China is among the four oldest civilizations in the world, along with Egypt , India and Babylon . In the country of continental dimensions, writing alone is more than 3,600 years old.
The wealth of ancient Chinese information stretches through art, calligraphy, cuisine, dance, music, literature, martial arts, medicine, religion, astrology, architecture and behavior.
Chinese is a family of languages of immense diversity and complexity. Chinese dialects stem from the Sino-Tibetan language, but are entirely different from each other. China’s official language is Mandarin.
The Chinese language is tonal, so words are differentiated by sound and intonation, which can go up or down.
Writing and Calligraphy
Calligraphy is among the traditional Chinese arts and started in the Shang dynasty, 3,600 years ago. It is an ancient tradition, which directly influenced neighboring countries. It is divided into five categories, seal, official, formal, race and cursive. Each style reflects a historical and political moment in China.
Chinese pictograms represent concepts
The calligraphic base is based on refined pictograms and ideograms, with at least 60 thousand characters that are still used today. Writing characters is considered a work of art that requires mental discipline and concentration. The pictograms result from different origins and dynasties.
Unlike alphabets used in the West, pictograms represent concept and not sounds.
Also read: History of Writing .
Cuisine is among the most diverse spots in China. The typical dishes bring together the most varied ingredients and can be considered exotic for Westerners. The Chinese, however, adapted the palate to the need for food and variety.
Each dish reflects what is available in agricultural products in the most geographical areas. For example, in the north of the country, the main ingredient is wheat and in the south, rice. In addition to the products, the way of seasoning and cooking food is also different.
There are at least eight characteristic styles of cuisine in China, representing 22 provinces.
Chinese ancient architecture is marked by magnificent temples. They are palaces that add artificial lakes, such as those found in the Imperial City or the Forbidden City. The construction, begun in 1406, is marked by imposing terraces, pavilions and gardens.
The climate directly influences Chinese architecture, which has kang sleeping platforms to the north. In Mongolia, the inhabitants live in the yurts, typical huts. To the south are stilts.
The traditional houses are rectangular and show the roofs with the corners tilted upwards, typically Chinese.
Great wall of China
The Great Wall of China is an example of the grandeur of Chinese architecture. It is considered a feat and is over 2,300 years old. Located in northern China, it has 21,100 kilometers distributed between valleys and mountains, and can be seen from the Moon.
The Great Wall is highlighted in imposing Chinese architecture
The construction of the great wall took place during four dynasties: Zhou (770 to 221 BC), Qin (221 to 2.7 BC), Han (206 BC to 220 AD) and Ming (1368 to 1644). The purpose of the construction was to protect the silk trade and prevent invasions.
Chinese society lived under the caste system, supported by Confucianism until the seizure of power by the Communists. In control, the Communist Party annulled the traditional hierarchy and determined the end of the classes, which, although prohibited, is lived ideologically by the Chinese.
The Chinese caste system puts scholars at the top of the system. Farmers, artisans, traders and soldiers come later. In an attempt to impose social mobility, families invested in the education of their eldest son.
Until the 1980s, different classes used the color of clothing as identification, leaving the darkest shades to the poorest.
The role of women was restricted to the domestic sphere until the communist revolution in China. Men were allowed to participate in all the intricacies of the sphere of society and, in addition to domestic life, women could only work in agriculture.
The social difference between men and women was also supported by Confucians who saw it as a property, first of parents and then of husbands. Women were also required to make excruciating physical sacrifices to remain beautiful.
Among the most widespread was the practice of tying your feet to prevent their growth. Tied by strong bandages and, at times, broken, the feet did not grow, which could impose stunting and difficulties in walking the woman. The method was banned in 1901.
Although condemned and prohibited by law, it is still common to sell women and girls as brides in arranged marriages.
Obedience and deference to hierarchy is among the most rigid customs in Chinese society. The order is to put older men first, then younger men, and then older women, followed by younger women.
Social interaction is governed by Confucianism, which provides for honor, dignity, loyalty and respect for antiquity.
Touching is permitted among people of the same sex, but little tolerated among individuals of the opposite sex. It is common to offer gifts on the occasion of the Chinese New Year, on birthdays, weddings and births.
There are gifts, however, that are not well accepted because they can represent bad luck or death. Among them are scarves, sandals, flowers, watches, scissors and knives. A gift can be declined up to three times before being accepted. When giving, it is important to do it with both hands.
China is an atheist country, considering that it is a communist state. The Taoism and Confucianism , traditional religions, however, are professed by 20% of the population.
Confucius’ extremely pragmatic teachings emphasize responsibility for the common good, obedience and deference to the elderly.
Taoism, founded by Lao Tse Tung, is mystical and focuses on the ideals of balance and order with nature. Taoists repudiate aggression, competition and ambition.
Buddhist temple in Logmen, Henan province
The Buddhism that came from India, is also practiced in China and resembles Taoism. Its aim is extreme spiritual purity, nirvana, the transcendence of limits of mind and body. Part of the population shares minority religions, they have their own gods.
Chinese poetry is considered a linguistic and visual spectacle. The classic poems express the balance in rhyme, tone and graphic layout. Poetry has marked China since 600 BC Prose is the most popular literary tradition and began to be developed in the Ming dynasty.
From the 19th century onwards, Western influence is marked, but during the communist revolution, literature came to be seen as a tool for promoting party ideology.
Nature is among the main themes of classical Chinese painters. The attempt is to represent balance through yin (female) and yang (male). In this field, the painting also represents a marriage with art of calligraphy, considered a maximum expression of character.
The graphics are also found in bronze vases used as funerary urns and in extremely colorful embroidery.
The scale of Chinese music differs from that used in the west, which has eight tones. The Chinese has five and there is no harmony. Traditional instruments are the two-string violin, the three-string flute, the vertical flute, the horizontal flute and the gongs.
Opera is also among the most traditional manifestations of Chinese art. There are at least 300 different ways to present it, with performances that involve acrobatics and exquisite makeup.
Current Chinese Culture
Traditional manifestations of Chinese culture ranging from language to cuisine resist, but adapt to Western pressure after the Communist Party allowed the economic opening to the west.
In the arts, the exit of artists is censored and the production of works that criticize the regime is prohibited. The Chinese government, however, sponsors artistic events through project financing.
One of the main symbols of China is the dragon, a figure composed of a tiger’s body, a goat’s beard, carp’s fins and a snake’s belly. Legend has it that it is capable of breathing fire, summoning the wind, invoking rain and flying. It can be as big as the sky or as small as the head of a pin.
It is the symbol of Chinese culture since antiquity. It represents greatness, courage and vigor.
Chinese dragon represented by Chen Rong in 1244
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