CHINESE CULTURE (simplified Chinese : 中华文化; traditional
Chinese : 中華文化; pinyin : _Zhōnghuá wénhuà_) is one of the
world's oldest cultures, tracing back to thousands of years ago. The
area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical
region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly
between provinces , cities, and even towns as well. Important
Chinese cultureinclude ceramics , architecture , music
, literature , martial arts , cuisine , visual arts , philosophy and
* 1 Identity
* 2 Regional
* 3 Society
* 3.1 Structure
* 3.2 Values
* 4 Language
* 5 Religion and spirituality
* 6 Literature
Musicand Dancing Styles
* 8 Arts
* 9 Martial arts
* 10 Fashion
* 12 Cuisine
* 12.1 Tea culture
* 13 Leisure
* 14 Gallery
* 15 See also
* 15.1 Subcultures
* 16 References
* 17 External links
There are 56 officially labelled ethnic groups in
China. In terms of
Han Chineseis by far the largest group. Throughout
history, many groups have merged into neighboring ethnicities or
disappeared. At the same time, many within the Han identity have
maintained distinct linguistic and regional cultural traditions. The
Zhonghua Minzuhas been used to describe the notion of Chinese
nationalism in general. Much of the traditional identity within the
community has to do with distinguishing the family name .
Three ancestral treasures
Traditional Chinese Culture covers large geographical territories,
where each region is usually divided into distinct sub-cultures. Each
region is often represented by three ancestral items. For example,
Guangdongis represented by chenpi , aged ginger and hay . Others
include ancient cities like Lin'an (
Hangzhou), which include tea leaf
, bamboo shoot trunk , and hickory nut . Such distinctions give rise
to the old Chinese proverb:
(Shí lǐ bù tóng fēng, bǎi lǐ bù tóng sú), literally "the
praxis vary within ten _li _, customs vary within a hundred _li_.""
Gold detailing on a throne used by the
Qianlong Emperor. The
Chinese dragonwas a symbol reserved for the Emperor of
level imperial families during the
Qing Dynasty Main article:
Social structure of
Three Sovereigns and Five Emperorsperiod, 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. From the
Zhou Dynasty(1046–256 BCE) onwards, 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
Chinese culturein the
CE). Ancient Chinese education also has a long history; ever since the
Sui Dynasty(581–618 CE) educated candidates prepared for the
Imperial examinationswhich drafted exam graduates into government as
This led to the creation of a meritocracy , although success was
available only to males who could afford test preparation. Imperial
examinations required applicants to write essays and demonstrate
mastery of the Confucian classics. Those who passed the highest level
of the exam became elite scholar-officials known as _jinshi _, a
highly esteemed socio-economic position. A major mythological
structure developed around the topic of the mythology of the imperial
exams . Trades and crafts were usually taught by a shifu . The female
Ban Zhaowrote the
Lessons for Womenin the
outlined the four virtues women must abide to , while scholars such as
Zhu Xiand Cheng Yi would expand upon this.
Taoist sexual practicesare some of the rituals and customs found in
Chinese philosophyand Religion in
Han (25-220 AD) Chinese stone-carved que pillar gates of Dingfang,
Chongqingthat once belonged to a temple dedicated to
Warring Statesera general
Most social values are derived from
subject of which school was the most influential is always debated as
many concepts such as Neo-
Confucianism, Buddhism and many others have
Reincarnationand other rebirth concept is a reminder of
the connection between real-life and the after-life. In Chinese
business culture, the concept of _guanxi _, indicating the primacy of
relations over rules, has been well documented.
Confucianismwas the official philosophy throughout most of Imperial
China's history, and mastery of Confucian texts was the primary
criterion for entry into the imperial bureaucracy . A number of more
authoritarian strains of thought have also been influential, such as
There was often conflict between the philosophies, e.g. the Song
Dynasty Neo-Confucians believed Legalism departed from the original
spirit of Confucianism. Examinations and a culture of merit remain
greatly valued in
Chinatoday. In recent years, a number of New
Confucians (not to be confused with Neo-Confucianism) have advocated
that democratic ideals and human rights are quite compatible with
traditional Confucian "Asian values".
With the rise of European economic and military power beginning in
the mid-19th century, non-Chinese systems of social and political
organization gained adherents in China. Some of these would-be
reformers totally rejected China's cultural legacy, while others
sought to combine the strengths of Chinese and European cultures. In
essence, the history of 20th-century
Chinais one of experimentation
with new systems of social, political, and economic organization that
would allow for the reintegration of the nation in the wake of
Chinese calligraphywritten by the poet
Mi Fuof the Song
dynasty Main articles:
History of Mandarin
The ancient written standard was
Classical Chinese. It was used for
thousands of years, but was mostly used by scholars and intellectuals
which forms the "top" class of the society called "shi da fu
(士大夫）". It is difficult but possible for ordinary people to
become the "top" class by passing written exams. Calligraphy later
became commercialized, and works by famous artists became prized
Chinese literaturehas a long past; the earliest classic
work in Chinese, the _
I Ching_ or "Book of Changes" dates to around
1000 BC. A flourishing of philosophy during the
produced such noteworthy works as Confucius's _
Tao Te Ching_. (See also: the
Chinese classics.) Dynastic histories
were often written, beginning with
Sima Qian's seminal _Records of
the Grand Historian _, which was written from 109 BC to 91 BC.
Tang Dynastywitnessed a poetic flowering, while the Four Great
Classical Novels of
Chinese literaturewere written during the Ming
and Qing Dynasties.
Printmakingin the form of movable type was
developed during the
Song Dynasty. Academies of scholars sponsored by
the empire were formed to comment on the classics in both printed and
handwritten form. Royalty frequently participated in these discussions
as well. Chinese philosophers, writers and poets were highly respected
and played key roles in preserving and promoting the culture of the
empire. Some classical scholars, however, were noted for their daring
depictions of the lives of the common people, often to the displeasure
At the start of the 20th century, most of the population were still
illiterate , and the many mutually-unintelligible language spoken
(Mandarin , Wu , Yue (
Min Nan(Ban-lam-gu), Jin , Xiang ,
Hakka , Gan , Hui , Ping etc.) in different regions prevented
communication with people from other areas. Nevertheless, the written
language keeps the communication open and passing the official orders
and documentations throughout the entire region of China. Reformers
set out to establish a national language, settling on the
Beijing-based Mandarin as the spoken form. After the May 4th Movement
Classical Chinesewas quickly replaced by written vernacular Chinese
, modeled after the vocabulary and grammar of the standard spoken
RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY
Guan Yinwooden sculpture,
Song dynasty, China, 12th century
Ethnological Museum of Berlin, Germany.
Guan Yinis one of the
spiritual figures of
Chinese Buddhism. Main articles: Chinese
spiritual world concepts ,
Chinese mythology, and Chinese folk
Chinese religion was originally oriented to worshipping the supreme
Shang Diduring the Xia and Shang dynasties, with the king and
diviners acting as priests and using oracle bones . The Zhou dynasty
oriented it to worshipping the broader concept of heaven. A large part
Chinese cultureis 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, the
Jade Emperorand 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 godand the
Imperial guardian lions.
Along with the belief of the holy, there is also the evil. Practices
such as Taoist exorcism fighting mogwai and jiangshi 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.
Four Treasures of the Study
Four Treasures of the Study- brush, ink, paper and ink
Chinese calligraphytraditions Main article: Chinese
Zhou dynastyis often regarded as the touchstone of Chinese
cultural development. 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 the _
I Ching_ and the _Shujing _
Four Books and Five Classics. Many Chinese concepts such
Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang, Qi ,
Four Pillars of Destinyin relation to heaven
and earth were theorized in the pre-imperial periods.
Song dynastywas also a period of great scientific literature,
and saw the creation of works such as
Su Song's _Xin Yixiang Fayao_
Shen Kuo's _
Dream Pool Essays_. There were also enormous works
of historiography and large encyclopedias, such as
Zizhi Tongjian_ of 1084 or the _
Four Great Books of Song_ fully
compiled and edited by the 11th century. Notable Confucianists ,
Taoists and scholars of all classes have made significant
contributions to and from documenting history to authoring saintly
concepts that seem hundred of years ahead of time. Many novels such as
Four Great Classical Novelsspawned countless fictional stories. By
the end of the Qing dynasty,
Chinese culturewould embark on a new era
with written vernacular Chinese for the common citizens.
Lu Xunwould be pioneers in modern literature.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the study of
Chinese modern literature has gradually been increased over time.
Modern-era literature has formed an aspect in the process of forming
modern interpretations of nationhood and creation of a sense of
MUSIC AND DANCING STYLES
Chinaand Dance of
Musicand dance were closely associated in the very early periods of
China. The music of
Chinadates 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). The earliest music of the
Zhou Dynastyrecorded in ancient
Chinese texts includes the ritual music called _yayue _ and each piece
may be associated with a dance. Some of the oldest written music dates
Confucius's time. The first major well-documented flowering
Chinese musicwas exemplified through the popularization of the
_qin_ (plucked instrument with seven strings) during the Tang Dynasty
, although the instrument is known to have played a major role before
the Han Dynasty.
There are many musical instruments that are integral to Chinese
culture, such as the Xun (
Ocarina-type instrument that is also
integral in Native American cultures),
Guzheng(zither with movable
bridges), guqin (bridgeless zither), sheng and xiao (vertical flute),
the erhu (alto fiddle or bowed lute), pipa (pear-shaped plucked lute),
and many others.
Chinese art For all major visual, performance
or artistic categories, see Arts of
China. "Nine Dragons"
handscroll section, by Chen Rong , 1244 CE, Chinese
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Different forms of art have swayed under the influence of great
philosophers, teachers, religious figures and even political figures.
Chinese artencompasses 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 musicand poetry was
influenced by the _Book of Songs _, and the Chinese poet and statesman
Chinese paintingbecame a highly appreciated art in court circles
encompassing a wide variety of
Shan shuiwith specialized styles such
Ming Dynasty painting. Early
Chinese musicwas based on percussion
instruments, which later gave away to stringed and reed instruments.
Han dynastypapercutting became a new art form after the
invention of paper.
Chinese operawould also be introduced and
branched regionally in addition to other performance formats such as
variety arts .
Shaolin monks demonstrating the Chinese kung fu (中国功夫)
at Daxiangguo Monastery,
Henan. Main articles: Chinese
martial arts and List of
Chinese martial arts
Chinais one of the main birth places of Eastern martial arts.
Chinese martial artsare collectively given the name
"achievement" or "merit", and (fu) "man", thus "human achievement") or
(previously and in some modern contexts) Wushu ("martial arts" or
Chinaalso includes the home to the well-respected
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,
Chinahas produced some of the
most renowned martial artists including
Wong Fei Hungand many others
. The arts have also co-existed with a variety of weapons including
the more standard 18 arms . Legendary and controversial moves like Dim
Mak are also praised and talked about within the culture. Martial arts
schools also teach the art of lion dance , which has evolved from a
pugilistic display of
Kung Futo an entertaining dance performance.
Traditional clothing from
Ming dynasty Men and women in
xuanduan formal wear at a Confucian ceremony in
China Main article:
Different social classes in different eras boast different fashion
trends, the color yellow or red was usually reserved for the emperor
during China's Imperial era. China's fashion history covers hundreds
of years with some of the most colorful and diverse arrangements.
Qing Dynasty, China's last imperial dynasty, a dramatic
shift of clothing occurred, examples of which include the cheongsam
(or qipao in Mandarin). The clothing of the era before the Qing
Dynasty is referred to as
Han Chineseclothing .
Many symbols such as phoenix have been used for decorative as well as
Chinese architecture, examples for which can be found from more than
2,000 years ago, is almost as old as Chinese civilization and has long
been an important hallmark of Chinese culture. There are certain
features common to Chinese architecture, regardless of specific
regions, different provinces or use. The most important is its
emphasis on width, such as the wide halls of the
as an example. In contrast, Western architecture tends to emphasize
height (though exceptions such as pagodas in Eastern architecture also
focus on height).
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
Feng shuihas played a very important part in
Chinese architecturealso have a huge
influence on the architecture of East Asia, and to a lesser extent,
Southeast Asia as well.
_ Chinese meal in
Suzhouwith rice , shrimp , eggplant ,
fermented tofu , vegetable stir-fry , vegetarian duck with meat and
Wikiquote has quotations related to: CHINESE PROVERBS _
Chinese cuisine Main article: Customs and etiquette in
The overwhelmingly large variety of
Chinese cuisinecomes mainly from
the practice of dynastic period, when emperors would host banquets
with over 100 dishes per meal. A countless number of imperial kitchen
staff and concubines were involved in the food preparation process.
Over time, 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
and the Oriole Pavilion. Arguably all branches of Hong Kong eastern
style are in some ways rooted from the original dynastic cuisines.
Chinese Tea culture refers to how tea is prepared as well as the
occasions when people consume tea in China. Tea culture in China
differs from that in European countries like Britain and other Asian
countries like Japan in preparation, taste, and occasion wherein it is
consumed. Even today, tea is consumed regularly, both at casual and
formal occasions. In addition to being a popular beverage, tea is used
in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as in Chinese cuisine. Green
tea is one of the main worldwide teas originating in China.
A number of games 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.
Weiqiand xiangqi are also
popular. Ethnic games like
Chinese yo-yoare also part of the culture
where it is performed during social events. Qigong pronounced (Chi
Kung) is the practice of spiritual, physical, and medical techniques.
It is as a form of exercise and although it is commonly used among the
elderly, any one of any age can practice it during their free time.
With its combination of physical flexibility and movement, breathing
technique, and constant state of focus and mediation, it has also been
a way to cleanse and heal the body and helps get in touch with your
inner-self. Qigong has continuous rhythmic movements that help reduce
stress and build stamina as well as to improve certain functions of
our body such as cardiovascular and digestive.
A traditional red Chinese door with
Imperial guardian lionknocker,
resembling number 8 (good luck or fortune) in
18th-century Chinese illustration of a scene from Journey to the West
(西游记). Top left to right:
Sun Wukong, bottom
Chinese Dragon, Guardian Lions and incense comprise three
symbols within traditional Chinese culture.
A koi pond is a signature Chinese scenery depicted in countless works
Qinghuaciware, ca. 1680.
_Pine, Plum and Cranes_, 1759 AD, painting by Shen Quan
(1682–1760). Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk. The Palace
Wuxi(1506-1521), built during the Ming Dynasty, is
an exemplary work of Chinese gardening art.
_No. 4 of Ten Thousand Scenes_ (十萬圖之四). Painting by Ren
Xiong , a pioneer of the Shanghai School of
Chinese artcirca 1850.
Chinese teaculture (茶藝) set and three gaiwan .
A mask used in
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Color in Chinese culture
Color in Chinese culture
Numbers in Chinese culture
* Science and technology in
Chinese units of measurement
Customs and etiquette in Chinese dining
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