Chinese culture, originating thousands of years ago, is one of the world's oldest cultures. Its culture takes dominance over a wide geographical range of eastern Asia but customs and traditions may vary greatly among provinces, cities and even towns. Being one of the earliest ancient civilizations, Chinese culture shows the huge influence in almost every field of today’s Asia, such as history, philosophy, etiquette and traditions.
Chinese culture has always been considered the dominant culture in East Asia historically. Its language, architecture, music, dance,
literature,arts, cuisine, philosophy, etiquette, religion, politics and history influences profoundly on the world, while its traditions and festivals are also celebrated, instilled and practiced by countries around Asia.
From the Qin Dynasty to the end of federalism, Chinese people were divided into four classes: landlord, peasant, craftsmen and merchant. Landlords and peasants constituted the two major classes, while the other two were collected into the minor. Actually, only the position of the Emperor was hereditary.
The Han Chinese are an East Asian ethnic group which constitute about 92% of the population of China, 76% of Singapore, 23% of Malaysia, and about 17% of the global population, making them the world's largest ethnic group, totaling about 1.4 billion people.
In modern China, 56 ethnic groups are officially labelled in China. But throughout its long 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. In general, the term Zhonghua Minzu, or 中华民族 in Chinese, has been used to describe Chinese nationalism.
There was a partial restoration of feudalism during civil war after the Han dynasty when wealthy and powerful families emerged with large amounts of land and huge numbers of semi-serfs. They dominated important civilian and military positions of the government, making the positions available to members of their own families and clans. Since the Tang dynasty, the imperial examination system was started as an attempt to eradicate this feudalism. Traditional Chinese culture covers large geographical territories, where each region is usually divided into distinct sub-cultures.
Since the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors period, some form of Chinese monarch has been the main ruler above all. Names of the positions in the society varied in different periods of history. Theoretically 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. Since the late Zhou dynasty, traditional Chinese society was formed into a hierarchic system of socio-economic classes known as the four occupations.
However, the distinctions became unclear when Chinese culture started commercialized in the Song dynasty. Ancient Chinese education also has a long history; since the Sui dynasty educated candidates prepared for the imperial examinations which drafted exam graduates into government as scholar-bureaucrats.This led to the creation of a meritocracy, although only male who could afford the preparation had the entrance to success. The examinations required applicants to write essays and demonstrate mastery of the Confucian classics. Those who passed the highest level of the exam became Jinshi, the elite scholar-official, a highly esteemed socio-economic position. A major structure developed around the topic of the imperial exams. Trades and crafts were usually taught by a shifu. The female historian Ban Zhao wrote the Lessons for Women in the Han dynasty and outlined the four virtues women must obey to.
In the middle of the 19th century, with the rise of European economic and military power, non-Chinese social and political organization had their followers in China. Some of those who were about to reform have completely rejected China’s cultural heritage, while others are trying to combine the advantages of Chinese and European cultures. In essence, the history of the 20th century in China was one of the attempts to experiment with new systems of social, political, and economic organization that would allow the king to reintegrate into society after the dynastic collapse.
Spirituality and Values
Most spirituality comes from Chinese Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The topics on the position of the most influential school have been debated since new schools, such as Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism and many other concepts have emerged. Reincarnation and other rebirth concept remind us of the link between real life and after-life. In China's business culture, the concept of relationships indicates that the precedence of relations over rules is well documented. Although many gods are part of the tradition, some of the most recognized sacred characters include Guanyin, Jade Emperor and Buddha.
Chinese Buddhism has shaped Chinese culture in many fields such as art, politics, literature, philosophy, medicine, and material culture. Translating a large number of Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese, and these translations and works into a canon of printing, has a profound influence on the spread of Buddhism in Chinese culture including Korea, Japan, Ryukyu Islands, and Vietnam. Chinese Buddhism is also marked by the interaction between Indian religions, Chinese religions and Taoism.
Chinese religion was originally intended to worship the supreme god of the Xia, Shang, and Shang dynasties. The king and diviner served as priests and used oracle bones. The Zhou dynasty worshipped a wider concept of heaven toward it. A large part of Chinese culture is based on the concept of the existence of a spiritual world. Numerous methods of divination help answer questions and can even be used as a substitute for medicine. Folklore has helped fill the gap between unexplained things. There are often vague boundaries between myths, religions, and unexplained phenomenon. Many stories have evolved into traditional Chinese festivals. Other concepts have been extended beyond mythology to become the spiritual symbol of gatekeepers and guardian lions. With holy faith, there is also evil. Practices such as Taoist exorcism and Taomujian fighting witch and Jiang's approach are just a few concepts inherited by generations. After several thousand years of reform, some of China’s fortunetelling ceremonies are still in use today.
Taoism is a religious or philosophical tradition that emphasizes the harmony of Taoism with Chinese origins. Tao is the basic idea of most Chinese philosophical schools; but in Taoism, it refers to the source, mode, and essence of all existence. Taoism differs from Confucianism in that it does not emphasize rigid rituals and social order . Taoist ethics vary from person to person, but in general it tends to emphasize inaction (less effort), nature, simplicity, spontaneity, and three treasures: sympathy, thrifty and humility. The origin of Taoism dates back to at least the 4th century BC. Early Taoism drew its cosmological views from the naturalist and was deeply influenced by one of the oldest texts of Chinese culture, the Yijing, which elaborated a philosophical system on how to maintain human behavior in line with varying nature. The legalist Shen Buhai may also be an important influencer and expounded Wu Wei's realistic politics. The Moral Classic is a booklet containing the teachings of Lao Tzu, widely regarded as an important cornerstone of the Taoist tradition, and later the work of Zhuangzi.
Confucianism has been an official philosophy for most of the history of the Chinese empire. The mastery of Confucian texts is the main criterion for entering the imperial bureaucracy. Some other dictatorial ideas also have influence, such as legalism. There are often conflicts between philosophy. For example, the Neo-Confucians of the Song Dynasty believed that legalism deviated from the original Confucian spirit. In recent years, a group of Neo-Confucians advocated democratic ideals and human rights.
Confucians are described as religions of traditional, philosophical, religious, humanistic or rationalism, methods of governance or simple lifestyles. Confucianism developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius and was later called the Baijia School. He thought he was a value broadcaster of the Golden Age of the Zhou Dynasty centuries ago. In the Han Dynasty, the Confucian ideology and method gradually eliminated the "original Taoist" Huang Lao as the official ideology, and the emperor mixed the realist legalist tactics.
The ancient written standard was Classical Chinese. It has been used for thousands of years, but it had been used mainly by scholars and intellectuals to form the social "top" class, known as "the scholar-bureaucrat." It is difficult, but also possible, for ordinary people to advertise his class through the exam. Calligraphy later became commercialized, and the works of famous artists became valuable assets. Chinese literature has long history. The earliest classic works in China, the "Book of Changes" can be dated back to about 1000 BC. The prosperity of philosophy during the Warring States Period produced the masterpieces of Confucius Analects and Lao Tzu's moral classics. The history of the dynasty was often created by Sima Qian’s great historical records. This was written from 109 BC to 91 BC. The Tang Dynasty witnessed the blooming of poetry. The four classical novels of Chinese literature were written during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Song Dynasty developed a printed matter in a removable form.
Chinese philosophers, writers and poets were greatly respected and have played a key role in preserving and promoting the culture of the Empire. However, some classical scholars have received attention because of their bold depictions of popular life, which often arouse the dissatisfaction of the authorities. At the beginning of the 20th century, most of the population was still illiterate, and there were many incomprehensible languages in different regions. Despite this, the written language still maintained openness in communication and had passed official orders and documents throughout China. The reformers set out to establish a national language and use Beijing Mandarin as a verbal standard. After the May 4th Movement, Classical Chinese was rapidly replaced by written vernacular Chinese, mimicking standard vocabulary and grammar.
The Zhou dynasty is often regarded as the touchstone of Chinese cultural development. The concepts covered in classical Chinese texts include poetry, astrology, astronomy, calendars, constellations and many other topics. Some of the most important early texts included the "Book of Changes" and the "Book of Classics" in the "Four Books and Five Classics." Many Chinese concepts, such as Yin and Yang, Qi, and the Four Pillars of Destiny, were all theories of the pre-imperial period. By the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese culture would create a new era of written vernacular culture for ordinary citizens. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the study of modern Chinese literature gradually increased. Modern literature has formed an aspect in the process of forming a modern nation-state to interpret and create national spirit.
Chinese art is visual art. Both ancient and modern are derived from the works of Chinese or Chinese artists. The early "Stone Age Art" dates back to 10,000 BC and consists mainly of simple pottery and sculpture. After this early period, Chinese art, like Chinese history, was usually inherited by the Chinese emperor's ruling dynasty, most of which lasted for hundreds of years.
Chinese art can be said to be the longest continuous tradition in the world. It is characterized by the unusual continuity within the tradition and the failure to recognize the collapse of the West and the gradual recovery of the classical style. Since the Renaissance, Western media, often classified as decorative arts, have been extremely important in Chinese art. Many of the finest works have been produced in large-scale factories by artists of indeterminate nature, especially Chinese ceramics.
Early Chinese music was based on percussion instruments, which later gave away to stringed and reed instruments. By the Han dynasty papercutting 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.
Chinese paintings have become highly appreciated in the courtroom, including a variety of landscapes with special styles such as Ming Dynasty paintings. Early Chinese music was based on percussion instruments but later gave way to stringed and reed instruments. Paper cutting in Han Dynasty became a new art form after the invention of paper. In addition to other forms of performance, Chinese opera was introduced and branched in the region.
Chinese architecture is an architectural style that has been formed in East Asia for centuries. The structural principles of Chinese architecture remain basically unchanged. The main changes are merely decorative details. Since the Tang Dynasty, Chinese architecture has had a major influence on that of Korea, Vietnam and Japan. Chinese architecture was found more than 2,000 years ago which is almost as old as Chinese civilization and has always been an important symbol of Chinese culture. Chinese architecture has some common features, regardless of the specific region, different provinces or uses. The most important thing is its emphasis on width. For example, the spacious hall in the Forbidden City is an example. In contrast, Western architecture tends to emphasize height. Another important feature is symmetry, which means a grand feeling because it applies to everything from palaces to farmhouses. One notable exception is the design of the garden, which is often as asymmetric as possible. Like Chinese scroll paintings, the basic principle of garden composition is to create long-lasting flow, allowing customers to walk and enjoy the garden without prescription. Feng Shui plays a very important role in the development of the structure. China’s buildings also have a huge impact on East Asian buildings and have a smaller impact on Southeast Asian architecture. It includes the broad gardens of the Chinese emperor and the royal family, impressed with pleasure, and more intimate gardens created by scholars, poets, former government officials, soldiers and merchants to reflect and escape the outside world. They created an idealized miniature landscape designed to express the harmony that should exist between man and nature. A typical Chinese garden is enclosed by walls, including one or more ponds, rock works, trees and flowers, and various halls and pavilions in the garden, connected by zigzagging roads and galleries. Through the movement, visitors can appreciate a series of elaborate scenes and roll out like a banner scroll.
Cuisine is a very important part of Chinese culture, including food from different parts of China and Chinese from other parts of the world. Due to the historical influence of the Chinese diaspora and the country, Chinese cuisine has influenced many other Asian cuisines and has been adjusted according to local tastes. The preferences of seasoning and cooking techniques in Chinese provinces depend on historical background and national differences. Considering that China's climate ranges from the tropical south to the sub-Arctic in the Northeast, geographical features also have a strong influence on the existing local ingredients. The preferences of the empire and nobles also play a role in the changes in Chinese cuisine. Due to the expansion and trade of the Empire, ingredients and cooking techniques from other cultures have integrated into Chinese cuisine over time. The most acclaimed Four Major Cuisine are Chuan, Lu, Yue and Huaiyang, respectively, representing West, North, South and East China cuisine. The Eight Major Cuisines of modern China are dishes from Anhui, Guangdong, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. Color, smell and taste are used to describe the three traditional aspects of Chinese food as well as the meaning, appearance and nutrition of food. Cooking should be evaluated from the ingredients used, cuttings, cooking time and condiments. Using a knife at the table is considered inappropriate. Chopsticks are the main food utensils for Chinese food and can be used for cutting and foraging.
The custom of drinking tea originated in China. China’s tea has a long and complex history because the Chinese enjoyed tea for thousands of years. Scholars claimed that it can cure various diseases. Nobility believed consumption of good tea as a sign of their status, and ordinary people just liked its taste. As early as the 2nd century BC, the earliest known evidence of tea was found in the tombs of Emperor Jing of Han in Xi'an, indicating that Camellia tea was consumed by the emperors of the Han Dynasty and then became a popular drink during the period of Tang and Song.
Although tea originated in China, during the Tang Dynasty, Chinese tea generally represented tea processed using ancient Chinese genetic methods. Tea is deeply integrated into the history and culture of China. which is considered to be one of the seven necessities of Chinese life. Around 771 BC - 476 BC, Chinese tea was used for medicinal purposes. Chinese tea culture refers to how to prepare tea leaves and where people consume tea in China. China's tea culture is different from the UK and other Asian countries such as Japan in preparation, taste and occasion. Even today, tea is regularly consumed on both leisure and formal occasions. In addition to being a popular beverage, tea can also be used in Chinese medicine and Chinese cuisine. Green tea is one of the major global teas originating in China.
The preferences of the empire, royal and nobles also play a role in the changes in Chinese cuisine. Due to the expansion and trade of the Empire, ingredients and cooking techniques from other cultures have been incorporated into Chinese cuisine over time. The vast majority of Chinese cuisine comes mainly from the practice of the dynastic period, when the emperor held more than 100 banquets per meal and numerous royal chefs and cooks were involved in food preparation. Over time, many dishes become part of everyday citizen culture. Some of the finest restaurants close to the dynastic recipes include Fangshan Restaurant and Huang Yuting in Beijing Beihai Park. It can be said that all branches of Hong Kong Oriental style are somehow rooted in primitive dynastic cuisine.
Manhan Quanxi, literally, the feast of the Manchu and Han Chinese, was documented as one of the greatest meals in Chinese cooking history. It included at least 108 unique dishes of the Manchu and Han cultures during the Qing Dynasty which were used only by the emperor. The meal was held throughout the entire six banquets, lasting for three days. Cooking skills consisted of cooking methods from all over China. When the Manchus conquered China and established the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu and Han people fought for power. Emperor Kangxi wanted to resolve the dispute, so he held a banquet when he celebrated his 66th birthday. The banquet was composed of Manchu and Han dishes and officials of the two ethnic groups attended the banquet together. After the Wuchang uprising, the civilian population learned about the royal banquet. The original meal was served in Beijing’s Forbidden City.