Chinese Culture Maria Rotoni

"Today, we live in a world with different cultures, ethnic groups, skin colors, religions and social systems, and the people of various countries have become members of an intimate community of shared destiny" - H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on March 27, 2014


China has one of the most complex religion in the world. It was divided into different periods, known as the dynasties. Each dynasty was ruled by different rulers and had different beliefs

Chinese people are allowed to have freedom of religion, however, any religion other than Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism are illegal

Buddhism is one of the major religions in China. Buddhists are respected by many and are still consistent in praying for Buddha. They reside in temples and are very traditional.


The official language is Pŭtōnghuà, a type of Mandarin. Major Dialects are Mandarin, Cantonese, Xiang, Min, Hakka, and Gan
"Chinese is rather more like a language family than a single language made up of a number of regional forms. The Chinese dialectal complex is in many ways analogous to the Romance language family in Europe" -Jerry Norman, professor of linguistics at University of Washington and author of Chinese Cambridge Language Surveys


Chinese food is famous all over the world and has one of the world's greatest cuisines. China can be divided into several regions with distinct styles of cooking. The ingredients used are based on the natural and agricultural products of each region

Northern china

salty, simple, less vegetables with wheat as the staple food. Their main ingredient is wheat, such as noodles and dumplings

western china

hearty halal (meaty) food with lamb as the main meat

central china


how a chinese meal is served

• At a Chinese meal, dishes are served one by one in the middle of the table, and you need to pick up food from the plates and bowls shared with others seated at the table with you.

• When helping yourself to the dishes, you should take food first from the plates in front of you rather than those in the middle of the table or in front of others. It’s bad manners to use your chopsticks to burrow through the food and “dig for treasure” and keep your eyes glued to the plates

• When finding your favorite dish, you should not gobble it up as quickly as possible or put the plate in front of yourself and proceed to eat. If there is not much left on the plate and you want to finish it, you should consult others.

• Watching television, using your phone, or carrying on some other activity while having a meal is considered a bad habit

• Do not stick chopsticks vertically into your food when not using them, especially not into rice, as this will make Chinese people think of funerals. At funerals joss sticks (sticks of incense) are stuck into a pot by the rice that is put onto the ancestor altar.

• Do not wave your chopsticks around in the air too much or play with them

• Do not stab or skewer food with your chopsticks

• It is consider bad form to drop food, so ensure it is gripped securely before carrying it. Holding one’s bowl close to the dish when serving oneself or close to the mouth when eating helps.

• Knives are traditionally seen as violent in China, and breakers of the harmony, so are not provided at the table. Some restaurants in China have forks available and all will have spoons.


• Spring Festival – largest festival, marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year. It falls between mid-January and mid February and is a time to honor ancestors

• During the 15-day celebration, the Chinese do something everyday to welcome the new year: eat rice congee and mustard greens to cleanse the body. Holiday is marked with fireworks and parades featuring dancers dressed as dragons.

• Many people make pilgrimages to Confucius' birthplace in Shandong Province on his birthday, Sept. 28. The birthday of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, is observed by visiting Taoist temples. It falls between late March and late April. Similar celebrations mark the birthday of Mazu, the goddess of the sea (also known as Tianhou), in May or June. The Moon Festival is celebrated in September or October with fireworks, paper lanterns and moon gazing.

Chinese Zodiac Signs

There are 12 Chinese zodiac signs, in the following order Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each sign is named after an animal, and each animal has its own unique characteristics

The Jade Emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being into man’s world to spread the message that the earlier one went through the Heavenly Gate, the better the rank would have.

The ranking story is made up according to people’s understanding of characteristics of the 12 animals. Rats – quick-witted, resourceful, and versatile people, Oxes are decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking. Tiger and Rabbit are competitive and fast

How To Communicate

Aside from competency in the Chinese language, one of the more difficult (and important) aspects of communications with the Chinese stems from their tendency to speak in a vague and roundabout manner. This can be a significant problem for Westerners, many of whom are accustomed to speaking in a direct manner with few, if any, hidden pretenses. Respect, and social prestige all play an important role in business and society, it is not only necessary to clearly communicate your intent, but to also do so in a way that your counterpart finds acceptable.

Hierarchy also factors into how the Chinese communicate. To the Chinese (as well as Asians in general), a person’s place in a given business or social hierarchy not only determines how others will and can speak to that person, but also the ways in which a person is allowed to speak to others. For example, workers must generally phrase their words carefully when speaking to superiors, especially to those which are more traditionally minded. Speaking out of turn to a superior can lead to both poor treatment, for example being discriminated against or humiliated, as well as reprisals, like being fired or passed over for a promotion.

The concept of Face also plays a strong role in how the Chinese communicate. The Chinese prefer to avoid the negative and emphasize the positive. When faced with a situation in which they have bad news, disagree with someone, or there is the need to refuse a request, the Chinese often will worry about causing a loss of Face. Most Chinese will go to great lengths to avoid this, especially when it pertains to someone the Chinese person in question cares about personally, professionally or someone who may have influence over their future. The Chinese avoid potential losses of Face simply because it is judged to be the way a civilized person behaves.

When dining together, Chinese businessmen routinely praise one another with compliments and toasts. Friends and family dining and interacting together also regularly use the occasion to pay respects and speak with one another in a friendly and lighthearted manner. Gifts are given on many social and business occasions in China and are accompanied by words of good will meant to give Face to others.

As Martin and Nakayama stated, "A dialectical perspective assumes that culture and communication are interrelated and recip- rocal. That is, culture influences communication, and vice versa. Thus, cultural groups influence the process by which the perception of reality is created and maintained" (page 95).

Own Experience

I travelled to Hong Kong by myself, and I thought that was one of my greatest experience. The people were so nice and very helpful. Communicating with people was not that hard. Yes, there were some misunderstandings but I expected that already. Some people tried to ignore me and most people that I asked really did try to help me. Maybe because I was a foreigner? I dont know. Trying different kinds of food was my best experience, it is kind of similar to what we have here in the US at Chinese restaurants but in China, they still have a lot of offer. I cant really generalized their culture because people: the way they interact, talk to people, gestures, etc; they were different for each people. The food as well. People were treated differently depending on the place. At a nice restaurant, they offered me everything, from tea before I ordered, towels, forks and spoons, but at local markets, you are on your own. They basically eat everything! Yes everything! From insects to amphibians to mammals, okay, not humans tho. It wasn't much of a culture shock to me, because I already expected it. Now, lets talk about festivals.. I have also experienced their most important festival, Chinese New Year Festival, and it was the most joyful festival I have ever seen. Lots of different kinds of tasty foods. I like everything about Hong Kong: sightseeing, food, some people. What I hated though was there were spits everywhere. Yes! Everywhere! Even the elevator, which is very shocking. And they would spit like it normal - well it is normal for them. The toilets, too! Toilets that are on the ground, where you have to squat if you use them. I have seen this in Korea and Japan as well. I guess, in some Asian countries it's normal. Overall, the experience was amazing, and would definitely go for Beijing.

Chinese and Filipino cultures are similar is some ways - that is because there are a lot of Chinese people in the Philippines and we already inherited most of their beliefs. Family wise, family is very important, especially the elders. Basically, if one is older than you, they expect you to be respectful. And, it is a must that you come to family gatherings, or else, they will call you the "ungrateful child". At work, I had a Chinese supervisor and I wanted to leave because of her. She would treat us like her daughters/sons and pointing fingers at us. I already cried because of her treatment, not just me but my other coworker as well. 5 people people already left the company because of her, and when she left everything became normal. She is about 30 years older than me and I felt the meaning of the importance of respecting the elders. I understood this since it's the same for us Filipinos, but for some of my coworkers that were different, the way she treated us was wrong. She basically treated us like her daughter who could say whatever she wanted to us. And one of my coworkers said to her, "you need to stop this" and she (chinese supervisor) took it the wrong way, hurt her feelings, and started ignoring my coworker. Like Martin and Nakayama states in the book, "Language is powerful and can have tremendous implications for people's lives" (page 227). They stopped talking, which was wrong. And since she was the supervisor, she controlled what my coworker had to do at work. My coworker was ignored intensely and she would only be asked to fold papers the whole day, even if it was busy.

This reminds me of one of the readings in the book, "We need to note here that not everyone who is white shares all culture practices" (Martin and Nakayama pg 191). I didn't want to generalize Chinese people this way, like how I don't want people to generalize Filipinos as well. People are free to act in their own accord and it wrong to judge people based on their race, ethnic group, or culture. This goes back to the previous readings in the book about Ethical Imperative. "Cultural values tell us what is "good" and what "ought" to be good. Ethical judgements focus more on the degrees of rightness and wrongness in human behavior than do cultural values" (page 32).

Fixed marriage is also common to Chinese culture and family plays a huge role in determining who and what kind of family they have to interact for marriage. I have witnessed this many times. I have a guy friend who cried to me because his girlfriend broke up with him. They dated for 7 months and the parents met him for the first time. After the meeting, his ex-girlfriend broke up with him, telling him the her family didn't like him. It also happened with my coworker, who was Chinese, she said that she makes sure that when she dates, it is important to not go for 100% because most likely her parents would disagree to the people she dates.

To me, understanding one's culture through google-ing and experiencing it for a couple times, is still different from actually being in it. The way I see it, Chinese Culture is a fun culture, but when I asked one of my Chinese friends, it doesn't look that way..

"I think my ideas are more likely biased. If I do like China I wouldn't be here" - Shu Su

First, I asked Shu what she thinks about Chinese Culture in general and her first reply was, "Chinese people are very money driven. Care about how others think about them. They buy luxury brands, fancy cars, etc. to just make themselves look good. Lack of individualism. They would do something they don't want to just follow the main stream. Selfsih. Especially rich people. It's rare to see rich people giving back to the society. Lack of trust among people. Family is closer compared to the Americans, like they would love with parents. Grandparents would take care of the grandkids, etc. The largest holiday is Chinese New Year. It's the time for family gathering, to go home, like Thanksgiving here. Parties always involve having a meal together. People will sit around a round table. And share dishes in the center of the round table. Round table is a symbol of union. Dishes have to more than enough, or the host isn't doing a good job. Food waste is a huge problem because of this, which also circles back to the point I made earlier about LOOKING GOOD. Divorce rate is high! Cheating on spouse is pretty common. Lack of faithfulness. Growing old together seems like a concept of last generation. Rich people getting married multiple times is very common. Sometimes it's a sign of success: attracting younger women."

When Shu said that Chinese people are money driven, it reminds me of the Filipino Culture. Like what Martin and Nakayama stated in the book, "...class often plays an important role in shaping our reactions to and interpretation of culture". Chinese people are very business minded, I know this because I have a Chinese boss and there are many Chinese businesspersons in the whole world, and we know for a fact that most of the products were manufactured in China. I agree to what the book stated. When I see my boss and the Chinese people around here in the US, I thought that all Chinese people are business minded, but when I went to Hong Kong, it didn't feel that way. Most of them were just doing their own thing. Dancing/exercising in the streets, relaxing in the parks, etc.

" Chinese Culture is okay. But, Family plays so much role in one's life." - Sophie Yu

Sophie Yu was the coworker I told about in the previous page. She had to break up with her boyfriend, non-chinese whom she dated for 3 years, because her family likes a Chinese guy for her who came from a rich family.

Culture is way more than just going to their places, trying their food, communicating with people, reading books, etc. I have travelled to different countries, and even I have already experienced being with them, I still can't say I understand them. Being able to understand one's culture includes being actually one of them and living with it more than a few years. Being in America half of my life still can't make me say I fully understand the American culture.


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China Highlights. (n.d.). Chinese Culture: Customs & Traditions of China. Retrieved from

Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2000). Intercultural communication in contexts: instructor's resource manual to accompany. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield

Publ.Quora. (n.d.). What do Chinese people think about their culture being so money-oriented? Retrieved from

Zimmermann, K. A. (2015, January 20). Chinese Culture: Customs & Traditions of China. Retrieved from

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