The Chinese culture is diverse as it varies from one region to another in the country. This is attributed to the fact that China is a very large country with many Provinces, villages and towns whose cultural practices differ from each other (Norman pp.5 -10). Because of its large size, the Chinese culture is characterised by many ethnic groups. Most of the ethnic groups especially he small ones the ones have become extinct and disappeared by being assimilated and integrated into their larger neighbouring groups. Others have however been able to maintain their cultural practices and are still surviving.
The Chinese kinship follows the patrilineal system where ancestry traces rely on the father’s side. This implies that the sons have the responsibility of maintaining a family’s lineage. Because of this fact, a father to son relationship in the Chinese culture is considered to be very important (Norman pp.5 -10). It is the responsibility of the father to teach their sons how to make accomplishments in life so that they can be able to take care of their families and keep the lineage going. Families that are related live in the same villages. According to the Chinese culture, individuals were encouraged to know the names of their ancestors up to ten generations.
In order to maintain some form of identity, family names in the Chinese culture are passed from father to child. This goes especially for the sons who maintain the names that identify the families they belong to (Norman pp.5 -10). As mentioned earlier, people of the same family live in the same villages, this implies that it is common to find many individuals with the same surnames living in the same area especially in the rural areas (Kiejan para 4). This system of naming implies that individuals who may not even be living in the same area but have the same surname are in some way related to each other. The naming system is the Chinese way of identifying oneself in terms of family (Ramsey pp.12-24). There also exist different titles of referring to different members of the family. For example the title used for older sister is not the same as that one used for younger sister, in-laws from the husbands side also are also referred to by different titles as compared to those from the wife’s side (Kiejan para 5).
In the Chinese culture, marriages usually are monogamous and are pre arranged between families. Chinese marriages occur between individuals with different surnames as those with the same surnames are considered related hence marriage between them would be incest (Fan pp. 95-11). Chinese marriages are also characterised by some etiquette manners which are expected of the groom before he could be allowed to marry the girl. He has to write some letters to the girl’s family which include the betrothal Letter, Gift and Wedding. It is the bride groom and his family who propose, set the wedding date and arrange the wedding ceremony. The bride usually leaves her home and joins the groom with his family where she starts her own family with their support (Fan pp. 95-11).
Because of the patrilineal nature of the culture, women pick up their husbands names on marriage. Marriage is considered to be very important in the Chinese culture. In the past it has even affected the politics of the country hence care is taken when choosing who to marry in the marriage arrangements. Polygamy though not encouraged was also practiced by the Chinese especially in the event the family wanted to get a son who could carry on the family name (Ramsey pp.12-24).
Families were also allowed to adopt in the event they did not have children or a son. This could only be done from an outside community. Individuals were not allowed to adopt from within the extended family. Emperors and other rulers of the communities usually have many wives but treated them equally (Fan pp. 95-11). This was to increase the number of their heirs. Men also had concubines but who were expected to remain subjective to the wives. These women usually were from lower status in the society and most of them were slaves.
Because of the many ethnic groups, the Chinese language is characterised by varying dialects (DeFrancis 11). Individuals from the different regions speak the Chinese language with different dialects. The Chinese language is said to have thirteen main sub dialects. The main dialects which are spoken by a majority of Chinese include Mandarin, Wu, Min, Cantonese and Xiang. Smaller group dialects include Guan, Hunan, and Dungan amongst others. Most of these dialects are unintelligible to each other but there are some that share some common words with similar meaning. The Mandarin dialect is the one spoken by a majority of the Chinese population (DeFrancis 11).
In the earlier years, there was no dialect of the Chinese language that was common to all the Chinese people. However, after the formation of The Chinese Republic in the early years of the twentieth century, attempts were made towards having a national language that could unite the Chinese people. Later the standard Mandarin dialect was adapted as the national language. Because of the difference in the dialects which vary fro province to province, the Chinese way of communication is through written Chinese (DeFrancis 11). The Chinese language being one of the oldest written languages in the world is understood by all the Chinese people thus has been adopted as the means of communication for those who can not understand each other in talking as it does not vary.
The Chinese culture also is characterized by different races (Norman pp.5 -10). This is in terms of physical character and appearance. There exist groups with different colours of the skin which could be yellow, red or black. There is some form of racism that exists based on the skin colour. Individuals from races that have yellow skin colour consider themselves superior to the other races (Fan pp. 95-11).There is exists no difference however between the other two races. The Han group of Chinese is one of the races that consider itself superior. This group which is the most dormant group and one of those that have been able to maintain their cultural practices and beliefs believe that they are the descendants of Emperor Huang-ti who was also referred to as the Yellow Emperor. These individuals have yellowish skin colour and perceive themselves as superior to the other races.
Racial issues in china only came into existence in the late twentieth century as a result of influence from the European countries that were using racism aspect to rule and colonize the regions they had conquered. It was the Chinese elite who were influenced by the western ideologies that brought racism to china. Some of the elite Chinese leaders especially those who were yellow skinned encouraged the perception that yellow race was more superior hence treated the others races with some discrimination.
The Chinese culture which is patrilineal in nature tends to favour men more than women (Fan 100). The lineage system which dictates the family’s lineage is passed from father to child and that sons are the ones who keep the continuity of the family has resulted to families preferring to have boys during child birth. Boys are considered to be more important than girls hence are treated in a much better way than girls (Fan 111). Boys are also the ones who inherit the family property. Girls are believed to be of no much value apart from the dowry they bring during their marriage as they will go to another community and enhance another lineage. Some communities do not even give surnames to the girls as they understand that the names will be dropped on marriage. Generally, there is no gender equality in the Chinese culture.
Chinese culture has no much emphasis on religion. It is characterised by three forms of religion namely Daoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, However Buddhism which came to China from India is the major organized religion practiced by a majority of the individuals. Most of the Chinese people are however not religious, they tend to be more philosophical (Fan pp. 95-11). All they strive at is to live in peace and harmony with each other and to do good to all mankind.
The Chinese adaptive strategies vary depending on where they are. If for example they are in a foreign country like the United States, they usually will change their names so that they sound more American than Chinese. (Hammersley & Atkinson 13). For example an individual called Li could change their names to Leigh. They also form community and interest groups and participate in leadership activities so that they are not sidelined when decisions are being made. Taking part in globalization activities has also helped them to adapt to new environments.
The China is a single party socialist republic. The communist party has the highest authority. Other governments such as the Central People’s Government and the provincial governments assist the Communist Party in carrying out its leadership. The Communist Party which has the majority of individuals and has dominated China’s governance for many years functions to ensure that all its policies are adhered to and that those who do not belong to the party do not get a chance of creating movements that would challenge its rule. This control is more tight and stronger in the urban areas more than it is in the rural areas of the country. It is the Communist Party that guides and controls the other political parties.
The Chinese one child law was implemented as a form of family planning in the country. The law which is enforced by the provincial governments restricts married couples especially those in the urban areas from having more than one child. The law is less strict to those living in rural areas and exempts some ethnic minority groups (Weiguo pp.301-340). The law involves monetary fines on couples who get more than one child and also denial of benefits such as healthcare and education where the parents are forced to take care of these costs for the both the children. Some couples who want to have more than one child have been forced to pay money to the government so as to be given the permission. The law however allows some families, but mostly those in the rural areas to have a second child if the first one is a girl. This is because of the value the Chinese culture has placed on boys believing that they are the ones to carry on the family name (Sten & Ola 14). This law is adhered to more by the couples who live in urban areas than the ones inn the rural areas. This is because the government is more strict to those in urban areas and charges higher fines on them as compared to those in rural areas. The exemptions made to those in rural areas also do not apply to urban areas (Weiguo pp.301-340). The one child law was in fact implemented to control the populations in urban areas more than those on rural areas hence the increased adherence by the urban couples.
The government has used very strict measures to ensure that couples adhere to this rule. For example, children who come from families that have more than one child pay more in terms of school fees than those from one child families. The same goes for health care. Some employers also withdraw some job benefits from employees who get more than one child (Weiguo pp.301-340). During our research, I found this to be morally wrong as it denies the parents the freedom and right to choose how any children they wanted. we also noticed that the one child law encouraged a lot of forced abortions from women who discovered that they were pregnant and since they did not ant to pay the fines, they chose to terminate their pregnancies (Sten & Ola pp.35-51). This was the greatest ethical dilemma we encountered because ethicists believe that life starts at conception hence abortion is considered as murder. It also is a violation against the human rights as it takes away the right to life of the unborn child. The one child law also encourages female infants to be killed as they are not preferred because of the patrilineal nature of the Chinese culture. To deal with these ethical dilemmas, we tried to create awareness on the importance of gender equality and on the dangers of abortions to the lives and health of the women (Sten & Ola pp. 35-51).
Globalization has had a great impact on the Chinese culture. First of all with the introduction of modern education, the Chinese elite no longer adhere to most of the cultural practices. They tend to just focus on the basic important aspects of the culture ignoring the rest. Practices such as the marriage have changed with individuals choosing their own marriage partners and not waiting for their parents to arrange for them. Their traditional political structures have also changed with globalization allowing more democracy and influence from outside bodies such as the United Nations and other countries.
It has also changed their economic and social activities. The developments in technology especially has made China turn to concentrate on it hence has turned to industrialization hence employing more Chinese individuals in industries and to white collar jobs. The Chinese have abandoned their traditionally economic activities and turned to look for employment in the urban areas where these industries are located. Interaction with people from other cultures has also made some Chinese to abandon some of their practices copy others from the other cultures. We can conclude by saying that globalization has entirely changed the Chinese culture especially those who live in the urban areas.
After completing our research, the best we can give back to the community that hosted us is to educate them on the importance of gender equality in a nation and the dangers of forced abortion on the lives and health of the women. We would also explain to them how it violates the human rights.
DeFrancis, John. The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. University of Hawaii Press. (1984).
Fan, Carol C. “Language, gender and Chinese culture.” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society. (1996).10.1:95-114.
Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. Ethnography: Principles in Practice, 2nd edition. London: Routledge. (1995).
Kiejan, Tong. Chinese Kinship Titles.Derived 26th April 2009 From, <http://www.oakton.edu/~billtong/chinaclass/chinesekin.htm>
Norman, Jerry. Chinese. Cambridge University Press. (1988).
Ramsey, S. Robert. The Languages of China. Princeton University Press. (1987).
Sten Johansson and Ola Nygren. “The Missing Girls of China: A New Demographic Account”, Population and Development Review 17 (1991): 35-51.
Weiguo Zhang. “Child Adoption in Contemporary Rural China”, Journal of Family Issues 27 (2006.): 301-340.