such as Shanghai Solitaire. Others include Pai Gow, Pai gow poker and other bone domino games. Go proverb and Xiangqi is also popular. Ethnic games like Chinese yo-yo are also part of the culture.



See also

* Sinology
* Chinese Literature
* Chinese name
* Chinese dragon
* Fenghuang
* Chinese dress
* Chinese garden:*Penjing
* Chinese folklore
* Color in Chinese culture
* Numbers in Chinese culture
* Science and technology in China:*Chinese astronomy:*Chinese calendar:*Chinese mathematics:*Chinese medicine:*Chinese units of measurement

External links

* [ A Classification of Chinese Culture by Ying Fan]
* [ Exploring Ancient World Cultures - Ancient China] , University of Evansville
* [ Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese Home explored]
* [ Chinese Culture Articles]
* [ Embracing Chinese Culture]
* [ Oriental Style -- The Genuine Soul of Chinese Culture]

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