Chinese Culture – Quick Facts, Travel Hints, & Tips
About the People
- China is very diverse, with 56 distinct ethnic groups. The numerically dominant group are the Han Chinese.
- Most social values are derived from Confucianism and Taoism with a combination of conservatism.
- China's major GDP was approximately 7.8 trillion as of 2009 according to the CIA World Factbook.
- Given China’s high population and collectivist tradition, personal space is not as common or as valued as you may be accustomed to. Dorms house more students, public bathhouses are common, and homes and apartments are smaller than in the west.
- These patterns are changing as affluence grows along with the economy.
- Personal proximics, the distance people maintain in everyday interactions, is much closer than in the west.
- Being bumped in a crowd is normal so don’t take offense.
- The incredible variety found in Chinese cuisine may be owed, at least in part, to emperors holding a banquet of 100 dishes every meal. Chinese cuisine in America, Europe, and around the world is rooted in this diversity.
- Regional geographic and cultural differences have resulted in 8 different styles of food. Some of them may be familiar.
- Sometimes four styles are more heavily emphasized. These are Sichuan (Western China), Cantonese (Southern China),Shandong (Northern China), as well as Huaiyang Cuisine (Eastern China)
- In recent times, Beijing and Shanghai cuisine are considered by many to be two distinct styles all their own.
- Chinese architecture has a history dating back thousands of years. You will see structures dating back millennia, and others in similar styles that may be only ten years old.
- China does not have the same tradition of “historic/preservation districts” as the US and other western countries.
- Symmetry, width (as opposed to height), and Feng shui are prominent influences on Chinese architectural styles.
- The rail network in China has doubled in the last 100 years and now services most of the entire nation.
- The physical state of the transportation network varies wildly by geographic location. Rural areas might still depend on horse-drawn transportation, meanwhile a modern maglev transverses Shanghai.
- Transportation is one of the major industries in China.
- The People’s Republic of China has a nationwide system of public education. Primary schools, lower and upper middle schools, and universities are all part of the mix. Nine years of schooling are compulsory.
- In the past 30 years, China’s population has become drastically more educated. In 1978 1.4 percent of college aged Chinese attended university. In 2005 that number had climbed to 20 percent.
- The literacy rate in China is 91 percent. It’s 95 percent for males and 86.5 percent for females.
- The communist party plays a prominent role in education.
- Chinese began to split into its many modern dialects around 1,000 years ago.
- Many of the languages of China are mutually unintelligible. The Chinese government and communist party encourages the use of Mandarin Chinese.
- According to the economist, up to one fifth of the population is studying English! That would mean almost as many English speakers as all of America!
- Traditionally, divination and fortune telling have played a major role in Chinese culture.
- Guan Jin, the Jade Emperor, and the Buddha are three of the most recognizable holy figures.
- Other religious concepts include Taoist exorcism, the supreme god Shang D, and others.
- Chinese Opera has been popular for generations. The music includes string instruments and high-pitched vocal stylings.
- There is a wide variety of instrumental music in China, played solo or in ensembles.
- The oldest known instruments in China are bamboo pipes and gin.
- Instruments are typically divided based on their material – skins, gourd, bamboo, wood, silk, earth, metal, and stone. A traditional orchestra consists of bowed strings, woodwinds, plucked strings, and percussion.
- Rock, pop (C-Pop), hip-hop, and other styles have also become incredibly popular in recent times.