EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CHINESE LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Chinese culture is one of the world’s earliest civilisations, arising thousands of years ago. The region over which the culture dominates covers a vast region in East Asia and is exceptionally diverse, with practices and customs varying greatly between locations.

Chinese civilisation is regarded as the predominant culture of East Asia. With China being one of the most ancient civilisations, Chinese society exerts a vast influence on the philosophy, manners, and attitudes of Asia. Chinese language, art, architecture, music, dancing, poetry, martial arts, food, philosophy, business protocol, faith, governments, and history have a global impact. At the same time, its rituals and festivities are also observed and followed by people around the globe.

China’s major ethnic group, the Han Chinese are an East Asian ethnic group. They make up approximately 92% of the population of the People’s Republic of China, 95% of Taiwan, 76% of Singapore, around 23% of Malaysia, and about 17% of the global people, making them the world’s biggest ethnic group, totalling above 1.3 billion people.


Even though the Chinese are such a large and influential group, most people still don’t know a lot about them. So today we will be telling you everything you need to know about Chinese language and culture. Meanwhile, if you are planning to visit China, you will need document translation in Chinese language!

CHINESE LANGUAGE

Chinese is a group of East Asian languages that form a branch of the Sino-Tibetan languages. Chinese languages are spoken by the Han Chinese and various minority groups in China. About 1.2 billion people (about 16% of the world’s population) speak some kind of Chinese as their mother tongue.

The varieties of Chinese are usually considered by natives to be regional dialects of the Chinese language, without attention to whether they are commonly understandable. 

Standard Chinese is a regulated form of spoken Chinese based on the Beijing dialect of Mandarin. It is the official language of China and Taiwan, and one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is also one of the six accepted languages of the United Nations. Speakers of otherwise obscure dialects share the written form of the language based on the Chinese letters.

The oldest Chinese written documents are Shang dynasty-era fortune teller engravings, which can be traced back to 1250 BCE. During the Northern and the Southern dynasties era, the Chinese went through many changes and split into several variations following geographic and governmental division. The imperial courts of the Ming and Qing dynasties worked using a common language based on Nanjing dialect of Mandarin. 

Standard Chinese was selected in the 1930s and is now the official language of both the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan. In Hong Kong and Macau, because of the colonial and oral history, the language used in education, the media, formal speech, and ordinary life is Cantonese. However, the official Chinese language has grown quite important and is being taught in academies.

The Chinese language has spread to nearby countries as well. Vietnam was included in the Han empire in 111 BCE, marking the start of a term of Chinese power that lasted almost continuously for a thousand years. Chinese Buddhism expanded over East Asia and with it the knowledge of documents and books in Chinese. Later Korea, Japan, and Vietnam formed powerful states modelled on Chinese traditions, with ancient Chinese as the language of government and research, a status it would hold until the 19th century in Korea and Japan, and the 20th century in Vietnam. Scholars from diverse areas could talk, albeit only on paper, using written Chinese.

Examples of some loan words in English include “tea”, “dim sum”, and “kumquat”. Visit us at Australian Translation Services for translations.

There are currently two arrangements for Chinese letters. The traditional method, used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Chinese communities outside mainland China, takes its pattern from regulated forms dating to the Han dynasty. The Simplified Chinese character method, introduced by the People’s Republic of China in 1954 to help mass education, simplifies most difficult traditional letters. Singapore, which has a sizable Chinese population, was the second country to use simplified characters officially. However, it has also become the norm for Chinese in Malaysia.

A well-educated Chinese today knows roughly 4,000 to 6,000 characters; around 3,000 characters are needed to read a newspaper. The Chinese government describes literacy amongst workers as awareness of 2,000 characters, though this would be only practical literacy. School-children typically study around 2,000 characters, whereas teachers may learn up to 10,000. A dictionary, like the Kangxi Dictionary, contains over 40,000 characters, including rare and obsolete characters; less than a fourth of these characters are now ordinarily used.

With the rising influence and importance of China’s economy globally, Mandarin education is earning demand in institutes in the United States. It has become an increasingly common subject of learning amongst the young in the Western world, as in the UK.

In 1991 2,000 international learners were taking China’s official Chinese Proficiency Test, while in 2005, the number of applicants had risen to 117,660. By 2010, 750,000 people had taken the Chinese Proficiency Test. By 2017, 6.5 million candidates had taken the Chinese Proficiency Test.


According to the Modern Language Association, there were 550 elementary, junior high and senior high schools providing Chinese courses in the United States in 2015, which signified a 100% increase in two years. At the same time, registration in Chinese language classes at the college level had a rise of 51% from 2002 to 2015. On the other hand, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages had figures implying that 30,000 – 50,000 students were reading Chinese in 2015. Learn more about language translation here.

CHINESE CULTURE

Confucianism, which is also known as Ruism, was the official theory during most of China’s history, and knowledge of Confucian writings was the main test for entrance into the imperial government. Some more strict strains of thought have also been significant, such as Legalism. There was often a clash between the philosophies, e.g. the Song dynasty Neo-Confucians believed Legalism deviated from the original meaning of Confucianism. Exams and a culture of merit remain very appreciated in China today. In modern times, many New Confucians (not to be mixed with Neo-Confucianism) have supported that democratic models and human rights are quite harmonious with old Confucian “Asian values”.

Confucianism is defined as custom, a worldview, a faith, a way of ruling, or just a way of life. Confucianism grew from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought. In the Han dynasty, Confucian procedures were the approved philosophy while the emperors combined both with the pragmatist systems of Legalism.

Mohism was an old Chinese philosophy of reasoning, logical thought and science formed by the learned teachers who studied under the philosopher Mozi and organised it in a book: the Mozi.

Taoism is a spiritual or philosophical belief of Chinese sources which stresses living in peace with the universe. Taoism disagrees with Confucianism by not emphasising rigid ceremonies and social hierarchy. Taoist values differ depending on the precise school, but in general tend to highlight naturalness, purity, spontaneity, and kindness, frugality, and obedience. The origins of Taoism go back at least to the 4th century BC.

Chinese Buddhism has formed Chinese society in a broad assortment of areas, including art, statesmanship, writing, law, medicine, and physical sciences. The adaptation of a large collection of Indian Buddhist documents into Chinese and the inclusion of these versions with works created in China into published literature had far-reaching implications for the diffusion of Buddhism throughout China. Chinese Buddhism is also characterised by the intercommunication between Indian spirituality, Chinese mythology, and Taoism.

The Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature are the four novels generally considered by Chinese learned analysis to be the most famous and most important of pre-modern Chinese fiction. Beginning from the Ming and Qing governments, they are well recognised to most Chinese either directly or through their many adaptations to Chinese opera and other forms of mass culture. They are amongst the world’s greatest and most beloved novels. They are supposed to be the climax of China’s literary success in traditional books, inspiring the production of many tales, dramas, films, games, and other sorts of performance across different parts of East Asia. The Four Classic Novels include Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber. These are among the world’s longest and oldest novels, and they are the most studied, analysed and adapted products of pre-modern China.

Many games and sports are favourites in Chinese culture. The most popular game is Mahjong. Ethnic contests like Chinese yo-yo are also part of the society where it is played during social functions. Qigong is the tradition of spiritual, physical, and healing methods. It is a sort of activity, and although it is generally used among the aged, anyone of any age can follow it during their free period. With its blend of physical flexibility and flow, breathing system, and constant state of focus and mediation, it has also been a method to purify and heal the heart. It helps get in touch with your inner-self. Qigong has connected regular actions that help decrease anxiety and increase endurance as well as to develop some capacities of the body, such as cardiovascular and digestion.

The practice of sipping tea has a rich history in China, having begun there. The history of tea in China is deep and intricate, as the Chinese have appreciated tea for ages. Authorities praised the drink as a remedy for an assortment of diseases; the aristocracy regarded the consumption of fresh tea as a badge of their rank, and the common folk relished its taste. In 2016, the detection of the earliest identified real proof of tea from the tomb of Emperor Jing of Han in Xi’an was declared, meaning that tea was drunk by Han dynasty rulers as old as the 2nd century BC. Tea then became a favourite drink in the Tang and Song Dynasties. According to traditional myth, tea was invented by Chinese Emperor Shen Nong when a leaf from a nearby bush fell into water the monarch was heating.

Some other important aspects of Chinese culture include:

  • Paper Lanterns
  • Folding Fans
  • Folding Screen
  • Chinese Clothing
  • Chopsticks
  • Martial Arts such as Kung Fu
  • Dragons
  • Rock Garden
  • Chinese Architecture
  • Calligraphy

Thank you for reading. I hope this blog helped you learn about Chinese language and culture! We keep uploading regular exciting blogs like this, so do watch this space! If you need a Chinese language translator, we offer those services too!

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