Origins of Chinese culture
The history of Chinese culture is long; it is one of the oldest cultures in the world. Witnesses to the culture of China have been around for around 3500 years, but their origins go back even further. It probably has its roots in the civilizations on the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers as well as in the Nordic steppe culture.
Relatively early in China’s long history, in the 5th century BC. BC, Confucianism was one of the three doctrines that shaped the culture of China. Almost at the same time as Daoism, the second of the three doctrines developed.
The third teaching, Buddhism, first found its way into China around the year zero. This religion has its origins in India, but has been adapted to the Chinese culture. Incidentally, this applies to almost all external influences that Chinese culture has been confronted with over thousands of years. While the influence of other cultures on China was minimal, it itself had a decisive influence on many Asian cultures.
A major cultural upheaval did not take place in China for almost two millennia after the emergence of the Three Teachings. Only communism took a decisive influence on the culture of China again in the 20th century. The so-called “Cultural Revolution”, a struggle against the old cultural values of China, among other things, falls into this epoch.
Despite this turning point, China’s cultural heritage is still present today. However, it can be observed that rituals and religion are less important in China today than in other Chinese cultures such as Hong Kong. This and other areas of the Chinese cultural area were excluded from the cultural revolution. Due to globalization and China’s role as an economic power, external influences are increasingly reaching China today.
According to top-mba-universities, today China is a multi-ethnic state with a total of 56 nationalities. Most of the residents are Han Chinese, they make up 92 percent of the total population.
One of the most important Chinese cultural assets is the millennia-old Chinese script. Other Asian scripts, such as various Japanese scripts, have developed from the Chinese characters. The valuable art treasures of China, such as the famous Ming vases, are important and typical cultural assets of China. These also include Chinese literature and the unmistakable Chinese painting.
The Chinese tea culture is also of great importance for the culture in China. It is the oldest tea culture in the world. The Chinese martial art Kung Fu and the subform Tai Chi are also classic elements of the culture of the East Asian country. This also applies to traditional Chinese medicine, whose best-known healing method in this country is probably acupuncture.
The Chinese culture has different holidays. The most important holiday in the Middle Kingdom is the New Year festival, which is also known as the Spring Festival. Unlike in our culture, the New Year is not welcomed on January 1st. Instead, the festival falls on a new moon day, between January 21 and February 21. The turn of the year in China is based on the so-called farmers calendar.
There is a fireworks display and a colorful Chinese dragon made of costumed people often appears at the New Year celebrations. The dragon is one of the most important symbols of China. On the occasion of the family festival, the Chinese have a whole week off. It is truly a cultural peculiarity in China that the years are named after animals. For example, 2017 is the year of the fire rooster.
Other traditional holidays in China include the Lantern Festival, the Memorial Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Moon Festival.
Features of Chinese culture
In every country there are cultural peculiarities that distinguish one culture from another. However, the characteristics of cultures can also be similar to one another, so that they appear familiar to visitors.
The cultural differences between Germany and China are comparatively large. This can not only lead to misunderstandings in everyday life in China, but also cause a so-called culture shock.
So that you can prepare not only practically but also culturally for your adventure abroad in China, we would like to address some of the cultural features in China that are interesting for students.
Save face, striving for harmony, indirectness
In China, people are always careful not to “lose face” or “lose face”. The reputation that a person has and the esteem they enjoy are not meant to be damaged. You lose face if you have to reveal personal deficits, for example because he or she cannot meet various requirements.
Even people who openly show emotions such as anger lose face according to the standards of Chinese culture – just like the person against whom the anger is directed. In China it is customary to always avoid conflicts in order to maintain harmony in dealing with one another. However, this requirement only applies in the so-called in-group and not in the out-group. Anyone who behaves rudely towards strangers in public, for example by jostling or ignoring people, does not violate the principle of harmony. Also, for the sake of harmony, the Chinese are usually always anxious to solve interpersonal problems through compromises.
The preservation of face and the principle of harmony also go hand in hand with a cultural peculiarity in China, which can quickly become a pitfall for German guests – for example in the context of group work for the university: unlike in Germany, it is frowned upon in China, others Openly criticize people.
This leads to a disturbance of harmony and a loss of face for the criticized person. Criticism is only given “nicely packaged”. In general, most Chinese communicate much more indirectly than Germans.
Great power distance
The great awareness of social hierarchies is another cultural peculiarity in China. Obedience and respect for people of higher rank are still very important in Chinese culture today. Compared to China, the social hierarchies in Germany are much less pronounced.
Importance of rituals
Ritualized actions and processes are an important part of everyday life in China. The rituals are usually legitimized by tradition and thus also by the ancestors. In the hierarchy-conscious Chinese society, the instructions of the ancestors must be obeyed so that these rituals are continued. One of the ritualized acts in China is the way the Chinese hand over business cards. The tea ceremonies are also an example of ritualized action.
Ritualized actions always go hand in hand with repeating tried and tested patterns. The tendency to repeat is also reflected in schools and universities in China: Here memorizing the subject matter is of central importance. The ability to find answers to problems yourself is not really required or encouraged. Copying what already exists is not a bad thing in Chinese culture, but is generally approved. From this point of view, too, the cultural differences between China and Germany are obvious.
As a so-called masculine culture, Chinese culture is very performance-oriented. Leisure time plays a subordinate role compared to school, studies or work. The pressure to perform for schoolchildren and students is correspondingly high: For example, only a good result in the central university entrance examination Gaokao enables Chinese school leavers to study. That is why the students prepare meticulously for it. Good grades are also very important for young Chinese during their studies, because only these promise success.
China has a very collectivist society. The well-being of the community is generally superior to the well-being of the individual. Such a community can be a family, a university or a company. The popularity of group activities shows how important the community aspect is for many Chinese.