Values for one society may seem strange to another society, but nonetheless, they are important to that society. For instance, the painful and debilitating Chinese tradition of foot binding, as bizarre as it may seem to our culture, to the Chinese people, it was the esoteric essence of pure beauty and signified status within the family structure, allowing young women with lotus feet better opportunities for marriage with well-to-do families.
Traditional Chinese courtyard life – in existence until the early 1900’s, was a unique lifestyle where Chinese families and neighbours lived in very close quarters – sharing a common courtyard and everyone knowing everyone else’s business.
Special rules applied for who occupied which space in certain directions Chinese Courtyards Chinese courtyards are the traditional folk house of China. Courtyards reportedly date back to the Han Dynasty, however none remain from that time period. The oldest among the surviving courtyards are from the Ming Dynasty, while the majority still found today are from the Qing Dynasty.
Chinese Chopsticks – born of necessity in the earliest times, highly influenced the eating and cooking traditions still followed today in China. Chinese Knots – One of the most popular knots is double happiness, which in Chinese tradition is given to newlyweds, signifying a wish for their luck and happiness to double. Chinese family names – Xing, Shi and Ming are the most common. There are only 22 ancient Chinese surnames still in use today. The family name indicated a blood tie within the Chinese social structure and was a symbol of class.
In ancient China, 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, women were the clan leaders and marriages were only allowed among certain classes. Chinese Festivals Chinese New Year/Spring Festival Gong Xi Fa Cai! Is the greeting that wishes you great prosperity. You’ll hear it constantly during Spring Festival, better known as the Lunar New Year. This is a time when everyone tries to get back to their ancestral home to celebrate with their families, perhaps visit the local temple, pay off debts, buy new clothes, drive off evil spirits with firecrackers and start off the new year with a great feast. Qing Ming Festival
Qing Ming is the time when the Chinese honour their ancestors. They visit the family graves to clean them and share a picnic with the spirits of the dead. (12th day of the 3rd moon) Dragon Boat Festival Over 2000 years ago, Qu Yuan, a righteous mandarin, threw himself into a river to protest against the corruption and mismanagement of the government. His friends took to the water in boats, thrashing at the fish that would devour his body. Today he is remembered with the Dragon Boat Festival, which features races by long skiffs bearing dragon heads and tails. (5th day of the fifth moon) Qi Xi Festival.
A special Chinese Valentine’s Day. Qixi is the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. It’s celebrated on the seventh night of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Usually that happens sometime in August on our calendar. And that’s why it’s also called the Double Seven festival. Mid-Autumn Moon Festival The Mid-Autumn moon is the biggest and best of the year, so the Chinese try to watch it from the vantage point of hills or open fields. At the same time they eat moon cakes in memory of an uprising against the Mongols, which was secretly coordinated by messages hidden in the cakes.
(15th day of the eighth moon) October 1st – Founding of the People’s Republic October 1st is the day when China celebrates the founding of the People’s Republic. It has been a week of holiday time when many travel as tourists to other parts of China or Asia – or make their way back to their hometowns for a family holiday. Other Ethnic Minority Chinese Festivals Throughout China, minority peoples have their own ancestral festivals when they dress in traditional costumes and celebrate. In Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan, the Dai minority (cousins to the Thai) welcome the Lunar New Year with the Water Splashing Festival.
For 3 days in mid-April, everyone can expect to have water thrown over them. There are also parades, fireworks and dragon boat races. The Tibetan New Year is celebrated with a week of horse races, archery contests, carnivals and temple rituals, in all the major towns. In the wild west of Xinjiang, the Kazhakh communities have their own Chinese festivals that celebrate the life of the grasslands. There are breathtaking displays of horsemanship, including shooting contests on horseback and buzgashi, a form of polo, plus huge feats that include whole roast sheep and fermented mare’s milk. Beijing Opera.
Beijing Opera is the most widely known Chinese theatrical style with over 200 years of history. Although the art form started in China’s Yangtze River Yan’an region, it only became fully developed in Beijing, and that is how it’s name came to be. The form employs song and dance with exaggerated movements that leave a strong impression on viewers. While this Chinese style opera is a comprehensive art form utilizing diverse elements such as drama, acting, music, song, props, make-up and costume, it is distinguished from western performance art by its use of such elements for symbolic and suggestive purposes, rather than realism.
Performers must adhere to a variety of stylistic conventions and rules. They must master songs, acting and their lines, in addition to dance. The art form uniquely combines traditional song, music, narration, dance, circus and martial arts, contrary to the western tradition that separates song, dance and theatre. Chinese Shadow Puppetry Is an ancient form of storytelling which was popular during the Song Dynasty during the holiday season. The stories of the shadow puppets told of events that had happened elsewhere in the country and stories with a Buddhist background.
Chinese Culture Chinese Culture – Special 10th Birthday On the day a child turns 10, most families will hold a party for the child. It is common to have this party in a hotel and invite everyone you know – which could be more than 100 people. There is a western style birthday cake served – and all the guests are invited to a meal. Each guest is subtly expected to make a donation of about $20 and before leaving, each guest receives a small gift. The one birthday party I attended in 2000, I received a box of facial tissue.
Others in attendance received rolls of toilet paper – and the gifts were happily received and highly appreciated. Chinese Culture – Common Greetings Ni hao – is the common greeting for “hello” (sounds like KNEE-HOW) There are some terms for good morning(zao- sounds like ZOW), good afternoon (xia wu hao), good evening (wan shang hao), but most often you will hear just ni hao. Good–bye is zaijian. Mintian jia – is also very common – “see you tomorrow”. Chinese Culture – Children are Pension Plan With the one child policy enforced in China, most families will rely on that one child to support them in their old age.
All the money the family can afford is spent on the best education that they can buy for their child – in hopes that their child will make it into a good university and have a good paying job in the future – thereby, being able to support his own family and his parents. This puts an extreme amount of pressure on the child to perform well amidst tremendous competition for a place in a prestigious university. If a child does not do well in school, he is scorned by his parents and family and loses face. Those parents lucky enough to have a government party job will enjoy a small pension when they retire.
But most Chinese have no social support to look forward to as they age – so they must rely on their family. It is common for families to live together. The older parents will take care of the house, the cooking and any grandchildren, while their child and his spouse go out to work each day. Chinese Culture – Chinese Men Carrying Handbags You will see Chinese men carrying two different types of handbags. They might carry a small personal bag – like the French men do – or you may see them carrying their girlfriends handbag – as they walk or shop together.
I found this quite amusing – and even more so after I married my Chinese husband . . . as before we would go out – he would choose for me which handbag I should carry –so that his things could fit inside too – and of course, he would carry it for me! It is almost like a sign of affection – like a boy carrying a girls schoolbooks for her. Chinese Culture – Best Chinese Hangover Cure If you’ve had too much to drink with your friends – don’t be surprised if you end up in a restaurant and are served pig intestine soup – sworn to be the best cure for a hangover.
Chinese Culture – One Child Policy Most families in China have adhered to the one child policy. In the autonomous provinces, where Beijing does not have absolute control over the ethnic groups, they don’t have to adhere to the one child policy. However, if you have the money, or if your family is connected to the right people – for a price – you can pay a fee to have a second child. The one child policy has caused a lot of female babies to be abandoned – so that the mother could have another chance to try to have a boy baby.
A large part of the Chinese population still believe it is better to have a boy than a girl – because a boy is more likely able to support his family in later life, than a girl. There are a lot of Chinese baby girls up for adoption – and North American families are scooping them up. This one child policy, however, is creating a new problem. There is becoming a shortage of Chinese females in the population. Already, there have been kidnappings of women – to make them into wives in mountain villages. The situation is predicted to grow worse in the future – with many young men unable to find a woman to marry.
Chinese Dress: Qipao * The one-piece dress featured a high neck and straight skirt. It covered all of a woman’s body except for her head, hands, and toes. The qipao was traditionally made of silk and featured intricate embroidery. * The qipao worn today are modeled after ones made in Shanghai in the 1920s. The modern qipao is a one-piece, formfitting, floor length dress that has a high slit on one or both sides. Modern variations may have bell sleeves or be sleeveless and are made out of a variety of fabrics. Sports Martial arts.
* China is one of the main birth places of Eastern martial arts. Chinese martial arts are collectively given the name Kung Fu ((gong) “achievement” or “merit”, and (fu) “man”, thus “human achievement”) or (previously and in some modern contexts) Wushu (“martial arts” or “military arts”). 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 produced some of the most renowned martial artists including Wong Fei Hung and 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. Tai Ji Quan Tai Ji Quan, which is also known as Chinese shadow boxing, is a major division of Chinese martial art. Tai Ji Quan means “supreme ultimate fist”, and is a kind of Chinese boxing, combining control of breath, mind and body.
It emphasizes body movement, following mind movements, tempering toughness with gentleness and graceful carriage. The traditional legend goes that the wise man, Zhang Sanfeng of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), created Tai Ji Quan after he witnessed a fight between a sparrow and a snake. Most people agreed that the modern Tai Ji Quan originated from Chen style Tai Ji Quan, which first appeared during the 19th century in the Daoguang Reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Chinese Wedding Traditions Welcoming the Bride: * The Chinese wedding ritual begins with the groom going to the bride’s home.
Younger brides often have a few girlfriends at the home who will tease the groom before handing over the bride. The girls will barter with the groom who must beg and bribe the girls with small gifts or red envelopes stuffed with money are handed over in exchange for the bride. * Before leaving her home, the bride and groom bow before the bride’s parents. Then, they head to the groom’s home. In the past, the bride was picked up from her home and taken to the groom’s home in a sedan chair with trumpets blaring to announce her arrival. Today, most brides arrive in a car.
Bowing to Heaven and Earth: * Once at the groom’s home, the bride and groom bow to heaven and earth in front of the groom’s family’s home altar or at a local temple. Then, the couple bows before the groom’s parents before bowing to each other. Traditional Tea Ceremony: * At the groom’s home, the couple offers tea to their elders including the groom’s parents. Acceptance of the tea is confirmation that the family has welcomed the bride into the groom’s family. Auspicious Days The Chinese still rely on fortune tellers to predict the most auspicious days (and years) to marry.
Many couples will postpone their wedding plans until the right day or right year that promises success. In some provinces, you will find very large groups of couples getting married the same day – because they believe in the luck of that day – for most success in their marriage. In China, it is common for many young couples live together the year before they are actually married and start on the paperwork process. The most common time to celebrate a marriage is at Chinese New Year or on auspicious days. Chinese Cuisine.
The history of Chinese cuisine can be traced back to primitive societies and their use of fire. Cuisine was invented some 400,000 years ago. Some other accounts of the history of Chinese cuisine takes the beginning to the Chinese stone age, when the cultivation of rice and the production of noodles, both typical representations of Chinese cuisine as we have known today, are understood from archaeological findings. Over the centuries, as new food sources and techniques were invented, the Chinese cuisine as we know it gradually evolved.
Chopsticks, which are made from all sorts of materials and which are one of the hallmarks of Chinese cuisine, have been used as eating utensils at least as far back as the Zhou Dynasty. Stir-fried dishes became popular during the Tang Dynasty. The stir-fry method of cooking was invented out of necessity, in order to conserve expensive and scarce fuel. As early as the 7th century B. C. Chinese cuisine began to be separated as Southern and Northern cuisines. In general, the southern dishes emphasize freshness and tenderness.
Northern dishes, due to its colder climate, have more fat and garlic which is offset with vinegar. During the period of the Tang (618-907 A. D. ) and the Song (960-1279 A. D. ) dynasties, people went in a great deal for nutritional medical value of different plants: fungus (mushrooms), herbs, vegetables. At this time “medicinal food” for prevention and cure of diseases, for overall health became important. Cantonese/Guangdong Cuisine Guangdong cuisine is characterized by their cooking methods of mostly steaming, boiling, saute and stir-frying with thick gravy.
Dishes are lightly cooked and not as spicy and hot as the other 3 groups. Due to the long duration of summer, they prefer light and refreshing foods and seafood. Only in the winter do they eat fatty foods and strongly flavoured foods. Shandong Cuisine The third major Chinese cuisine is Shandong cuisine – also known as Lu cuisine. It has a long history and wide popularity and was developed from the Qi and Lu culture of ancient China. It is said to have traces of palatial cuisine. Dishes are strongly flavoured and made of costly ingredients such as shark fin, abalone, sea cucumber, deer meat, white fungus and others.
Due to the long duration of the cold winter in north China and a shortage of vegetables, Shandong cooks are skilled at making high-calorie and high-protein dishes. Sichuan Cuisine The second major Chinese cuisine is Sichuan. World famous Chan cuisine traces back to the ancient Ba Kingdom (modern day Chongqing) and Shu Kingdom (modern day Chengdu) and is known for it’s oily, hot and spicy taste. The uniquely hot, pungent flavour is created with a mixture of red pepper, garlic and ginger. Su Cuisine.
The forth major Chinese cuisine originated from Shuzhou, Yangzhou and Hangzhou area and is known as Su cuisine. It is an exchange of northern and southern cuisines, dating back to the time the region was the home of Emperors during the Six Dynasties and the Southern Song Dynasty. It is a combination of high-heat and high-protein dishes, plenty of lake fish and seafood, and exquisite refreshments and snacks such as pine nut crystalline meat sweet cake, crab yellow soup bun, crab yellow steamed dumpling and Ningbo dumpling, all of which are famous throughout China.