Some fun facts about Chinese culture
Traditional Chinese culture is rich and varied. Culture is always changing, but many traditional customs are still important today, especially at the holidays. Artists, performers, writers, cooks and others help to keep traditions alive. For local performances of Chinese folk arts in the Greater Boston area, check out the Chinese Folk Art Workshop. Culture is a very broad topic. Here is a brief introduction to just three aspects of traditional Chinese culture: an important philosopher; food; and toys and games. You can read more in the Holidays section. What other aspects can you research? Try this quiz on Confucius.
Confucius was an important philosopher in ancient China. He lived from 551 – 479 BC. Living during a time of war, he hoped to build a peaceful, stable and harmonious society free from war, hatred and conflict. Confucius promoted several key virtues: benevolence or humaneness; justice; propriety; knowledge; integrity; loyalty; faithfulness; and filial piety (children's respect for their parents and ancestors). He believed that if people followed codes of proper conduct, based on their role in the family and society, these virtues could be fulfilled. Confucius developed teachings for the individual, family, and government. He placed great weight on the principle of reciprocity – the mutual responsibility of people toward one another. Reciprocity is the foundation for five important human relationships in Confucian thought: the ruler and the official; the husband and the wife; the parent and the child; the older brother and the younger brother; and friends. In all these relationships, mutual caring, duty, and responsibility are essential. Central to Confucius's ideas of good governance is that the government has an unwavering duty to "nourish the people," taking care of subjects as parents care for their children. Confucius also taught that a good government should lead by virtue, and not by harsh punishments. Overall, education and moral self-improvement are highly valued in Confucian teachings. The ideas of Confucianism were influential in Chinese history.
China is a vast nation and there is great variation in the food across the regions. Did you know that noodles, dumplings, steamed buns and other wheat products were traditionally more commonly consumed in North China than rice? In South China, however, a meal is not a meal without rice. Read the Geography section to find out why. Did you know that dim sum, now most popular among the Cantonese, is believed to have originated in North China? Did you know that the Sichuan dish, kung-pao chicken, would not be possible without chili peppers and peanuts introduced from the New World? A very typical traditional dish is "Red Cooked Meat"; made with pork, the most commonly used meat in China. Fish is customarily eaten at Chinese New Year because "fish" sounds the same as "abundance." Fresh vegetables and fruits are very important in the Chinese diet. Although meat consumption has increased in China, Chinese today still eat nearly twice as much produce daily as Americans. Traditionally, desserts were not regularly eaten with dinner and sugar consumption is still low in China. Milk was rarely consumed. Food is usually shared "family-style" at a meal, and table manners are very important. Chinese food is very popular all over the world today. Do you have any favorite dishes?
Toys and Games
There are many traditional toys and games for children in China. Kites were invented in China, and kite-flying became a favorite pastime for children and families. Other popular games include the shuttlecock, the "Chinese yo-yo" (Diablo), Chinese jump rope, a beanbag tossing game, Chinese checkers, Go (a kind of chess), and puzzles like tangrams. Similar to a badminton shuttlecock, the Chinese shuttlecock has feathers mounted on a small weight. The object of the game is to keep the shuttlecock in the air, usually by kicking it, as long as the players can, without touching it with their hands. It is still a competitive sport today. Chinese yo-yo competition is also popular. Check out these cool Chinese yo-yo tricks. Toys are one of the main exports of China today. Most of the export toys are modern toys, but traditional toys and games continue to be popular. Have you ever watched people playing Chinese chess in the park in Chinatown? Can you make your own tangrams and try some of these puzzles?