• We returned from our holiday last Wednesday and I just wanted to say a big thank you for organising our tours in Beijing last week.
  • Thank you for making possible an enjoyable trip for us. We learnt about Shanghai’s people, history and culture.
  • I am writing to you to thank you very much for our wonderful trip to Xian. The tour that you organised was fantastic.
China Culture

China’s Culture

Although it is difficult to categorize the culture of over one billion people in a couple of paragraphs, there are certain elements of the Chinese way of life that can be crystallized and explained.

As a nation, China has undergone more hardships and disasters over the past hundred years than many countries see throughout their entire history. From the fall of Imperial rule through countless rebellions and uprisings, China has suffered countless earthquakes, wars and revolutions, over the past hundred years. Doubtlessly, this has had an effect on the people, culture and outlook of the land.

Historically, the Chinese “mind” has been shaped by Confucianism – the teachings of the famous social philosopher who lived in the 500s BC. Among Confucius’s beliefs was an emphasis on communal living, which is visible in the Chinese tendency to move and think in groups. You may notice what you perceive to be a lack of respect for personal space, but this concept is alien to most Chinese people. Likewise, the idea of “face” is integral to understanding China. Causing a person to lose face, or be humiliated, is to be avoided at all costs. An oft-cited example of maintaining face is the dinner-table scenario of not finishing everything on your plate in case your host believes he hasn’t fed you enough.

Unsurprisingly for a nation that was closed for thirty years, China has an interesting relationship with foreigners. This can come as a shock to visitors, especially if they come from permissive, multi-ethnic societies. Don’t be surprised if you’re stared at, followed, and even yelled at in rural areas; be prepared for curious stares and mutters of “laowai” (old foreigner) and “waiguoren” (foreigner). In the vast majority of cases, no harm is meant.

Despite huge economic leaps in recent years, China remains a developing country, and you will no doubt witness some poverty if you travel to rural regions. While a safe country on the whole, crime does exist, especially in cities, so stay on your guard.

The family unit is the center around which Chinese life revolves. Respect for elders is a tenet of the traditional ancestor worship that is still practised among older generations despite the People’s Republic’s ban on religion. Lack of national social security and pension schemes mean that extended families live together, with grandparents living with the nuclear family. Deng Xiaoping’s One Child Policy stressed the long-held preference for a son to continue the family line, but both the policy and the preference are now relaxing.

Blessed with such a long and vibrant history, it is unsurprising that China's artistic output has been large and varied. From the flourishing of classical art during the Tang Dynasty to the contemporary movement that started in the early 1990s in Shanghai and Beijing, China's art scene is incredibly diverse. The nation is also blessed with a treasure trove of excellent museums charting history and culture, and each region is home to distinctive local color when it comes to music and dance.