Everything about China and it's culture

Everything about China and it's culture


  • Category Archives Chinese Culture
  • World Celebrates The Chinese New Year 2012-Dragon

    This year, the Chinese year 4710 begins on January 23, 2012. The Chinese all over the world are celebrating the New Year with a new sign, the dragon. But what are the Chinese up to during the New Year Chinese festivities?

    Chinese families celebrates Chinese New Year by using a different mix of their traditions, beliefs, superstitions, lucky signs and charms.

    According to Chinese legend, a long time ago, the gods called together all the animals on the planet, and told them that there will be a race. The first twelve winners will be included in a special list that they were coming up with. So on the chosen date, all the animals lined up and started to race each other. Being the smallest, the rat was able to weave its way through and under all the other animals and ended up crossing the finish line first. Next came the ox, followed by the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and lastly, the pig. That’s how those twelve animals ended up representing the twelve animal signs of the Chinese zodiac, each with its own specific characteristics.

    For the Chinese, the dragon is the luckiest and most auspicious of all the animal signs. Chinese parents want their kids to get married in the Year of the Dragon. Chinese couples rush to make “dragon babies” because they’re supposed to be lucky. You can just imagine the number of Chinese babies that will be born this year.

    In addition, for Chinese, new year meant decorating and wearing red, having lots of food at home, attending fireworks and parades, and having lots of red envelopes with money inside. There would be round fruits so that there’ll be lots of money, and pineapples for prosperity. A big fried fish would also be present because fish supposedly represented abundance.

    A lot of Chinese also make it a point to visit Chinese temples on Chinese New Year’s Eve to offer incense, pray to their ancestors and consult the resident geomancer about their fortunes for the coming year. Chinese families also visits their friends and relatives, and participate in the lantern festival. Families also clean their homes, because they feel that it will remove bad luck and ill-fortunes.

    The highlight of the lantern festival is the dragon dance. The dragon–which might stretch a hundred feet long–is typically made of silk, paper, and bamboo.

    The Chinese New Year is celebrated in China, Taiwan, Bhutan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, and Chinatowns around the globe. Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. It usually lasts three days.

    To all the Chinese around the world, Happy New Year 2012 to all of you!


  • A Chinese old-fashioned wedding


  • Happy Moon Cake Festival 2011

    Moon Cake Festival: A Mid-Autumn Festival (Chung Chiu), the third major festival of the Chinese calendar, is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month. This festival corresponds to harvest festival s observed by Western cultures (in Hong Kong, it is held in conjunction with the annual Lantern Festival).

    Contrary to what most people believe, this festival probably has less to do with harvest festivities than with the philosophically minded chinese of old. The union of man’s spirit with nature in order to achieve perfect harmony was the fundamental canon of Taoism, so much so that contemplation of nature was a way of life.

    This festival is also known as the Moon Cake Festival because a special kind of sweet cake (yueh ping) prepared in the shape of the moon and filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs is served as a traditional Chung Chiu delicacy. Nobody actually knows when the custom of eating moon cake of celebrate the Moon Festival began, but one relief traces its origin to the 14th century. At the time, China was in revolt against the Mongols. Chu Yuen-chang, and his senior deputy, Liu Po-wen, discussed battle plan and developes a secret moon cake strategy to take a certain walled city held by the Mongol enemy. Liu dressed up as a Taoist priest and entered the besieged city bearing moon cake. He distributed these to the city’s populace. When the time for the year’s Chung Chiu

    The moon plays a significant part of this festival. In Hong Kong, any open space or mountain top is crowded with people trying to get a glimpse of this season’s auspicious full moon.

    First lady on the moon: It is generally conceded that Neil Armstrong , the American astronaut, was the first man on moon ( he made that historic landing in 1969). But that’s not necessarily festival arrived, people opened their cakes and found hidden messages advising them to coordinate their uprising with the troops outside. Thus, the emperor-to-be ingeniously took the city and his throne. Moon cake of course, became even more famous. Whether this sweet Chinese version of ancient Europe’s “Trojan Horse” story is true, no one really known. the truth to Chinese, who believe that the first people on the moon was a beautiful woman who lived during the Hsia dynasty (2205-1766BC)

    This somewhat complicated moon-landing story goes like this: A woman , Chang-O, was married to the great General Hou-Yi of the Imperial Guard. General Hou was a skilled archer. One day, at the behest of the emperor, he shot down eight of nine suns that had mysteriously appeared in the heaven that morning. His marksmanship was richly rewarded by the emperor and he became very famous. However, the people feared that these suns would appear again to torture them and dry up the planet, so they prayed to the Goddess of Heaven (Wang Mu) to make General Hou immortal so that he could always defend the emperor, his progeny and the country. Their wish was granted and General Hou was given a Pill of Immortality.

    Another version of this story notes that Chang-O, the wife of the Divine Archer, shot down nine of ten suns plaguing the world and received the Herb of Immortality as a reward.

    Whoever the hero was, Chang-O grabbed the pill (or the herb) and fled to the moon. In some versions it is uncertain whether she ever actually got there, because Chinese operas always portray her as still dancing-flying toward the moon.

    When Chang-O reached the moon, she found a tree under which there was a friendly hare. Because the air on the moon is cold, she began coughing and the Immortality Pill came out of her throat. She thought it would be good to pound the pill into small pieces and scatter them on Earth so that everyone could be immortal. So she ordered the hare to pound the pill, built a palace for herself and remained on the moon.

    This helpful hare is referred to in Chinese mythology as the Jade Hare. Because of his and Chang-O’s legendary importance, you will see – stamped on every mooncake, every mooncake box, and every Moon Cake Festival poster – images of Chang-O and sometimes the Jade Hare.

    The old man on the moon: There is a saying in Chinese that marriages are made in heaven and prepared on the moon. The man who does the preparing is the old man of the moon (Yueh Lao Yeh). This old man, it is said, keep as a record book with all the names of newborn babies. He is the one heavenly person who knows everyone’s future partners, and nobody can fight the decisions written down in his book. He is one reason why the moon is so important in Chinese mythology and especially at the time of the Moon Festival. Everybody including children, hikes up high mountains or hills or onto open beached to view the moon in the hope that he will grant their wishes.

    To celebrate this sighting of the moon, red plastic lanterns wrought in traditional styles and embellished with traditional motifs are prepared for the occasion. It is quite a sight to see Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, or Morse Park in Kowloon, alight with thousands of candlelit lanterns. These “Lantern Carnivals” also occur spontaneously on most of the colony’s beaches.

    The lantern are made in such traditional shapes are rabbits, goldfish, carps, butterflies, lobsters and star-shaped fruits. However, in modern Hong Kong you will also see lantern in the shape of missiles, airplanes, rockets, ships and tanks. In Chinese mythology, the butterfly is the symbols of longevity and the lobster the symbols or mirth. Star-shaped fruit is the seasonal fruit in the autumn, and the crap is an old symbol of the Emperor, personifying strength, courage, wisdow and, of course, power.


  • Religious Worship and Churches in China

    Religion, particularly the issue of religious freedom, is a very sensitive subject in China. This relatively brief section will attempt to portray an honest and realistic overview of religion in China today—strictly from the perspective of foreigners living in China—without offending the sensibilities of anyone, Chinese or Western.

    China, with a four-thousand-year old history of civilization, has a deep and ancient tradition of religion. Daoism and Confucianism date back to around 500 BC, while both Christianity and Islam entered China sometime during the 7th century. The Catholic Church found its way into China shortly after Portugal established diplomatic relations with China in the 15th century and Protestant missionaries followed some 400 to 500 years later.

    Following the victory of the Communist Party under Chairman Mao Tse Tung, China entered a period of religious repression. Several “patriotic associations” were formed to monitor religious activity and all ties to Western religious organizations, including the Vatican, were severed. However, motivated in great part by an interest in establishing relations with the West towards realizing Zhou Enlai’s Four Modernizations (technological advancement; see section on the Four Modernizations), the government began a policy of reestablishing the presence of churches, temples and mosques. A type of “religious revival” took hold in China and has continued to flourish to this present day. At least one educated estimate places the number of Chinese who report religious affiliation as far greater than those who are members of the Communist Party (ICRF, 2008), and therein lies the critical key to understanding the current state of affairs in regard to religious freedom in China. An even cursory examination of Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution clearly clarifies both the Party’s sentiment as well as its principal concerns in regard to religion:

    1. Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.
    2. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.
    3. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt the public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state.
    4. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.

    As one can readily see, there are two contradictory or opposing forces at work here (as is often the case in China). On one hand, the Chinese government, as a philosophical matter, fully endorses religious freedom and clearly supports its citizenry’s right to believe (or not believe) in whatever they care to. On the other hand, if you read between the lines, the easily discernible fear is that the government will not only lose control of its people to a religious group or “higher power,” but—far worse—a higher power that is institutionalized and controlled by Western authorities, religious and otherwise. Obviously, any institution that is as heavily and carefully monitored as religion is in China cannot, at the same time, be rationally presented to the world as enjoying freedom—especially in regard to Chinese nationals.

    The government officially recognizes five main religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism and in some areas, the Russian Eastern Orthodox Church has a presence as well. Recognized religious groups must be registered members of the Patriotic Religious Association (PRA) and are regulated by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA). According to a poll conducted by researchers in Shanghai, 31.4 percent of all Chinese, aged 16 and over, identify themselves as “religious” in which 40 million classify themselves as Christian and 200 million describe themselves as either Buddhist, Taoist or worshipers of “legendary figures” (U.S. Dept. of State, 2007).

    The government’s religious registration requirement has resulted in something of a conflictual duality, i.e., official vs. unofficial membership within each of the religious groups. For example, there are really two Catholic churches in China: the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association with about four million registered members under the leadership of Bishop Fu Tieshan, a member of the National People’s Congress, and the underground Catholic Church which recognizes the primacy of the Pope (ICRF, 2008).

    All large and most mid-sized cities in China will have at least one recognized Christian church for foreigners to attend and they typically conduct several masses or services on Sunday. You may bring your family Bible with you from home for personal use and if you can’t find a church in your particular area or if you are a member of a church or religion without a presence in China, “prayer meetings” among foreigners of the same faith are entirely acceptable and do not need to be registered. Bilingual Bibles and those translated solely into Chinese are available for purchase at most large bookstores.

    The reality is, as a foreigner in China, unless you are an unregistered missionary, here to proselytize, or plan on walking around door-to-door with religious pamphlets in hand, you will not personally experience any restriction of religious freedom: at least that has been the consensual experience of this Guide’s two Western authors in addition to numerous others we have spoken with. Conversely, foreigners who are on a personal mission to “save” as many Chinese souls as possible and therein openly defy the law by, for example, recruiting Chinese locals into their unregistered home church meetings or privately providing religious or Bible training to their students, acquaintances, and friends in their apartments, may experience anything from relatively minor inconveniences (e.g., repeatedly being denied permanent residency even though eligibility has been established by marriage) to severe difficulties (e.g., imprisonment and deportation) depending entirely on the sensibilities of their municipal and provincial police security bureaus.


  • Horse-Racing of Mongolian Minority

    Horse-racing is one of the three traditional skills of the Mongolian young man where good horses and skillful horse-riders have always enjoyed supreme credits. Therefore, horse-racing has naturally been the favorite sports activity cherished by the herdsmen in Mongolia.

    Two types of horse-racing activities were held there, namely, trotting-horse racing and galloping-horse racing. For the former, the horse would be equipped with a full set of saddles and proper-sized horseshoes, and it is required to amble forward (e.g. move along using both legs on one side alternately with both on the other). It is a competition of speed, stamina, steadiness, and posture. The latter competes for speed and stamina, with the winner being the one first to get to the destination. The riders in the competition are mostly agile boys of 12 or 13 years old. To ease the load of the horse and ensure the safety of the riders, the galloping horses are generally not equipped with saddle or with light saddle. The riders would only wear gorgeous colorful costumes with flying red and green straps on their head, fully displaying their vigor and valiancy. The competition generally covers 25 to 35 kilometers. Compared with the trotting-horse race, the galloping-horse racing is more commonly seen and of more riders with several dozen at least or over one hundred sometimes. As soon as the competition begins, the riders would quickly spring onto the horse and start their journey, leaving the audience gamboling and cheering for them.

    By the custom of the Mongolian minority, the horses would be commended after the competition if they have place in it. They would stand according to their performance and be commended with a horse-praising poem chanted by some honorable seniors. After that, milk wine or fresh milk would be splashed on the horse winning the first place to congratulate it. Apart from the two traditional horse-racing forms, new ones such as the steeplechase have also emerged, which have greatly enriched and vivified this sports activity.


  • Lantern Festival

     

    Lantern Festival, also called Shangyuan Festival, is celebrated on January 15 of Chinese lunar calendar. It is the first full moon night in the Chinese lunar year, symbolizing the coming back of the spring. Lantern Festival may be regarded as the last day of Spring Festival, the new-year festival of China, in other words, the Spring Festival does not end until the Lantern Festival has passed. Lasting to Lantern Festival, the busy atmosphere of Spring Festival on that day shows new visions and amorous feelings. Lantern Festival is regarded as a good day for family gather-together. According to the folk custom of China, people on that night will lighten up fancy lanterns and go out to appreciate the moon, set off fireworks, guess riddles written on lanterns, and eat rice glue balls to celebrate the festival.

    The tradition of appreciating lanterns on the Lantern Festival originates from the Eastern Han Dynasty, which has a bearing on the introduction of Buddhism into China at that time. It is a Buddhist convention that the monks would visit sarira and lighten up lanterns to show respect to Buddha on Jan 15. Therefore, Emperors of that dynasty, who were determined to promote Buddhism, ordered people to lighten up lanterns in both palaces and temples on that night to show respect to Buddha. Additionally, civilians were all requested to hang up lanterns on that night, which is why the festival is called "Lantern Festival". In the Song Dynasty, the custom of guessing riddles written on lanterns on Lantern Festival came into being and people at that time wrote riddles on paper strips and then pasted them on the colorful lanterns for others to appreciate and guess. In the Qing Dynasty, fireworks were set off to add fun, and the Lantern Festival by then witnessed a record-breaking grand occasion.

    The traditional dim sum eaten on Lantern Festival is called "yuanxiao" (rice glue ball) or commonly called "tangyuan". A meaning of family reunion and happiness may be felt even only from such name. Yuanxiao has its exterior made into a ball shape and white sugar, sweetened bean paste, and sesame as the stuffing. Besides, walnut meat, nuts, and even meat can be used as the stuffing as well. Apart from the boiling manner, yuanxiao may also be prepared through deep frying and steaming manners.

    As time goes by, the Lantern Festival has enjoyed more and more celebrating activities. Some places even add traditional folk-custom performances such as playing dragon lantern, Lion Dancing, stilting, striking land boat, doing the Yangko, and striking Peace Drum. The Lantern Festival, a traditional Chinese festival which has undergone a history of over 2,000 years, is still very popular both at home and abroad, and any place where Chinese people live will witness a busy occasion on that day.

    (more…)


  • Who’s Spending RMB388,888 On A CNY Dinner?

    Spring Festival is the most important holiday in China. Every year, millions of migrant labors travel across the country in order to arrive home on time for the family reunion dinner on Chinese New Year Eve. Instead of the home cooked meal the majority of rural area families eat, most families in big cities opt for a care-free food binge in restaurants and hotels. An ordinary Nian Ye Fan (CNY Eve dinner) costs anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand Reminbi depending on the venue. Recently, a special Nian Ye Fan menu offered by a restaurant in Suzhou attracted the attention of Chinese media and millions of Chinese netizen’s.

    This uber-luxurious Nian Ye Fan menu offers 10 hot dishes including endangered spices and rare ingredients like “braised supreme abalone in oyster sauce,” “braised white truffle with shark’s fin,” “boiled honeycomb with bird’s nest,” and “super grade black caviar with Toro.” On top of that, the restaurant also provides stretch-Hummer pick-up service, Suzhou embroidery and Pingtan (a form of storytelling and ballad singing performed in the Suzhou dialect) performances as well as a one night stay at the presidential suite in the Suzhou Crowne Plaza. The total price has been marked up to a whopping RMB595,160 and even the final discounted price to the public is as high as RMB388,888. 


  • Permissive western parenting or demanding easten parenting ?

    All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

    Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun." By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be "the best" students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job." Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

    What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

    Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me "garbage" in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

    (more…)


  • Zhang Ziyi declared “actress of the decade” by CineAsia

    Whatever you think of her acting, Zhang Ziyi has without question been the most visible thespian to break out of China for the last ten years and now, CineAsia is recognizing that by naming her the "actress of the decade".

    Back in 1999, the young dan actress was given the Star of Tomorrow award by CineAsia (an annual regional film trade show) and the award couldn’t have been more spot on – her international career from that point onwards has been nothing but an upward trajectory.

    Her break out role came the very next year in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She continued her successful career with star turns in Memoirs of a Geisha, House of Flying Daggers, and Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 for which she won the HK Film award for. Zhang is said to be currently working on another English-language film slated for 2011 – a retelling of the classic Chinese story, Hua Mulan.


  • The Art of Chinese Architecture

    The basic feature of Chinese architecture is rectangular-shaped units of space joined together into a whole. The Chinese style, by contrast, combines rectangular shapes varying in size and position according to importance into an organic whole, with each level and component clearly distinguished. As a result, traditional Chinese style buildings have an imposing yet dynamic and intriguing exterior.

    The combination of units of space in traditional Chinese architecture abides by the principles of balance and symmetry. The main structure is the axis, and the secondary structures are positioned as two wings on either side to form the main rooms and yard. Residences, official buildings, temples, and palaces all follow these same basic principles. The distribution of interior space reflects Chinese social and ethical values. In traditional residential buildings, for example, members of a family are assigned living quarters based on the family hierarchy. The master of the house occupies the main room, the elder members of the master’s family live in the compound in back, and the younger members of the family live in the wings to the left and right; those with seniority on the left, and the others on the right.

    Another characteristic of Chinese architecture is its use of a wooden structural frame with pillars and beams, and earthen walls surrounding the building on three sides. The main door and windows are in front. Chinese have used wood as a main construction material for thousands of years; wood to the Chinese represents life, and "life" is the main thing Chinese culture in its various forms endeavors to communicate. This feature has been preserved up to the present.

    Traditional rectangular Chinese buildings are divided into several rooms, based on the structure of the wooden beams and pillars. In order to top the structure with a deep and over hanging roof, the Chinese invented their own particular type of support brackets, called tou-kung, which rises up level by level from each pillar. These brackets both support the structure and are also a distinctive and attractive ornamentation. This architectural style was later adopted by such countries as Korea and Japan.

    Some special architectural features resulted from the use of wood. The first is that the depth and breadth of interior space is determined by the wooden structural frame. The second is the development of the technique of applying color lacquers to the structure to preserve the wood. These lacquers were made in brilliant, bold colors, and became one of the key identifying features of traditional Chinese architecture. Third is the technique of building a structure on a platform, to prevent damage from moisture. The height of the platform corresponds to the importance of the building. A high platform adds strength, sophistication, and stateliness to large buildings.

    The highly varied color murals found on a traditional Chinese building have both symbolic and aesthetic significance, and may range from outlines of dragons and phoenixes and depictions of myths to paintings of landscapes, flowers, and birds. One notable architectural development in southern China, particularly in Taiwan, is fine wood sculpture. Such sculptures, together with the murals, give the structure an elegant and pleasing ornamental effect.

    Most traditional architecture in Taiwan today traces its origins to southern Fukien and eastern Kwangtung provinces. There are many different types of traditional style residences in Taiwan, but most are variations and expansions on the central theme of the san-ho-yuan ("three-section com-pound," a central building with two wings attached perpendicular to either side) and the szu-ho-yuan ("four-section compound," a san-ho-yuan with a wall added in front to connect the two wings). Two examples of relatively large and well-known residences of these types are the Lin Family Compound in Panchiao, a suburb of Taipei, and the Lin Family Compound in Wufeng, near Taichung. In the past, relatively wealthy Chinese people would often set up a garden in the back or to the sides of the compound. Such gardens are to be found in the two Lin residences in Panchiao and Wufeng. They are larger in scale even than the Soochow Gardens in the Yangtze River Valley area.

    A broad variety of architectural styles are employed in Chinese temples. The religions of the temples vary from Buddhist to Taoist to ancestral and folk religion, but all share the same basic temple structure. With Taiwan’s rich folk religious tradition, temples are to be seen everywhere; they are one of the island’s unique cultural features. A conservative estimate numbers Taiwan’s temples at over 5,000, many of which have particular architectural significance. Some of the more famous and important examples of traditional Chinese temple architecture in Taiwan include the Lungshan Temple and Tienhou Temple in Lukang, the Lungshan Temple in Taipei, and the Chaotien Temple in Peikang. The Lungshan Temple in Lukang is particularly noted for its long history and sophisticated artistry.

    The ornamentation on traditional buildings in Taiwan is especially exquisite; it is like a comprehensive Chinese folk art exhibit. Its main elements include color painting; calligraphy; wood, stone, and clay sculpture; ceramics; and cut-and-paste art. Thus an acquaintance with Chinese traditional architecture in Taiwan can at the same time be a gateway to understanding China’s rich folk culture.





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