In the last decade, China which is the most amazing in the world has grown to become a major player economy. In some circles, China is even being touted as the next world superpower. Whether that’s possible or not is a matter of perspective but what’s undeniable is the fact that China is the most populated nation in the world ahead of India and United States. And home to some of the most amazing places in the world. The Chinese people are diverse, and their customs reflect their diversity.
Culture encompasses religion, style, food, marriage, language, music among others. Culture is the way of life of a community. It governs the actions and interactions of the people. With a population of significantly over 1 billion people, China is home to 56 ethnic groups. Of these ethnic groups, Han Chinese is the most populous consisting of over 900 million people. Other smaller groups include the Mongols, the Manchus, the Tibetans, and the Hezhen which is the smallest of them all with a population of fewer than 2000 people.
Familiarizing oneself with different customs of the world has become essential in the face of globalization. And in modern times, you are more likely to meet Chinese people or travel to China. While it’s a difficult task to capture all the Chinese customs in a write up like this one, we will try to cover the key components in depth.
Like many other people in the world, religion is important to the Chinese people. While the country is ruled by The Chinese Communist Party which largely subscribes to atheism, tolerance of religion is on the rise in China.
Legally, only four religions are to be practiced in China which are Islam, Christianity (Catholic and Protestants), Taoism, and Buddhism. Roughly, a quarter of the population opts for Taoism, Confucianism, and other traditional practices.
Unlike in other countries in the world, Christianity has been unable to conquer China even though Christian ministries have been in China from the 19th century.
According to the Mount Holyoke College, the Chinese language has seven major dialects which have different variations. These dialects include Mandarin (spoken by 71.5% of the population), Wu (8.5%), Yue or Cantonese (5%), Xiang (4.8%), Min (4.1%), Hakka (3.7%) and Gan (2.4%).
The Chinese language is more of a family of different language as opposed to a single language which varies from ridge to ridge. The different between 2 Chinese dialects is equitable to the difference in French and Italian; the difference is substantial. By order of the president, the official language of China is Putonghua. It is a form of Mandarin which is dominant in Beijing. But because globalization is a two-way street, much Chinese are fairly conversant with the English Language.
One thing China is known and loved for is its art. The Chinese art is majorly based on China’s diverse spiritual and mystical history. Subsequently, as confirmed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a sizeable chunk of Chinese sculptures and paintings portray religious figures of Buddhism.
Chinese people love music, and as such, musical instruments such as Xun and gudin are highly regarded by the people. The predominant form of art in this field is the Opera which the Chinese have perfected. Opera blends music, movement, humor, voice and costumes to give a special impression.
The Chinese also pride themselves on the creation and rise of martial arts all over the world. Even though it can be used in combat, most Chinese people use Martial Arts as a form of exercise. The most popular variation of the martial arts is the Taijiquan or simply, Tai Chi. Though a fading tradition, martial arts practice was routinely done in public parks.
Gymnastics are also highly regarded in China. Chinese Athletic Acrobats are the best in the world, and this respect, they have dominated the Olympic Games.
The Chinese cuisine is famous world over as evidenced by the Chinese restaurants which dot all corners of the earth from Africa to America and Europe. The dominant forms of Chinese cooking are the Cantonese and Szechuan. Cantonese comprise of stir-fried meals while Szechuan is known for its spiciness as it emphasizes on the use of peanuts, ginger and sesame paste.
The staple foods of the Chinese are rice, cabbage, sprouts, and scallions. Chinese are not heavy on meat consumption thus get their protein doses from tofu.
The Chinese people are not the kind to be shown how to celebrate. The Spring Festival celebrated to signal the start of the Lunar New Year is the grandest festival in China. These celebrations take place from mid-January through mid-February and present an opportunity to honor the ancestors. The 15-day festivities are marked with show-stopping fireworks displays and parades which include dancers dressed in dragon inspired costumes.
Other important dates for the Chinese include birthdays of traditional preachers and goddesses. On September 28th, people practicing Confuciusism travel to Shandong province where Confucius was born to pay homage.
To mark the birthday of the goddess of mercy, Guanyin, which falls between late March and the end of April, believers flock to Taoist temples to celebrate this auspicious day. Similarly, celebrations are observed to mark the birthdays of Mazu (goddess of the sea). The moon festival which celebrates the end of the autumn harvest is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month during September or October and rituals observed include consumption of mooncakes and cassia wine. The moon festival is also celebrated in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.
While we may have our favorite colors (mine is blue!), most of us don’t think there is much to colors. This is a perception the Chinese disagree with as for them different colors represent different things. In China, white is extensively used in funerals and during mourning. Why not black? Well, because for them, black represents darkness and evil hence generally avoided. Yellow is the imperial color, and as such, yellow roof tiles are restricted only royal buildings. For Chinese people, Red is the most propitious color. It also represents fire and power. Therefore, red is heavily used during festivals, weddings and in gift wrappers.
A proper understanding of other peoples’ customs is likely to enhance your experience when interacting with them. When traveling to the most amazing places in the world, with the best luggage, it is important to remember to be at your culture-tolerant best because the world can sometimes feel like a strange place in the face of new strange customs. With Chinese culture, keep an open mind.