Chinese culture is a rich tapestry melded with history from over 5,000 years. It’s no wonder the culture intrigues so many. Before you visit China, knowing a bit about the culture will help you to delve into it further and find more to love about it!
1. There are 56 minorities
Outsiders are often surprised to find out that China has 56 ethnic groups that are recognized by the Chinese government. The largest of them is the Han ethnicity, taking up over 90% of the population in China. Each ethnic group has its own customs, cultures, dress, and more.
2. The Chinese Zodiac has great importance
In Western culture, horoscopes might seem like a hippie thing to follow, but in China, the Chinese Zodiac is very highly-regarded by all. Known as Sheng Xiao, it’s based on a 12-year cycle steeped in the Chinese lunar year system. Every year of the cycle is associated with one of 12 different animals like dragon, horse, sheep, and snake, for example.
3. Emphasis on family is huge
Family is greatly valued in China, and perhaps one of the most important things here. That why even in the modern days, getting married and starting a family is almost non-negotiable, as is the regular gatherings with relatives to strengthen the family bond.
4. Tea is more than just a beverage
Serving a hot pot of tea to visitors is a must when in China. It’s also an integral part of socialization with others, much like Westerners meet friends or business contacts for coffee at Starbucks!
5. Kungfu comes in several styles
The ancient form of martial arts known as Kungfu is composed of a few different styles. There’s Tai Chi, Qigong, and Shaolin. Not everyone in China is as skilled as Jackie Chan though many people do practice it for physical fitness.
6. Chinese calligraphy is art
Chinese calligraphy is more than just a form of writing. It’s an art form in and of itself. Stunning to look at, these works reveal the deeper meaning of Chinese characters. They make beautiful souvenirs from your time in China. Plus, you can even take classes to learn how to do it too!
7. Food is life
Spend enough time in China, and the Chinese people you know will always ask you if you’ve eaten. Cuisine is big here, and it’s more than just nourishment. Food is just as much of art as it calligraphy is. With different cuisine styles from every region, tasting your way around China and integrating yourself socially through food is a must.
8. Confucianism has a heavy influence
In Confucianism, respect for the rulers, elders, family, and creating social harmony are all extremely important. You’ll notice this influence in many things during your stay in China.
9. Chinese festivals are everything
Especially during the Chinese New Year, the whole country halts and celebrates together. Family becomes even more important and each festival has special customs that are adhered to, like eating dumplings or special foods for example.
10. Dragons aren’t scary
You’ll see Chinese dragons everywhere. In Chinese culture, they are thought to bring power, wealth, success, and wisdom. These are not the evil monsters they are portrayed to be in Western society.
11. The Chinese language has many dialects
Chinese, as we know it, is not a monolithic language. It has many dialects and variations, with some being significantly different between one another. Subsequently, at times it might be difficult for speakers of divergent dialects to understand each other.
For example, Mandarin, also known as Putonghua is the most widespread one, but far from the only one. Yue (Cantonese), Gan, Min, Wu, Xiang, and Kejia (Hakka) are also spoken by different segments of the Han people.
12. Cricket fighting as a sport has a very long history
China has a long history of appreciation for crickets (more than 1,500 years old). They were pets in ancient times, and their singing has been historically considered one of nature’s most beautiful songs.
From August to October, it’s common to see street sellers surrounded by small jars containing male crickets bred for battle. The popularity of this sport is so overwhelming, many experts study the habits of each cricket to determine the most powerful warrior. Some of them can be sold for over $100.
13. In China, never say never
Chinese culture values respect above all else, so the language can be quite ambiguous when it’s time to reject someone.
As such, it is important to understand the context of the situation and read the social cues that might be hiding between words.
For example, instead of expressing outright rejection, a Chinese person might change the topic or dodge the question altogether.
14. Table Tennis is a big deal
You can find tables everywhere: schools and parks are hot spots to play the sport, and almost every city or town has at least one team.
It is such a big deal that at least 10 million Chinese citizens play table tennis competitively, and the so-called Ping Pong Diplomacy used the sport to help the United States and China grow closer.
Chinese Culture: Summary
A lot of things can happen in over 4,000 years.
A country that has existed for so long is bound to have a rich history, overflowing with culture and fascinating elements that have developed generation after generation.
With an understanding of these cultural facts about China, you’ll be well on your way to discovering the beauty of this unique culture!