The 8 Great Regional Cuisines of China

There are many styles of cooking in China, but Chinese chefs have identified eight culinary traditions as the best. These have set the course of how Chinese cook food and are looked to as models. Each of these schools has a distinct style and different strengths.China's eight cuisine map

1.Guangdong/Cantonese Cuisine 粤菜 Yuècài

Cantonese or Yue cuisine originates from Guangdong Province (SE China around Hong Kong), and it is the most widely served style of Chinese cuisine in the world. This is because most of the Chinese who immigrated and set up restaurants overseas were from Guangdong. Though what’s served abroad now has departed from authentic Yue cuisine.

What distinguishes Cantonese food is lightly cooked fresh vegetables and meat, and sweet sauces.

  • Names: Cantonese food, Guangdong cuisine, Yue cuisine (粤菜 Yuècài /ywair-tseye/)
  • Location: Southeast China — Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macau…
  • Distinctives: sweeter, favoring braising and stewing, adding various sauces

Cantonese Cuisine Flavors — Mild, Fresh, Natural, and Slightly Sweet

Porridge

A wide variety of foodstuffs are used to make Cantonese dishes. Therefore, it surprises foreigners sometimes. The saying “They eat everything with four legs except tables and everything that flies except airplanes” is an exaggeration. But dishes might contain snakes, cats, dogs and sea life not familiar to most foreigners. Keep that in mind when you are ordering something off the menu with strange Cantonese names.

An authentic Cantonese chef’s goal is to preserve the food’s original flavor.Unlike other Chinese styles of cooking such as Sichuan style where the cook buries the food in a lot of spices and oil, a Cantonese chef aims to bring out or highlight the original flavor of the vegetable, meat, or fruit. So little spice or sugar is generally used.

The result: The result of this cooking technique is to produce food that might seem bland or insipid to foreigners who are used to the overseas style of Chinese food where a lot more sugar and spice is used. It takes some time to appreciate the mild and distinct flavors of the meat, vegetables, and fruit.

Steamed oysters

Not fattening: Unlike overseas Chinese food and some regional styles, a lot of oil or grease isn’t used either. Neither are dairy products. So unlike creamy cheese wontons or a sweet and sour pork on rice meal deal at a Chinese fast food restaurant overseas, there are not a lot of calories in the dishes. This combined with the white rice or rice noodles that is the staple and the dim sum made with little or no sugar may leave a foreigner feeling hungry.

On the other hand, it makes for fine well-balanced meals for dieters. If you are not dieting and still hungry, the solution is simply to eat more or order ice cream for desert if it is available.

Seasonings Used in Cantonese Cuisine

Spices used: Chives, coriander leaves, anise, touches of black pepper, and slivers of ginger provide a mild tanginess that accentuates the flavor of the food. But unless the food in itself smells or tastes bad alone, just a little of these spices are used.

Condiments and Other Seasonings

Spices used: Chives, coriander leaves, anise, touches of black pepper, and slivers of ginger provide a mild tanginess that accentuates the flavor of the food. But unless the food in itself smells or tastes bad alone, just a little of these spices are used.

Steamed fishSteamed fish with slivers of ginger

Rice vinegar accentuates the flavor of vegetables, and a little salt also does. A pinch of sugar gives food a mildly sweet taste that is characteristic of many Cantonese dishes and snacks. A little sesame oil adds a mild tanginess too.

But if the food is delicious as it is, almost no seasoning is added. An example is fresh sea fish. It isn’t served raw like Japanese sashimi, but to preserve and accentuate the delicious flavor, the Cantonese steam it and add just a little soy sauce, ginger or perhaps bits of chives. Like the Japanese, Cantonese delight in the natural flavors of fresh sea fish.

Several sauces are important condiments in Guangdong cuisine. The most widely used sauces include hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and soy sauce.

Cooking Methods

Stir frying and steaming are the two most common cooking methods. But stir fried dishes are not as common as in Sichuan. Cantonese like to boil soups, braise or roast meats, and sauté food too. These cooking methods are aimed to preserve the flavor of the dishes. There are also popular deep fried foods that are often eaten as snacks, deserts, or breakfast foods. See below for examples.

Common Cantonese Dishes

These dishes are often simple and easy to learn to cook, and they are widely served in Cantonese homes. They are also the most common foods on the menus of Cantonese restaurants (see below for a menu).

Chinese Steamed Eggs are made by beating eggs to a creamy consistency and then steaming. Variations are derived by adding different ingredients such as spring onion and soy sauce.

Deep Fried Dishes

Deep fried strip

Although deep fried dishes are not the main stream of Guangdong dishes, there are quite a number of them which are popular around the region.

A youtiao (油条 /yoh-tyaow/ ‘oil strip’) is a long, golden-brown deep-fried strip of dough. Youtiaos are usually eaten for breakfast with soy milk.

Zhaliang (/jaa-lyaang/ ‘fried two’) is made by tightly wrapping a rice sheet around a youtiao (deep-fried dough stick). Zhaliang is widely eaten in Guangdong and Hong Kong. It is usually eaten with soy milk.

Noodle Dishes

Shahe noodles (shahefen /shaa-her-fnn/) are a kind of rice noodles which probably originated from the town of Shahe that is now a part of Guangzhou. They are broad and white in color. Their texture is elastic and a little chewy. They do not freeze or dry well and are thus generally (where available) purchased fresh in strips or sheets that may be cut to the desired width. Shahefen is popular in Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan in southern China.

Meat Dishes

White cut chicken
White cut chicken is made by boiling salt-marinated chicken in water or chicken broth. When it is done, the chicken looks golden in color and tastes fresh and light, preserving the best of the original taste of chicken.

The famous white cut chicken served by Panxi Restaurant in Guangzhou is believed to be the most delicious. The restaurant has received the Golden Tripod of High Quality Production from the Department of Commerce for its Baiqie Chicken. See below for address.

2. Sichuan  Cuisine 川菜 Chuāncài

Chuan Cuisine, originating from Sichuan Province in southwestern China, is the most widely served cuisine in China. The dishes of Chuan Cuisine are famous for their hot-spicy taste and the flavor of Sichuan pepper that are rare in other regional cuisines.

Flavors of Chuan Cuisine — hot and spicy

A variety of seasonings are used in Chuan Cuisine, and each dish can be cooked differently. Therefore Chuan Cuisine enjoys a reputation for variety. As the saying goes it’s ‘one dish with one flavor and one hundred dishes with one hundred flavors’.

The most common flavors of Chuan Cuisine are hot and spicy, “the five fragrances” (Fennel, pepper, aniseed, cinnamon, and clove), other mixed spices, chili and Sichuan pepper (made with prickly ash), and sweet and sour.

Seasonings of Chuan Cuisine

Dry Red ChilisDry red chili peppers is one of the most common Sichuan Cuisine seasonings.

Some of the most common seasonings that contribute to the hot and spicy flavor include Sichuan pepper, black pepper, chili, broad bean chili paste, shallots, ginger, and garlic.

The ingredients used range widely, including poultry, pork, beef, fish, vegetables, and tofu.

Cooking Methods

The methods of cooking Chuan Cuisine vary according to the texture required, including stir frying, steaming and braising, baking, and the most widely used method — fast-frying. Chuan Cuisine has good combinations of flavors and often has thick gravy.

The Most Famous Sichuan Dishes

mapo tofuMapo tofu

Chuan Cuisine mainly features pungent, hot, and fragrant home-grown dishes. The most typical Chuan dishes are mapo tofu, kungpao chicken, fuqi fei pian, and hotpot.

‘Pockmarked Granny’ Bean Curd (Mapo Tofu)

Mapo (/maa-por/) tofu is bean curd served in a chili-and-bean-based sauce, which is usually a thin, oily, and bright red suspension, and often topped with minced meat, usually pork or beef. Seasonings include water chestnuts, onions, other vegetables, or wood ear fungus. The taste of mapo tofu is fittingly described as numbing, spicy-hot, fresh, tender and soft, aromatic and flaky. Mapo tofu is easy to find outside of China. Learn how to cook Mapo Bean Curd.

Spicy Diced Chicken (Kung Pao Chicken)

Kung Pao ChickenKung pao chicken

Kung Pao chicken is from the Wade-Giles Romanization, but the Chinese name is ‘Palace Defender chicken cubes’ (宫保鸡丁 Gōng Bǎo jīdīng /gong-baow jee-ding/).

It is cooked by frying diced chicken, dry red pepper and golden peanuts. Spicy diced chicken is more popular among Westerners than mapo tofu, and is usually less spicy, or not at all spicy, when served abroad, or far from Sichuan. Learn how to cook Kung Pao Chicken.

Fuqi Fei Pian (‘Husband and Wife Lung Slices’)

Fuqi Fei Pian is made of thinly sliced beef, or bovine lung or tongue seasoned with chili oil. There is a romantic story of the origin of this famous Sichuan dish. Guo Zhaohua (the inventor) and his wife sold their vinegar-ized beef slices by trundling a small cart along the street. Their beef slices were very delicious, and no one could resist the charming smell in that street. People liked the food made by this couple very much, so they gave it the name Husband and Wife Lung Slices in honor of the couple.

Sichuan Hot Pot

Sichuan Hot Pot, like most of the cuisine in that humid and populous province, is very spicy. The broth is flavored with chili peppers and other pungent herbs and spices. The main ingredients include hot pepper, Chinese crystal sugar and wine. Slices of kidney, chicken breast, beef tripe, goose intestines, spring onion, soy bean sprouts, mushrooms, duck, and sea cucumber are the usual meats used in the dish. Learn more about Hot Pot.

3. Jiangsu Cuisine 苏菜 Sūcài

Jiangsu cuisine is one of the lesser known of the Eight Great Cuisines of China among foreigners. Jiangsu Province has the highest per capita income. Probably for this reason, the food is more gourmet style. It is very refined and presented colorfully and artistically.

  • Names: Jiangsu food, Su cuisine (苏菜 Sūcài /soo-tseye/)
  • Location: Jiangsu Province (coastal east China) — Nanjing, Suzhou
  • Distinctives: seafood; richly aromatic with fine presentation

Flavors — Marine, Moderate, and Natural

A wide variety of seafoods are eaten. Unlike most Western seafood restaurants where the main dishes include a few varieties of fish and oysters, Jiangsu people eat many things most people have never seen. The wide range of sea vegetable dishes is something healthful to explore.

Their chefs emphasize bringing out the distinct natural flavors in the rich range of meat and plant ingredients in their dishes. So they don’t add much salt, sugar or seasonings like chili powder that hide and overwhelm the ingredients’ flavors. So their meals are richly aromatic.

Ingredients of Jiangsu Cuisine

Seafood: Since Jiangsu is on the coast, the fresh seafood is the highlight. The high income means the people demand high quality ingredients, and the chefs are known for selecting the best seafood for their dishes.

Staples: Both rice and wheat products are the staples. Jiangsu people also grow various root crops for staple foods. A favorite dish and a popular snack is sweet taro filled rice balls or rice cakes.

Herbs and vegetables: The province is also known for its wide diversity of agricultural products. There are a lot of lakes and ponds in the region, so much watershield, lotus, Chinese chestnuts, winter bamboo shoots, water bamboo, and water chestnuts are eaten. Jiangsu’s comparatively wealthy people are also particular about choosing vegetable/herb combination dishes for their health effects.

Jiangsu chefs pay attention to both the season and the weather, and according to their understanding, they use different foods to achieve balance and promote health and comfort. For example, ginseng is thought to be good for consumption in cold weather, and by most elderly people.

For Chinese, food is medicine. You could talk with your guide, waiters, or local Chinese friends about your health or how you feel physically, and they’ll help select the right dishes for you. Yancheng City in particular is known for medicinal dishes. Learn more about Chinese Medicinal Food.

Cooking Methods and Styles

Reflecting the wealthy and imperial origins of the style, their chefs use very elaborate and precise cooking methods and presentation. Their cooking methods are more complex than stir-frying. They commonly stew, braise, simmer, and warm to preserve the original flavors and to maintain clarity, freshness, and mildness.

Six Main Regional Styles

Su Cuisine is composed of six styles: those of Huaiyang, Nanjing, Yangzhou, Suzhou, and the less notable styles of Xuzhou and Haizhou.

Chinese chefs think that the Huaiyang (Huai’an) style is one of the four best in China, and it is frequently served at government banquets. It is considered to be one of the four most influential regional cuisine styles (四大菜系 ‘Four Great Cuisines’). Their forté is aroma and a high degree of visual artistry. Expect food set down in a rainbow of colors at a gourmet restaurant.

Nanjing style is famous for its fine cutting and preparation techniques. The dishes are not only fine-tasting, but also very good-looking. It features freshness, fragrance, crispness and tenderness. Like the rest of Jiangsu styles, the dishes tend to be mildly sweet in taste. The excel at seasonal vegetables, freshwater fish and seafood.

Yangzhou style is renowned for fine cutting techniques, perfect timing, fresh color and original design. The Yangzhou fried rice is a favorite dish. It is much more complex in terms of ingredients and probably more nutritious than fried rice in the West.

4. Zhejiang Cuisine 浙菜 Zhècài

Zhejiang Cuisine originates from the populous and rich eastern province of Zhejiang on the Pacific. If you don’t like spicy cuisine, but prefer fish and seafood, then this is the food style for you.

Hangzhou, its capital, was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty, and the city was renowned for their wealth and sophistication. Maybe this is why the food isunusually dainty and refined.

  • Names: Zhejiang food, Zhe cuisine (浙菜 Zhècài /jer-tseye/)
  • Location: East China, Zhejiang Province — Hangzhou
  • Distinctives: mellow flavors, seafood, artistry, many cooking methods

Main Features — Seafood, Refined Artistry, Freshness…

The great seafood dishes are the main draw of this style of food. But most tourists will find the artistic refinement of the cuisine attractive too.

A wide variety of seafoods are used to make Zhejiang dishes. Unlike most Western seafood restaurants where the main dishes include a few varieties of fish and oysters, the people of Zhejiang can eat all these and things from the sea most people have never seen such as sea cucumbers and varieties of sea vegetables that you can explore.

Zhejiang is the richest province in China, and it was called the “land of milk and honey”, so the people expect some extra refined touch to their food. It isn’t greasy, not mouth numbing, not too sour, not too sweet, but not bland either.

However, they focus less on colorful dishes and artistry than the Fujianese do and focus more on serving fresh food. The food is often served raw or almost raw and is fresh and crispy and seasonal. It is more like Japanese food in this way.

The Three Styles of Zhejiang Cuisine

  • Hangzhou style is the most refined. They prefer stir-fried dishes, soups and seafood and are said to include bamboo shoots in half of their dishes.
  • Shaoxing is inland, and poultry and freshwater fish is the common fare.
  • Ningbo is noted for salty seafood and sweet confectioneries.

Sweet Desserts

Wealthy people often prefer sweet deserts, and the province is traditionally noted for sweet confections made from sugar, beans, rice, and wheat. For those in Hangzhou on the Yangtze River, northern wheat was readily available for making confections.

Sweet Ningbo rice balls (宁波年糕) and rice cakes are an example of local sweet foods. Glutinous rice and sugar gives a sweet taste that is often eaten for celebrations, festivals, and snacks. The rice balls may have a black sesame or red bean filling mixed with sugar, and flavorings might include cassia (cinnamon tree) flowers.

Many Cooking Methods — Sautéing, Braising, Stewing…

Zhejiang chefs have developed numerous ways to cook and prepare food. Perhaps this has something to do with their location next to Fujian, that also traditionally used diverse cooking methods, the influence of Shanghai’s cosmopolitan culture, and influences from abroad.

Soaking in Brine

This style of “cooking” is unusual. But it is common in Ningbo where salty food is popular. It is similar to pickling. Meat is simply left to soak in brine and eaten.

An example is the popular Ningbo salty crab dish prepared by soaking crabs in very salty brine for about 24 hours so that the brine impregnates the crab meat. They prefer female crabs with an orange roe (crab eggs), so when it is served, the roe on the meat looks like an orange sauce.

5. Fujian/Min Cuisine 闽菜 Mǐncài

Fujian Cuisine originates from the southeastern province of Fujian on the Pacific. The history of the cuisine dates back 5,000 years. Great seafood soups and the precise use of scintillating, but not tongue numbing, spices are the highlights.

  • Names: Fujian food, Min cuisine (闽菜 Mǐncài /min-tseye/)
  • Location: Southeast China, Fujian Province, Xiamen, Quanzhou
  • Distinctives: lighter, with a sweet and sour taste, using ingredients from the sea and the mountains.

The Three Styles of Fujian Cuisine

There are three regional styles: Fuzhou style that is light fare compared with other styles and is often sweet and sour to the taste; western Fujian style that features a slightly spicy flavoring from mustard and pepper; and southern Fujian style that usually tastes spicy and sweet.

The Four Notable Features — Unusual Ingredients, Soups, Decoration, Seasonings

Their cuisine is known for the use of exotic delicacies from the mountains and sea as the main ingredients, an emphasis on soup eating, precisely applying various kinds of seasonings, and an emphasis on artistically cutting and decorating food.

Fujian’s abundant natural resources mean that their cuisine is rich in quality nutritious ingredients. They’ll use somewhatexotic ingredients such as wild foods, wild herbs, varieties of mushrooms, bamboo, and many kinds of seafoods. So it is nutritious, and it is good for dieters since it isn’t high calorie.

Flavors of Fujian Cuisine — Sweet and Sour, Many Flavors of the Sea

A wide variety of seafoods are used to make Fujian dishes. Unlike most Western seafood restaurants where the main dishes include a few varieties of fish and oysters, the people of Fujian eat all these and things from the sea most people have never seen. There are various kinds of mussels including big ones, sea cucumbers, sea worms, kinds of snails and slugs, and varieties of sea vegetables that you can explore.

Condiments and Seasonings

Spices used: The Fujianese are distinguished for applying a wide variety of herbs and seasonings to flavor the food. They apply them to make the food taste good and make it aromatic. They also want to make it different and interesting, something new. When applied artistically, the various colors and herbs can also make a beautiful presentation.

  • Salty seasonings: sea salt, shrimp sauce, shrimp oil, and soy sauce.
  • Sour seasonings: white vinegar and qiaotou (a vegetable similar to green onion.
  • Sweet seasonings: brown sugar, anise, and cassia cinnamon.
  • Hot seasonings: pepper, mustard, and shacha sauce.

Their Favorite Cooking Methods

Their chefs have developed numerous ways to cook food perhaps reflecting the history of the province. The region was a haven for refugees from the large Western Xia Empire and the Tang Empire. They brought with them their cooking styles. The position on the coast meant they had contact with Japanese and people from Southeast Asia too.

They use numerous methods to cook: pan-frying, deep-frying, boiling, baking, stewing, mixing, sautéing with wine, stewing in gravy, grilling, cooking with red rice wine, simmering, stir-frying, smoking, braising and salting.

Red rice wine: Their most peculiar method of cooking is cooking with red rice wine. This includes stir-frying with red rice wine, baking with red rice wine, quick-frying with red rice wine and deep-frying with red rice wine. The “drunken” (cooked in wine) dishes that are prevalent in Fujian Province are famous throughout China.

Soup making: The people of Fujian love soup more than most of the rest of the Chinese. A common saying about their food is “不汤不行” (bù tāng bù xíng). It literally means: “No soup is not OK.” Or, a meal without soup isn’t a good meal. Soup will often mean the main beverage or only beverage at a meal.

Their Daily Staple Food

Daily staples: The area is in the subtropical rice growing area of China, so white rice is the main staple cereal. They also eat red yeast rice that is a type of rice that is coated with a red mold. This mold is slightly sweet, and it is thought of as having medicinal effects.

6. Hunan Cuisine 湘菜 Xiāngcài

Most tourists who visit China get to know the spicy red hot flavors of Sichuan cuisine since it is a tourist favorite. But in Hunan Province, the food is maybe even hotter. Their food tastes less numbing and sourer.

  • Names: Hunan food, Xiang cuisine (湘菜 Xiāngcài /sshyang-tseye/)
  • Location: Hunan Province (southern central China) — Changsha, Zhangjiajie
  • Distinctives: spicy, favoring sautéing, stir-frying, steaming, and smoking

The Flavors of Hunan Cuisine — Hot and Sour, and Salty

Eating Hunan food is fun. You’ll have a chance at trying your tongue on a new kind of cuisine. If you’ve experienced the burning numbness of Sichuan or Chongqing food, see how your body reacts to the vinegar/chili mix of Hunan food.

The many different tastes of the food partly stems from an unusually wide variety of agricultural products. Several kinds of chili peppers are grown. Citrus fruits are one of the major crops, and it lends the yummy sour flavor to dishes such as the popular Hunan Orange Chicken.

‘Chopped chili’ (剁辣椒 duò làjiāo /dwor laa-jyaow/) is made from vinegar, chili peppers, and salt. It is liberally applied in noodle soups and meat dishes to produce the sour, hot flavor they love.

Stimulate Your Appetite the Chinese Way

Hunan food is actually hotter than Sichuan food. The Sichuanese use pepper corn that numbs your mouth so the food all starts tasting the same. Instead, the Hunanese use vinegar with the pepper. It serves to stimulate the taste buds and make them tingle, so you can better perceive the wide range of flavors and the rich variety of ingredients and spices.

The numbing Sichuan food might give you a higher blood pressure/pulse rate so that you’ll need to drink something cold or go out for a walk to cool down. Hunan food does the opposite. Vinegar lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels too. So it isgood for those with high blood pressure.

Why Such Hot (and Sour) Food?

Common saying: 四川人不怕辣,湖南人辣不怕,贵州人怕不辣! (Sìchuānrén búpà là, Húnánrén là búpà, Guìzhōurén pà búlà!) It means: “Sichuan people don’t fear hot food, Hunan people don’t fear any degree of spiciness at all, and Guizhou people fear to eat food that isn’t spicy.”

Perhaps the wet hot summers and chilly wet winters drive the people to eat sour hot foods. The Chinese think that extra heat (yang) of peppers and other hot spices balances out the excessive cold and wet (yin).

Vinegar also packs yang, and along with helping with digestion, you’ll find that it helps cool your body on hot days. In traditional Chinese medicine, vinegar is used to help people be more comfortable in the heat of summer and stay healthy. It also kills parasites and bacteria that grow in hot weather.

Notable Features — Many Vegetables, Hot Seasonings, and Rice

Crunchy vegetables: Eating a wide variety of vegetables keeps them healthy as does their cooking method. They generally like to sauté with a little oil so it is still crunchy “al dente.” It preserves vitamins in food this way.

  • Refreshing summertime vegetable: ‘Slapped cucumber’ (拍黄瓜 pai huanggua) is an appetizer of cold cucumbers served in garlic, dried chili flakes, and vinegar. To prepare it, cucumbers are ‘slapped’ down to absorb the vinegar dressing.

Daily staple: The area is in the subtropical rice growing area of China, so white rice and rice noodles are the the main staple cereal foods. For example, mi fen (长沙米粉 mǐfěn) rice noodle soup is popular in Changsha.

Seasonings of Xiang Cuisine

Yang sources: They use hot peppers and green onions, shallots, garlic, ginger, spicy oil, duo la jiao and cassia cinnamon to provide the needed daily yang. Soy sauce and tea seed oil are also used in cooking.

Sweet foods: Honey is enjoyed in some dishes, and sugar is used in some dishes and candy. They like sweet food, but not as much as the Cantonese further south. Lotus seed candy is a local product.

Their Favorite Cooking Methods

Their cuisine is thought of as the melting pot of the larger regional cuisines around them. Their cooks use various ways to prepare food. They commonly boil soups or stews, stir-fry, sauté (炒香), bake, braise, smoke, pickle or ferment.

Fermentation: To store vegetables and meat for the winter or preserve it through the hot summers, Hunanese have traditionally eaten much pickled and fermented food. They pickle tofu by letting it sit for few weeks. It is then mixed with liquor, salt, star anise, and chili and fermented in pickling jars for a month or more.

7. Anhui  Cuisine 徽菜 Huīcài

Shandong Province has a long coast, so fresh river fish and seafood were always the local delicacies.

Shandong was one of the first civilized regions in China and an early cultural center, so its cooking tradition set the style for the regions around it, especially to the north in Beijing and northeastern China. Now Shandong cuisine is relished for the many kinds of different seafood and vegetable dishes and their style of frying in high heat that locks in the flavors and isn’t oily.

  • Names: Shandong food, Lu cuisine (鲁菜 /loo-tseye/)
  • Location: northern east-coast China — Qingdao, Jinan, Qufu, Mount Tai
  • Distinctives: salty and crispy, favoring braising and seafood.

Flavors of Shandong Cuisine — Fishy, Salty, Tender, Light and Crispy

A wide variety of seafood are used to make Shandong dishes, and the people also like to eat pork. An ancient medical/science text describes the people in the area as relishing both fish and salt, and the people still do.

Seasonings Used in Lu Cuisine

Onion

Spices used: Shandong people like spices in the onion family such as green onions and garlic. They include onions in many dishes. Ginger is also commonly used along with a little red pepper. But spice is less heavily applied than in Sichuan cuisine. It is meant to accentuate the flavor of the food.

Condiments and Other Seasonings

Vinegar is heavily used and so is lots of salt. The province is known for its fine dark connoisseur kinds of vinegar that some people drink as a medicinal drink. Soy sauce is also used.

Their Favorite Cooking Methods

The Shandong chef’s goal: Unlike other Chinese styles such as Sichuan style where the cook buries the food in a lot of spices and oil, the main aim of an authentic Shandong style chef is to preserve the cut, color, and taste of the main ingredients. So relatively little spice or sugar is used generally and the bao stir fry method is used often.

Extreme heat stir frying — “bao”: Their chefs love to cook meat and vegetables in a wok over a big hot flame. They make the oil boil at an extremely high temperature and toss in the ingredients for a quick fry. This singes the outer layer and locks in the flavor. It also keeps oil from seeping into the food. They usually pour out the oil after the main ingredients are cooked, and then they will add spices, herbs, and seasonings, stir it quickly, and serve it hot. There is little residual oil on the food. This cooking method is called “bao.”

Sometimes though, the oil will be part of the sauce that the food is served in. They may add flour, herbs and seasonings to the oil to make a tasty sauce.

Fried dough coating method — “pa”: Another method of frying is to apply flour to a cut of meat and then stir fry it to make it crispy. Then they add a sauce to sauté it while stirring continuously.

Soup making: Clear broth and white varieties of soups are also popular. The white variety may contain milk or cream. The tradition of making soups stems from the western side of Shandong.

Healthy food: Since the main aim is to preserve the cut, color, and taste, the style of cooking preserves the nutritive value of the food. So the cuisine is generally healthy providing you eat wisely and don’t overindulge in any particular food such as pork dishes or lobster.

Daily Staples and Common Vegetables

Steamed wheat breadSteamed wheat buns are commonly eaten in the Shandong region

Daily staples: The area lies along the border between the temperate north and the semitropical south, so both wheat and other temperate grains and riceare available and are daily cereals. Wheat noodles, steamed wheat bread and steamed pastries are commonly eaten and is the staple in many meals. Porridge made from oats, millet, and/or barley are also eaten. White rice is regularly eaten, and corn on the cob or fried corn is common. Their meals are sort of a combination between hearty and heavier northern Chinese regional food and light southern Chinese regional food.

Common vegetables: Peanuts are eaten often. Soybean products are common. Commonly eaten vegetables include tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, seaweed, and especially cabbage.

8. Shandong Cuisine 鲁菜 Lǔcài

Shandong Province has a long coast, so fresh river fish and seafood were always the local delicacies.

Shandong was one of the first civilized regions in China and an early cultural center, so its cooking tradition set the style for the regions around it, especially to the north in Beijing and northeastern China. Now Shandong cuisine is relished for the many kinds of different seafood and vegetable dishes and their style of frying in high heat that locks in the flavors and isn’t oily.

  • Names: Shandong food, Lu cuisine (鲁菜 /loo-tseye/)
  • Location: northern east-coast China — Qingdao, Jinan, Qufu, Mount Tai
  • Distinctives: salty and crispy, favoring braising and seafood.

Flavors of Shandong Cuisine — Fishy, Salty, Tender, Light and Crispy

A wide variety of seafood are used to make Shandong dishes, and the people also like to eat pork. An ancient medical/science text describes the people in the area as relishing both fish and salt, and the people still do.

Seasonings Used in Lu Cuisine

Spices used: Shandong people like spices in the onion family such as green onions and garlic. They include onions in many dishes. Ginger is also commonly used along with a little red pepper. But spice is less heavily applied than in Sichuan cuisine. It is meant to accentuate the flavor of the food.

Condiments and Other Seasonings

Vinegar is heavily used and so is lots of salt. The province is known for its fine dark connoisseur kinds of vinegar that some people drink as a medicinal drink. Soy sauce is also used.

Their Favorite Cooking Methods

The Shandong chef’s goal: Unlike other Chinese styles such as Sichuan style where the cook buries the food in a lot of spices and oil, the main aim of an authentic Shandong style chef is to preserve the cut, color, and taste of the main ingredients. So relatively little spice or sugar is used generally and the bao stir fry method is used often.

Extreme heat stir frying — “bao”: Their chefs love to cook meat and vegetables in a wok over a big hot flame. They make the oil boil at an extremely high temperature and toss in the ingredients for a quick fry. This singes the outer layer and locks in the flavor. It also keeps oil from seeping into the food. They usually pour out the oil after the main ingredients are cooked, and then they will add spices, herbs, and seasonings, stir it quickly, and serve it hot. There is little residual oil on the food. This cooking method is called “bao.”

Sometimes though, the oil will be part of the sauce that the food is served in. They may add flour, herbs and seasonings to the oil to make a tasty sauce.

Fried dough coating method — “pa”: Another method of frying is to apply flour to a cut of meat and then stir fry it to make it crispy. Then they add a sauce to sauté it while stirring continuously.

Soup making: Clear broth and white varieties of soups are also popular. The white variety may contain milk or cream. The tradition of making soups stems from the western side of Shandong.

Healthy food: Since the main aim is to preserve the cut, color, and taste, the style of cooking preserves the nutritive value of the food. So the cuisine is generally healthy providing you eat wisely and don’t overindulge in any particular food such as pork dishes or lobster.

Daily Staples and Common Vegetables

Steamed wheat breadSteamed wheat buns are commonly eaten in the Shandong region

Daily staples: The area lies along the border between the temperate north and the semitropical south, so both wheat and other temperate grains and riceare available and are daily cereals. Wheat noodles, steamed wheat bread and steamed pastries are commonly eaten and is the staple in many meals. Porridge made from oats, millet, and/or barley are also eaten. White rice is regularly eaten, and corn on the cob or fried corn is common. Their meals are sort of a combination between hearty and heavier northern Chinese regional food and light southern Chinese regional food.

Common vegetables: Peanuts are eaten often. Soybean products are common. Commonly eaten vegetables include tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, seaweed, and especially cabbage.

Chinese Traditional Kite Craft

Kites were invented by the Chinese people over 2000 years ago. About in the 12th century, Chinese kite spread to the West, and the Oriental and Western kite culture was formed after years of development. In this process, Chinese traditional culture integrated with the kite craft, and finally formed the kite culture with unique characteristics.

Uses of kite have been changed several times in history. According to the historical record, the kite was first used in the military. In the mid-Tang Dynasty (618-907), in which the society was stable and peaceful, the use of kites was gradually changed from military to entertainment. With the innovation of papermaking, the raw material of kite changed from silk to paper. Kite became popular among civilians with a richer variety of forms and reached the peak point in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Participated by the literary, the making and the decoration of kites underwent great development. Kite making became a profession due to the large demand.

The Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties, was the peak period of the Chinese kite. The kites underwent great development in size, design, decoration and flying skills. Literators at that time made the kite by themselves, and sent to relatives and friends as a gift, regarding it a literary pursuit. In resent years, kite flying has publicized as a sports activity as well as entertainment.

 Workmanship of Chinese kites

The workmanship of Chinese kites can be summarized in four points: structuring, paperhanging, color drawing, and flying.

Structuring includes: selecting bamboo, chopping bamboo, bending bamboo, and joining bamboo.

Paperhanging includes: selecting material, cutting out, paperhanging, and cutting away or adding material as needed.

Color drawing includes: composing picture, outlining, dyeing (or coloring), and decorating.

Flying includes: selecting site and weather, choosing the kite, launching the kite into the air, adjusting the line, and controlling the kite.

To make a kite, first, the right kind of bamboo strips must be selected for the frame. It should be thick and strong for a kite of large dimensions in order to stand the wind pressure. The regular paper or sometime silk is used to cover the frame. Silk kites, especially, are more durable and generally of higher artistic value. Third, painting the kite may be done in each way.

China has a large area of territory. As a traditional culture and folk art, kite has formed unique style of different regions during its development, among which the most famous ones are the styles of Beijing, Tianjin, Weifang in Shangdong Province, Sichuan andGuangdong Province .

 Art genre & characteristics of Chinese kites

The art of Chinese kites has developed endlessly alongside the long history of the nation’s cultural traditions. Each kind of kite art has its strong point due to its strong affinity with each rich and colorful historical period. The specific kite art and firmly relates with the music, dance, drama, folk-custom, and religion of their respective areas.

Various art systems and genres have formed over time. Generally, there are six kinds: Beijing kite, Weifang kite, Tianjin kite, Nantong kite, Jiangnan kite, and Taiwan kite.

1. Beijing kites

Generally, there are seven kinds of artistic sculptures concerning Beijing kites: pricking swallow, hard wing, soft wing, symmetrical swallows, board, cluster, and canister.

The characteristics of Beijing kites include delicate frameworks, precise colored drawings, naturalness and gracefulness, and a high worthiness of being viewed and admired.

Typical Beijing kites are Caoshi, Jinshi, and Hashi kites, with new types of Beijing kites having come forth in a great number in recent years.

 

 

 

2. Weifang kites

Weifang kites, during a long development period, have passed its unique artistic individuality from generation to generation, with there being innovations in many aspects such as theme, sculpture, and painting. Meanwhile, this kind of kite has similarities with Beijing and Tianjing kites.

Weifang kites fully demonstrate folk custom and vividness, which comes from adopting the advantages of other kinds of kites. Especially, in terms of the sculpture structure and painting color, Weifang kites transfer techniques of making woodblock New Year pictures to kite making and exercise the skill of traditional Chinese painting on drawing. It forms a unique feature of being exquisite in sculpture and delicate and gorgeous in artwork, which has become one of the important genres of Chinese kites.

The characteristics of the Weifang kites’ artistic sculpture and style are their carefully selected materials, exquisite sculptures, delicateness, vivid images, bright-colored paintings, various kinds, and agile flying-off.

Among all the families of the Chinese kites, Weifang kites are affluent in themes, singular in the selection of material, magnified and transfigured in design, technical in painting by New Year’s picture drawing skills, and ingenious in exercising the mechanics on flying-off, which composes its serene style and peculiar verve. It has a long history and for a long time has been famous all over the world.

3. Tianjin kites

The outstanding characteristics of Tianjin kites are the techniques of the framework and fastening and the colors of the designs. Based on traditional sculpture, Tianjin kites try to be unique, aiming to find something new and fresh in design and painting.

4. Nantong kites

The artistic style of Nantong kites can be generalized as being plain in sculpture, having a multi-tuned whistle, and demonstrating elegance on colored patterns. The basic style of Nantong kites can be divided into “fixed-snipe” and “unfixed-snipe.” (what does snipe refer to?)

The most outstanding characteristic of Nantong kites is the sound device. Various whistles, big and small, with the quantity differing from one hundred to three hundred, are installed on the Nantong kites, hence the kites’ nickname of “Symphony on Air.”

5. Jiangnan kites

The typical Jiangnan kites are “Symmetrical Fish” and “Snipe-Eagle,” both of which are traditional kites made by the techniques of woodblock print.

6. Taiwan kites

The characteristics of Taiwan kites’ sculpture are that they place an emphasis on feature and are summarized and simplified as well as magnified and transfigured.

Taiwan kites are good at soft-winged structures.

One kind of the kite figure is shaped according to the imitation of the beautiful part of natural objects. The other kind is the simulation of natural objects. It mainly has 21 kinds approximately, such as peg-top, dragon, aniseed, Chinatown, Eagle, butterfly, dragonfly, goldfish, symmetrical fish, salangane (a kind of bird), seven stars, seagull, palace lantern, flying tiger , centipede, big butterfly, big colored-butterfly, and so on.

 Main categories of Chinese kites

Chinese kites may be differentiated into four main categories:

1. Flat-Kites

Flat kites are constructed within a single plane, and are made of a completely rigid bamboo frame. Spars (longitudinal beams) frame all the four sides of the frame or of the frame segments. Most of these kites, which are very easy to fly, are flown with long tails to grant a stable in-flight behavior.

Flat kites are built in many forms and types, very often with pictorial motives from ancient myths and religious ideas, or very often with a picture of the ying-yang sign or the “Eight Diagrams” (a kind of ancient philosophy-related Chinese diagram).

2. Hard-winged kites

This kind of kite is made of two bamboo strips attached to a rectangular framework, which is covered with paper or silk to form a triangle to ensure a good wind-catching effect and good flight performance.

3. Soft-winged kites

A soft-wing kite is made of one bamboo strip. The wings of this kind of kite have rigid upper rims. The lower sections of all these wings are soft and flexible, hence allowing the kite to float in the air lightly and agilely. Very often these kinds of kites have more than one pair of wings, which are arranged one pair above the other. Pictorial motives and forms represent all kinds of birds, insects, fishes, and so on. When floating in the wind these kites give a very vivid visual flight performance.

4. Centipede kites


Centipedes are kites-trains with a dragonhead and a train of equally dimensioned kite disks. Head and disks are interconnected with one or more often three lines. Centipedes have enormous air traction power. These kites give an attractive and vivid in-flight view, especially when the wind moves and deforms the kite train. Centipedes with dragonheads are the typical form for this kind of kites and are a specialty of Weifang.

Besides the above four categories, there are also kites with no fixed shapes, but which have various motives and good flight performance.

Ancient Chinese Architecture

 

 

 
Ancient Chinese architecture is an important component of the world architectural system along with European and Arabian architecture. During its long development, it gradually formed into a style which featured timberwork combining stone carving, rammed earth construction, bucket arch buildings, and many other techniques.

Use of timber in the framework is the most significant characteristic. Later on, paintings and carving were added to the architectural work to make it more beautiful and attractive. Ancient Chinese buildings have a long history which can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (16th century BC – 771 BC). It has its principles of structure and layout. Through the long development, many wonders have been created by industrious and ingenious laboring people. Ancient architectural miracles are innumerable ranging from Great Wall, White Horse Temple, Mogao Caves to Summer Palace, Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and the Forbidden City.


The layout of a courtyard complex is also unique to China. The primary structure is located on the central axis of a court while less important structures are located to the left and right. The whole layout is symmetrical. Compared with European architectural style which is open and shut, a courtyard is like a hand scroll of painting which should be unfolded little by little. The scenery is different in each courtyard. Even in moving several steps within the courtyard, you will be surprised at the changing of prospects. Likewise from the interior of the buildings the view from no two windows is the same. Ancient Chinese architecture is mainly timberwork. Wooden posts, beams, lintels, and joists make up the framework of a house. Walls serve as the separation of rooms without bearing the weight of the whole house, which is unique to China. As a famous saying goes, ‘Chinese houses will still stand when their walls collapse.’ The specialty of wood requires antisepsis methods to be adopted, thus develops into Chinese own architectural painting decoration. Colored glaze roofs, windows with exquisite applique design and beautiful flower patterns on wooden pillars reflect the high-level of the craftsmen’s handicraft and their rich imagination.

There were many different styles of ancient Chinese buildings. All of them are unique and equally exquisite.

Imperial Architecture

Ancient Architecture

Being an important component of the Chinese gorgeous culture, the imperial architecture  records the great intelligence and creation of the laborious ancient people that had a profound influence on the design of modern architecture at home and abroad. Generally speaking, it features the highest achievement of the Chinese ancient architecture that includes imperial palaces, mausoleum and garden architecture.

Imperial Palace

The long Chinese feudal society saw the construction of numerous palaces, built to satisfy the emperors’ extravagant lifestyles and protect the stateliness of their reign. Served as the venue where public affairs were dealt with and where the royal family lived, the construction of palaces emphasized on the splendorous appearance and regular layout. From the E’pang Palace of the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC), Weiyang Palace of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220) to theForbidden City of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the scale of Chinese imperial palaces became larger and larger. Most of them are axial symmetrical, with splendid buildings standing at the middle axis and smaller attached houses located along both sides.

Imperial Mausoleum Architecture

It is another important component of Chinese imperial architecture, revealing the imposing majestic manner of royalty. Chinese emperors hoped to continue their luxurious imperial life after death. Stately mausoleums hence were built to satisfy their greed. Many were built with a sacred pathway before the tomb and at the underground palace. How they were been built were very much dynasty-influenced, especially the economy, social ideology and taste of the period then. For instance, before the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-771BC), coffins with exterior wooden enclosure were popular. The Qin and Han Dynasty emphasized very much on large scales and hence, many imperial tombs were built into an earth pyramid with a wide base. The mausoleum of Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty, Zhao Mausoleum features the characteristics of mausoleum style during the Tang Dynasty, which was to set it against a mountain. The Qing Dynasty is the glorious period in the history of Chinese ancient mausoleum as it added the idea of the harmonious unity of mausoleum construction with nature.

Imperial Garden Architecture

It mainly has three characteristics: stylish, super splendor scales and harmonious unity of human with nature. Among the countless amazing gardens of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the most significant one is the Huaqing Palace, where the romantic story of Emperor Xuanzong and his concubine Yangyuhuan took place. A number of fine halls and pavilions were erected, rows upon rows, along Lishan Mountain dotted with beautiful flowers. It is indeed an elegant sight during sunset. More functions were added to the imperial gardens in the Qing Dynasty. Emperors were not satisfied by merely living and playing in gardens. They made gardens venues for theatre-going and praying. Big and small picturesque gardens were just like precious stones dotted about. Summer Palace, one of the four famous gardens in China, symbolizes the highest achievement of the imperial garden during the Qing Dynasty. The present famous gardens also include: Beihai Park in Beijing and The Mountain Resort of Chengde.

Traditional Chinese Residence

Traditional Chinese residences reflect the national culture, the sub-culture of a specific region and that of the ethnic group within it. The traditional domestic architecture of China has five major styles.

Courtyards in Beijing (Siheyuan) or compounds with courtyards in northern China

Farmers’ Caves (Yaodong) in Northern Shaanxi Province

Earthen Buildings of Hakkas (Tulou) in southeast China’s Fujian Province

Seal-like Compound (Yikeyin) in Yunnan province

Stilt Houses (Diaojiaolou) on steep inclines or projecting over water in southern China

As well as their respective features, traditional residences tend to conform to their environment and to become integrated with it. They are expected to blend with the surrounding rivers and mountains, thus complimenting but never spoiling the natural beauty. Chinese ancestors made use of local materials and took the natural factors into consideration whenever they built a house.

Chinese Garden Architecture

Early in the Shang Dynasty (16th – 11th century BC) and followed by the Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC – 221 BC), Chinese kings and nobilities began the practice of developing forests and woods for the specific purpose of hunting. In some instances, these areas of forests and woods, called ‘You’ in Chinese covered dozens of square kilometers or even hundreds of square kilometers. Somewhere between 206 BC and 220 BC, the Han Dynasty advanced the concept of these ‘Natural Gardens’ by adding living quarters and adding animals that were raised and considered to be the rudiment of Chinese garden architecture. Traditional Chinese Garden architecture in the real sense first appeared in the Tang Dynasty somewhere between 618 AD and 907 AD. During this era, the construction of beautiful architecture evolved into what would include man-made hills, pools and fountains. As time went on, and craftsman became more accomplished, this man-made beauty was able to successfully blend in well with the beauty of the natural environment.

Chinese Architecture Culture

Architecture and culture are tightly related to each other. In a sense, architecture is the carrier of culture. Styles of Chinese ancient architecture are rich and varied, such as temples, imperial palaces, altars, pavilions, official residencies and folk houses, which greatly reflect ancient thought – the harmonious unity of human beings with nature.

 

 

Chinese Cultural Relics

There are myriads of ancient cultural relics in China. They embody rich information about history and culture and vividly display the process of Chinese cultural development. The astounding artistic and technological levels shown in shows relics continue to impress people today.

Jiaguwen

Known as Oracle bone script was the form of Chinese characters used on oracle bones—animal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromantic divination—in the late 2nd millennium BCE, and is the earliest known form of Chinese writing. The vast majority record the pyromantic divinations of the royal house of the late Shang dynasty at the capital of Yin (modern Anyang, Henan Province); dating of the Anyang examples of oracle bone script varies from ca. 14th–11th centuries BCE to c. 1200–1050 BCE. Very few oracle bone writings date to the beginning of the subsequent Zhou dynasty because pyromancy fell from favor and divining with milfoil became more common. The late Shang oracle bone writings, along with a few contemporary characters in a different style cast in bronzes, constitute the earliest significant corpus of Chinese writing, which is essential for the study of Chinese etymology, as Shang writing is directly ancestral to the modern Chinese script. It is also the oldest known member and ancestor of the Chinese family of scripts.

Sanxingdui Culture

Amid the once-tranquil village of Sanxingdui, in a quiet part of Sichuan province in China, a remarkable discovery took place which immediately attracted international attention and has since rewritten the history of Chinese civilisation. Two giant sacrificial pits were unearthed containing thousands of gold, bronze, jade, ivory and pottery artifacts that were so unusual and unlike anything ever found in China before, that archaeologists realised they had just opened the door to an ancient culture dating back between 3,000 and 5,000 years.

In the spring of 1929, a farmer was digging a well when he discovered a large stash of jade relics. This was the first clue that eventually led to the discovery of a mysterious ancient kingdom. Generations of Chinese archaeologists searched the area without success until 1986, when workers accidentally found the pits containing thousands of artifacts that had been broken, burned, and then carefully buried.

Simuwu Ding

Simuwu Ding, excavated in Anyang Yin Ruins in Henan Province, is the heaviest ancient bronze ware in the world by now, which is named for the three Chinese characters “Si Mu Wu” carved on the belly of the vessel. With a height of 133mm and a weight of 833kg, Simuwu Ding was moulded in the late period of Shang Dynasty (About 14 Century B.C. to 11 Century B.C.) with an august and overwhelming outline. It is a dominant sacrificial vessel in Shang and Zhou Dynasties, and it is presumed that Simuwu Ding was molded by the King of Shang for sacrificing his mother.

The lip edge of Simuwu Ding is very thick, and its outline is square and straight, appearing an unshakable vigor. The center of the four elevations is hollow and plain, and surrounded with representative beasts and dragon patterns of the Shang dynasty. On the side of the ear of the vessel, two feral tigers opening their mouths and holding a head of a person together are carved on it, romancing a sense of urgency in spirit to show the supreme authority of the governing classes.

A ton of metal material and a huge smelter are needed to cast such grand bronze ware. Simuwu Ding completely shows the production scale and technical level of bronze casting industry in the Shang Dynasty, and it is the representative work of the bronze culture in its heyday in the Shang Dynasty and is also an extremely precious national treasure of China.

Sword of King Goujian of Yue

Fifty year ago, a rare and unusual sword was found in a tomb in China. Despite being well over 2,000 years old, the sword, known as the Goujian, did not have a single trace of rust.  The blade drew blood when an archeologist tested his finger on its edge, seemingly unaffected by the passage of time.  Besides this strange quality, the craftsmanship was highly detailed for a sword made such a long time ago.  Regarded as a state treasure in China today, the sword is as legendary to the Chinese people as King Arthur’s Excalibur in the West.

In 1965, archaeologists were carrying out a survey in Hubei province, just 7 km (4 miles) from the ruins of Jinan, capital of the ancient Chu state, when they discovered fifty ancient tombs. During the excavations of the tombs, researchers unearthed the sword of Goujian alongside 2,000 other artifacts.

According to the leader of the archeological team responsible for the excavation, it was discovered in a tomb, in a near air-tight wooden box next to a skeleton.  The team was stunned when the perfectly preserved bronze sword with scabbard was removed from the box.  When it was unsheathed, the blade was revealed to be untarnished despite being buried in damp conditions for two millennia.  A test conducted by the archaeologists showed that the blade could easily cut a stack of twenty pieces of paper.

Liangzhu Jade bi

Thousands of jade bi, too large to be worn as jewelry, have been unearthed in elite burial sites associated with the Liangzhu culture. Variations are apparent in the size of the disks, the quality of the stone used, the level of workmanship, and the finish of the bi, yet their meaning, purpose, and ritual significance remain unknown. A century ago Charles Lang Freer acquired all of these bi largely for their aesthetic appeal at a time when very little was known of the Liangzhu culture.

Usually fashioned from even-grained dark nephrite, the most exceptional examples of bi are perfectly circular in circumference. On some, traces of sawing and grinding have been completely polished away, and the smooth surfaces are buffed to a lustrous shine. In many cases, however, the flawed stone is irregular in shape, and the disk still retains intriguing evidence of its manufacture.

Working jade is an extremely laborious process that involves both slicing and removing unwanted stone with powdered abrasive minerals, such as quartz, garnet, or corundum. Slabs were cut from boulders of jade probably found in river beds. The back-and-forth movement of flexible string or strap saws typically left traces of shallow concave cut marks. A rigid stone saw might have shaped the outer edges with a series of straight cuts. Hollow tubular bits, aided by mineral abrasives and water, could have been used to drill the central hole from both sides of the disk to avoid breakage. A tiny projecting ridge inside the hole remains if the drill bits were improperly aligned. To finish the bi, the outer edge might have been turned on a lathe. Lastly, the surface was polished with fine abrasives to create a high sheen.

 

Changxin Palace Lamp

Changxin Palace Lantern was unearthed in 1968 in the tomb built for Liu Sheng, the Zhongshan King, and his wife of the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD). What’s fine and ingenious about the lantern is that it not only ideally combined aesthetics and scientific technologies but also realized the harmonious unification of decorativeness and practicality.

Changxin Palace Lantern is 48 cm in height and 16 kg in weight. Textual researches show that this lantern was used by the mother of Emperor Jingdi (156-140BC) of the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). The lantern has an ingenious design and as a whole, it shapes a maid of honor in her knees holding a lantern. The body of the maid of honor is empty, and her head and her right arm are removable. The lamp holder, base and cover can all be re-assembled. Its round lamp base can rotate and the lighting direction and lightness are adjustable. After the lantern is lit, its smoke directly flows into the empty body of the maid of honor through her arm so as to keep the indoor air clean. The lamp holder can store water, dissolving soot from the smoke. The whole lantern looks as one integrated whole and boasts much artistic beauty. The lantern is now kept in the Hebei Provincial Museum.

Changxin Palace Lantern is of fine foundry. It is very splendorous and is a masterpiece representing the bronze arts of the Han Dynasty. It successfully presented the outstanding designing intension of the artisan and integrated lighting, air purification and polished designs.

Terracotta Warrior and Horses of Qingshihuang Mausoleum

Workers digging a well outside the city of Xi’an, China, in 1974 struck upon one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in the world: a life-size clay soldier poised for battle.

The diggers notified Chinese authorities, who dispatched government archaeologists to the site. They found not one, but thousands of clay soldiers, each with unique facial expressions and positioned according to rank. And though largely gray today, patches of paint hint at once brightly colored clothes. Further excavations have revealed swords, arrow tips, and other weapons, many in pristine condition.

The soldiers are in trenchlike, underground corridors. In some of the corridors, clay horses are aligned four abreast; behind them are wooden chariots. The terra-cotta army, as it is known, is part of an elaborate mausoleum created to accompany the first emperor of China into the afterlife, according to archaeologists.

Jade Suit Sewn with Gold Thread

As a symbol of class, jade suits were used as garments for deceased emperors and nobility in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), which fitted to the wearer’s shape. The emperor wore the garment sewn with golden thread, and kings and princess wore silver ones, while other officials and nobles had ones sewn with copper threads, which were called Jade Clothes Sewn With Silver Thread, and Jade Clothes Sewn With Copper Thread, respectively.

People in the Han Dynasty believed that jade had absorbed the excellence of mountains, so jade was put on the dead body of the deceased to preserve the body for the afterlife. Therefore, jade suit plays an important role in jade articles. Up to now, over twenty jade suits have been discovered in China, among which the Jade Clothes Sewn With Golden Thread 金缕玉衣 of Liu Sheng, Duke Zhongshan in the Han Dynasty is the earliest and finest.

This 188 cm long Jade Clothes Sewn With Golden Thread was unearthed in the Tomb of the Duke Zhongshan, in Mancheng County, Hebei Province, north of China in 1968. Composed of six parts, the hood, coat, sleeves, gloves, trousers and shoots with altogether 2,498 pieces of jade and 1,100 grams of gold thread, the jade suit has eye covers, nose stopples and covers for the reproductive organ and the anus. The whole suit was rimmed by red thread with iron rim on the trouser legs particularly for fixation. The face cover was carved with holes in the form of eyes, nose and mouth. The suit is broader in the chest and back, and bulging in the hips, completely fit to the various parts of the body.

The jade suit was delicately designed, with jade slices orderly lined and harmoniously colored, reflecting the excellent techniques of the craftsmen and the extravagant lives of the nobles. This jade suit is now collected by the Antique Research Center of Hebei Province.

Bronze Galloping Horse

Among China’s various craft masterpieces, Bronze Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow is unique with its splendid designs and is a classical work of Chinese ancient aesthetics.

Bronze Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow was unearthed in 1969 in the Leitai Tomb of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) in Wuwei County, Gansu Province. The bronze statue is a famous representative sculpture of the Han Dynasty. Wuwei County leapt to fame with the discovery of this national treasure.

Bronze Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow

 

It is 34.5 cm high and 41 cm long. The roaring horse is finely shaped in a galloping posture with one hoof treading on the back of a swallow. The posture is unique and carefully balanced according to dynamics. The bronze statue, created about 2,000 years ago, has a lively action and accurate proportions. The positioning of its four legs strictly conforms to that of a living horse and is highly praised by many local and foreign archeologists and artists. The horse is raising its head, neighing and galloping forward with one foot treading on a flying swallow.

In this work, Chinese ancient artisans combined realism and romanticism, and ingeniously integrated galloping horse and flying swallow through rich imagination, original conception and skillful craftsmanship. The swift flying swallow sets off the amazingly fast speed of the galloping horse. According to analysis of its mechanics, Bronze Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow finds a center of gravity in the swallow to give the statue its stability. The romantic image of the swallow sets off the power and strength of the horse, providing a rich imaginative experience for viewers.

Bronze Galloping Horse Treading on a Flying Swallow is believed to be a portrayal of the “heavenly steed” of Chinese legend. It is of high craftsmanship, fully expressive of the horse-breeding culture of China’s western regions. It has become a symbol of Chinese tourism and a representative work that brings forth the time-honored cultural tradition of the Chinese nation and the oriental aesthetics to the world.

Traditional Chinese Art

It is common knowledge that China has a long history and glorious history in both arts and traditional crafts. These are just two of the many jewels in China’s over five thousand-year culture. The arts and crafts are not only the embodiment of the people’s longing for aesthetic beauty for themselves and as gifts for others, but also great treasures for China and the rest of the world. Many of the master artisans have had their skills handed down via one generation to the next so that only the offspring of such an artisan could learn the necessary skills required. The result being that they are the most valuable treasures both for a family and for the nation.

Of all the Chinese arts and crafts, the most representative are Bronze Vessels, Folk Toys, Embroidery, Calligraphy, Music, Opera, Painting, Cloisonne, Jade, Kites, Lacquer Ware, Paper-Cuttings, Porcelain, Pottery, Seals, and Silk. They are not only a vivid reflection of the culture of China
but also the embodiment of both the local people, and of the nation itself.

Bronze Vessels invented some 5,000 years ago led the ancestors of modern China from the Stone Age into a new era – the Bronze Age. The bronzes produced being delicately decorated with a diverse range of designs and motifs and were widely used in many aspects of life, such as musical instruments, ceremonial offerings and weapons of war being of great significance in the history of China.

China Calligraphy – a highly stylized form of writing – has been developed by many eminent calligraphers of many different dynasties. Referred to as the ‘four treasures of study’ (writing brush, ink stick, paper, and ink slab) are regarded as the indispensable tools when writing.

Chinese Cloisonne is an enamel artwork with the primary color being blue. It is renowned for its use of high-quality material, complex manufacturing process and its use of bright and vivid colors.

Chinese Jade has a history of four thousand years. Jade symbolizes merit, grace and dignity and occupies a special position in people’s consciousness. It is used both to decorate rooms, and as jewelry by people hoping for a blessing.


Chinese Embroidery originated in the Shang Dynasty (16th – 11th century BC), and now has four major traditional styles: Su, Shu, Xiang, and Yue. It is also an accomplished skill for the ethnic minority groups such as the Bai, Bouyei and Miao.

Folk Toys are items that have a long history and a combination of artistic appreciation and playful enjoyment, and endowed with numerous meanings that express the people’s wish for a happy and contented life.


Chinese Kites being delicately made of paper and bamboo have numerous shapes such as swallow, centipede, butterfly etc. Regarded as an artistic marvel, the kite makers’ skill in both painting and in the design of the kites’ flexible flying movement are well renowned.

Lacquer Ware first appeared some 7,000 years ago with the primary colors being black and red. It is of various types and has a wide range of uses that makes it favored by people throughout the entire world.

Chinese Lanterns are to some extent the symbol of the country’s extensive festival culture. With long history and interesting traditions, lanterns now have abundant variations, decorating many festive occasions.


China Music dates back to between 7,000 and 8,000 years ago. Featured with unique melodies within different  dynasties and accompanied with  traditional musical instruments.

Chinese Opera is recognized as one of the three oldest dramatic art forms in the world. It is a combination of music, art and literature and is characterized by the unique facial make-up, excellent acrobatics and has many different regional variations.

Chinese Painting is divided into three genres – figures, landscapes, and birds-and-flowers and each type has its distinctive characteristics. In addition, difficult skills are required to the painters.

Paper-Cuttings is diversified patterns cut into red paper with scissors. Different patterns such as monkey, flowers and figures can be cut vividly and perfectly by some female artisans in rural areas. People paste paper-cuttings onto their windows and other places to express their hopes and wishes.

Chinese Porcelain derived from the Shang Dynasty (16th – 11th century BC). It is characterized with fine texture, bright colors, and distinctive shapes and styles. Jingdezhen, located in Jiangxi Province is the Porcelain Capital of the world and attracts countless people from near and far to appreciate, and buy the choicest porcelain around.

Chinese Pottery has a history of over 8,000 years and known as the oldest artwork of human beings. The accomplishments in pottery works can be seen from Terra Cotta Warriors, in Xian, Shaanxi Province, and the Tricolor Glazed pottery of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) and so on.

China Seals can be made of metal, jade, animal tooth or horn and caved with characters. It is a combination of calligraphy and engraving that people cherished in the old times and likes nowadays.

Shadow Puppetry is the general name for shadow play and the theatrical property used in the play.  All of the vivid shadow puppets, including the figures and the scenes, are plane and made from leather. The shadows of these puppets are projected on to a white screen; meanwhile artists operate the puppets behind the screen to finish this traditional form of play. As a bright pearl of the
Chinese folk art, shadow puppetry has a history of more than 2,000 years. Now it is still very popular. The delicate puppets are favored by tourists as souvenirs.

China Silk: China is the birthplace of silk. Sericulture (the raising of silkworms for silk production) has a history of over 6,000 years. Legend has it that Lady Hsi-Lin-Shih (wife of the Yellow Emperor Huangdi) was having tea under a mulberry tree when a cocoon fell into her cup. As she watched, the cocoon spun a strong white thread. She unwound the strand onto her finger, realizing that it could be used as weaving thread. Thus an industry was born. She taught her people how to raise silkworms, and later invented the loom. Silk production reached a high level of craftsmanship during  the Shang Dynasty (1600BC-1046BC).

For more than two thousand years, the Chinese kept the secret of silk to themselves. It was one of the most zealously guarded secrets in history. Anyone found guilty of smuggling silkworm eggs, cocoons, or mulberry seeds was put to death. Silk garments were worn by emperors and royalties and became an indication of wealth. Common people were prohibited from wearing silk. With increased travels and trading, sericulture slowly reached the outside world, first to Korea, then to Japan, India and finally Europe.

Science and Technology of Ancient China

China’s long history has seen many extremely important inventions emerge. Besides the four most famous inventions – papermaking, moveable-type printing, gunpowder and the compass, how many other creations do you know?

Alcohol

The earliest alcohol makers in Chinese legend were Yi Di and Du Kang of the Xia Dynasty (about 2000 BC-1600 BC). [hudong.com]

The earliest alcohol makers in Chinese legend were Yi Di and Du Kang of the Xia Dynasty (about 2000 BC-1600 BC). Research shows that ordinary beer, with an alcoholic content of 4% to 5%, was widely consumed in ancient China and was even mentioned on oracle bone inscriptions as offerings to spirits during sacrifices in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC–1046 BC). After that, Chinese discovered that adding more cooked grain in water during fermentation could increase the alcohol content, so stronger drinks began to appear. Around 1000 BC, the Chinese created an alcoholic beverage which was stronger than 11%. The potent libation was mentioned in poetry throughout the Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC–256 BC). Meanwhile, no beer in the West reached 11% until the 12th century, when distilled alcohol was first made in Italy.

Mechanical ClockA sundial is an ancient instrument that measures time by the position of the sun. [haokanbu.com]

The mechanical clock is an invention we all use today. According to historical research, the world’s first clock was invented by Yi Xing, a Buddhist monk and mathematician of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Yi’s clock operated with water steadily dripping on a wheel that made a full revolution every 24 hours. As time went on, clocks were made with an iron and bronze system of hooks, pins, locks and rods, but still followed Yi Xing’s clock design. Hundreds of years later, Su Song, an astronomer and mechanist of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), created a more sophisticated clock, making him the ancestor of the modern clock.

Tea ProductionDuring the Tang and Song dynasties, tea became a popular drink around the country and the world. [nipic.com]

According to Chinese legend, tea was first drunk by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong around 2,737 BC. Then, an unknown Chinese inventor created the tea shredder, a small device that used a sharp wheel in the center of a ceramic or wooden pot that would slice the leaves into thin strips. During the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties, tea production developed rapidly, and tea became a popular drink around the country and the world. Cha Jing, written by Lu Yu in the Tang Dynasty, is widely recognized as the world’s first scientific work about tea production.

SilkIt is Chinese people that invented how to harvest the silk and use it in clothing and paper thousands years ago. [xinhuanet.om]

It is silkworms that naturally create silk, however, it is Chinese people that invented how to harvest the silk and use it in clothing and paper thousands years ago. The oldest silk, which was found in Henan Province, came from the Chinese Neolithic period and dates to around 3,630 BC. Silk excavated from the Liangzhu culture site in Zhejiang Province date to roughly 2570 BC. In ancient China, silk was not only a vital invention for life but also a bridge connecting China to the outside world. The 2,000-year-old Silk Road is still an important path for cultural, commercial and technological exchange between East and West.

Iron and steel smelting

It has been confirmed by archaeological evidence that iron, made from melting pig-iron, was developed in ancient China in the early 5th century BC during the Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC-256 BC). During the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC) to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC-256 BC), China went into a flourishing period for steel smelting. In the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), private-enterprise iron-making was abolished and was monopolized by the state, creating an iron-smelting bloom. The first famous metallurgist in ancient China is Qiwu Huaiwen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557 AD), who invented the process of using wrought iron and cast iron to make steel.

Porcelain

Porcelain is a very specific kind of ceramic produced in the extreme temperatures of a kiln. Porcelain, of course, originated in China; which is how China gets its name. Early in the 16th century BC during the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC), the ancient prototypes of porcelain had already appeared in China. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the skill of making porcelain was perfected, while in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the art of Chinese porcelain reached its peak and became popular and famous throughout the world. In 1708, the German Physicist Tschirnhausen invented European porcelain, thus ending the Chinese porcelain monopoly.

CompassThe earliest Chinese compasses were originally invented to harmonize environments and buildings in accordance with the geometric principles of Feng Shui. [nipic.com]

The earliest Chinese compasses were probably not originally invented for navigation, but to harmonize environments and buildings in accordance with the geometric principles of Feng Shui. It is proved that the earliest Chinese reference recording a magnetic device used as a “direction finder” is in a Song Dynasty book dated during from 960 to1279. The earliest record about the actual use of a magnetized needle for navigation is Zhu Yu’s book Pingzhou Table Talks, written in 1102. The invention of compass greatly improved the safety and efficiency of travel, especially oceanic navigation.

Gunpowder

Gunpowder, known since the late 19th century as black powder, is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal and potassium nitrate. Because it burns rapidly and generates a large amount of heat and gas, gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms and as a pyrotechnic composition in fireworks. In ancient China, gunpowder and gunpowder-based weapons were invented and widely used by military forces to dispel invasion at the borders. The prevailing academic consensus is that gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality. Wujing Zongyao, written by Zeng Gongliang and Ding Du in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), is the earliest treatise recording three formulas for making gunpowder.

Movable-type printing

Bi Sheng of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) invented movable clay type printing. [coinsky.com]

The Chinese invention of Woodblock printing first appeared over 2,000 years ago, and produced the world’s first printings. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Chinese began to print with carved blocks. Then in the 1040s, Bi Sheng of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) invented movable clay type printing, which marked a beginning of a major revolution in the history of printing. Bi’s printing consisted of four processes: making the types, composing the text, printing and retrieving the movable types. After that, Wang Zhen of the Northern Song Dynasty and Hua Sui of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) invented wooden and metal movable-type printing. All later printing methods such as wooden-type, copper-type and lead-type printing invariably were developed on the basis of Bi Sheng’ idea.

PapermakingCai Lun of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) successfully invented the world's first batch of paper using fish nets, tree bark, bits of rope and rags. [xinhuanet.com]

It is known to all that China was the first country in the world to make proper paper. The invention of papermaking is one of China’s significant contributions to the spread and the development of human civilization. According to research, paper was first made during the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC-9 AD). Cai Lun of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) successfully invented the world’s first batch of paper using fish nets, tree bark, bits of rope and rags.

Before paper was invented, the ancient Chinese carved characters on pottery, animal bones and stones, cast them in bronzes, or wrote them on bamboo or wooden strips and silk fabric. These materials, however, were either too heavy or two expensive for widespread use. The invention and use of paper brought a revolution in writing and paved the way for the invention of printing technology.

Ancient Literature

Literature is the most dynamic and splendid part of Chinese culture. Throughout the long history, Chinese ancient literature has embodied the underlying spirits of Chinese culture, reflected the Chinese people’s pursuit for esthetics and faith for ideal society, and moreover, demonstrated the distinctive Chinese character.

远古神话 Ancient Mythology

China — the Middle Kingdom — is an ancient country full of mystery and paradox. Although hard-working and down-to-earth, the Chinese people have always had a streak of poetry in their souls. Only the Chinese could mix sublime philosophy and mindless paperwork and get away with it.

With a recorded history reaching back practically to the Big Bang, China has had plenty of time to perfect its pantheons. Over the aeons, primitive folk religion absorbed sophisticated ideas — the common sense of Confucious (Kongzi), the ritual and magic of Daoism, the sublime spirituality of Buddhism — to produce a stir-fry mix of Gods for all occasions. You certainly get value for money with China.

One thing we love about Chinese mythology is its sense of humor. For every starched civil servant in Heaven there’s a mocking fable or unexpected pun. Most Chinese Gods and Goddesses are deified humans — which means they’re as prone to mistakes as we are. But rather than airbrush out the embarrassments, China revels in them. We suspect that even the JADE-EMPEROR, the stern-faced Ruler of Heaven, sometimes has trouble keeping a straight face.

What makes Chinese Gods more inscrutable than most to the Western eye is the transliteration problem. Written Chinese consists of symbols; little pictures illustrating an idea or a thing. One Chinese character can mean a whole phrase in English. This presents a problem for Westerners. (How do you pronounce a picture of a tree?)

For most of the 20th Century, Chinese was translated into english using the Wade-Giles system. This was a reasonable attempt to transcribe Chinese sounds into english words – but had a number of peculiarities. For example, the sound ‘dao’ is spelt tao, and ‘tao’ is spelt t’ao. Omitting that little apostrophe causes much confusion.

The Wade-Giles system has now been officially replaced by Pinyin, which represents the sounds somewhat more accurately. However the old spellings are still very much alive, so we have included these as variants to make it easier for you to track down those elusive Gods. We have also added a pronunciation guide to Chinese names — a Godchecker exclusive.

Traditional Vertures

Over thousands of years of history, the Chinese have created a brilliant history and culture, and at the same time have formed their own moral code that has played an important role in social development and progress. This is what we call traditional virtues, which still have great significance today and whose value to the development of human civilization is now widely recognized.

孝敬父母 Filial Virtue

The Classic of Filial Piety (4).jpg
Scene from the Song Dynasty Illustrations of the Classic of Filial Virtue (detail), depicting a son kneeling before his parents

Respecting and taking care of the aged parents is regarded as an obligatory duty in China. Chinese people believe that only those who are concerned with and practice filial devotion tot their parents would be honest, faithful, and be grateful to others and seek ways to return their kindness.

There are many stories which show the filial respect in ancient China. “Taste Liquid Medicine for Mother” is the most famous one of them.

The story of “Taste Liquid Medicine for Mother” tells us the filial virtue of Han Wendi. His mother had been sick for three years. He often stayed up by her bedside and nursed her day and night.

He tasted the liquid medicine first before giving to her. (Chinese people take herbal medicine prescribed by Chinese doctors. Herbs are boiled with water to make a liquid medicine. Before giving such medicine to his mother, Han Wendi first tasted it to ensure it was not too hot or too bitter.)

Han Wendi was on throne for 24 years. He governed the country with morals, advocated rites and etiquette, and paid great attention to agricultural development. As a result, the Western Han became a stable and prosperous society. The economy was resumed and developed. This period is known as the “Peace and Prosperity During the Reign of Emperors Wen and Jing” in history.

Thought there are some parts of imagination in these stories, Chinese people are deeply influenced and transformed by these models of filial virtue.

尊老爱幼 To Respect the Aged and Love the Young

Respecting the aged and loving the young is a traditional Chinese virtue. For thousands of years, people have always considered it a social responsibility and behavioral norm.

The tradition of respecting the old and loving the young has been carried forward in modern times. At present, the aged and the young in China have their own holidays: Elders’ Day and Children’s Day. The government has promulgated specific laws to protect women and children; and the law also stipulates in explicit terms that Chinese citizens have the obligation to support parents and rear children.

岁寒三友 Three Friends in Cold Weather

Pine, bamboo, and plum have always been regarded by Chinese people as the most beloved plants because they all thrive thought the cold winter days, just like friends who cherish the same ideas welcoming the advent of the spring together. For this every reason, they are called “Three Friends in Cold Winter”, symbolizing the noble characters esteemed and pursued by Chinese people.

Pines are ever-green trees with strong vitality. They flourish even in cold winter, for this very reason they are honored with a character of strong will. However, they are more generally regarded as the symbol of longevity among the masses.

When the day of Cold Dew arrivers, many plants are withered, while bamboo survives and flourishes as usual in the cold wind. Because bamboo has hollow joints and is upstanding, it is gifted with characters of inflexibility and modesty and is honored as a “gentleman”.

Wile Chinese have the folk custom of firing the bamboo cracker to break away from the cold and evil, bamboo is also regarded as the symbol for security and auspice, as shown in the traditional decorative paintings.

The plum is one kind of the famous flowers of China. They are appreciated for their nobleness, purity and modesty which encourage people to improve themselves. Therefore, they have always been cherished and extolled by Chinese poets in the past.

Plums are also characterized as the advent of good news. Stories about plum and its meaning have been widespread for a long time.

诚实守信 Integrity and Credit

Integrity means righteousness, word being true to action, keeping one’s word and never cheating others. “To be always true in word and resolute in deed”, “What is said cannot be unsaid”, these are the old sayings that lasted for generations, which depicted a good picture of Chinese people with integrity and keeping their word. For thousands of years, these qualities have been honored and practiced diligently by people.

尊师重教 To Respect Teachers and Value Education

It has been a long-standing tradition to value education and respect teachers in China. From ancient times, education has been paid much attention to by the Chinese people.

Since education is so highly respected in China, men of knowledge would have a higher social status and be esteemed by other people. There is an old saying that to be a scholar is to be the top of society, which show the important position of education in the mind of people.

Respect for education has determined the status of teacher. There are a lot of saying that show respect towards teachers, for example, “A teacher for a day is a father for a lifetime”. For a long time, the position of teacher was honored by both the masses and the emperors.

In the temple of Confucius in Beijing, many emperors in the Qing Dynasty had written inscriptions to show their appreciation to Master Confucius.

In China, the honor shown to teachers is displayed in every aspect of social life. The teacher is always called sir or mentor. Nowadays, September the tenth is designed to be the Teachers’ Day.

Folks Customs

The Chinese life is colorful with many interesting folkways. China has its unique culture, which shows the Chinese’s wish for a happy and lucky life.

中国人的姓名 Names of Chinese People

The surnames of the Chinese people appeared during the matriarchal society, when clans were constituted with mothers at the center. And clans distinguished themselves from each other by using the name.

In China, the surname comes first, and is followed by the given name, and the latter has its own traditions and features. It can have one or two characters.

Chinese names usually have a certain meaning, expressing some kind of wishes. Some names embody the location, time or natural phenomenon when the person was born. Some names indicate the expectation of possessing some virtues. Some names have the meaning of health, longevity and happiness.

Male’s names are different from female ones: men’s names usually have the character meaning power and vigor. And the names of females usually use characters representing gentleness and beauty.

Today, the Chinese do not pay as much attention to naming, as did ancient folk. Generally, a person has an infant name and an official one, and the given names are not necessarily arranged in the order of the seniority in the family hierarchy. However, it is still the Chinese people’s wish to give their children a name which sounds good and meaningful.

十二属相 Twelve Symbolic Animals

It is traditional in China, when a person is born, one animal is used to symbolize this year. Shuxiang, also called Shengxiao (any of the 12 animals representing the Earthly Branches), is a traditional way in China to number the years and to record a person’s age.

Even though the Chinese people now number the years and their age under the Gregorian calendar,they still continue to use the symbolic animals.

吉祥图案 Images of Blessing

There are many images which are meant to give good blessing in China. In the festivals or celebrations, people like decorating their houses and devices, for the blessing of a happy life and to celebrate the festivals.

The images of blessing in China started in the Zhou Dynasty around 3000 years ago. Until today, the images of blessing are still an important content of the Chinese life.

Shuangxi – double happiness. It means happiness and luck. It is normally used in weddings.
Fushou shuangquan – luck and health. It has the image of a bat and the word shou. In Chinese, the pronunciation of the bat is similar to that of luck, therefore it has the meaning of luck and long life.

 

.

 

 

Shou – longevity. It has been designed and prettified to be symmetrical, which means health and long life.
Wufu penshou – Five bats bring long life. There are five bats surrounding the word shou. Taking the pronunciation of the word bat, it means five different kinds of good aspects: long life, wealth, health, virtue, and happy end.

Table of Chinese Traditional Festivals

Festival
Date
Customs
Chinese New Year 1st – 15th of the first lunar month pasting scrolls, the character ‘Fu’, and paper-cuts pictures, setting-off firecrackers and fireworks, paying New Year visits, and eating jiaozi.
Lantern Festival 15th day of the first lunar month watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing lantern riddles, performing folk dances, and eating yuanxiao.
Qingming Festival April 4th or 5th of the solar calendar tomb sweeping, spring outings, and flying kites.
Dragon Boat Festival 5th day of the 5th lunar month dragon boat racing, eating zongzi, wearing a perfume pouch and tying five-colour silk thread, and hanging mugwort leaves and calamus.
Double Seventh Festival 7th day of seventh lunar month praying for skillful hands, appreciating the stars, and eating noodles, jiaozi, and wontons.
Mid-autumn Festival 15th day of the 8th lunar month appreciating and offering sacrifice to the moonlight and eating moon cakes.
Chongyang Festival 9th day of the 9th lunar month eating Chongyang cake, drinking chrysanthemum wine, climbing mountains and appreciating beautiful chrysanthemums.
Winter Solstice Dec. 21st, 22nd or 23rd in solar calendar having dumplings in northern areas and having sticky puddings in southern areas
Laba Festival 8th day of the 12th lunar month eating laba rice porridge.

二十四节气 The 24 Seasonal Division Points

24 solar terms mapThe 24 solar terms, based on the sun’s position in the zodiac, were created by farmers in ancient China to guide the agricultural affairs and farming activities. The 24 solar terms reflect the changes in climate, natural phenomena, agricultural production, and other aspects of human life, including clothing, food, housing, and transportation. The 24 solar terms play important roles and have greatly influenced people’s basic needs in life, and they still have an important function nowadays.

The terms consist of 12 pairs of major (sectional) and minor (middle) solar terms interlaced with each other., namely the 24 solar terms embody a complete circle of the sun and divide the circle into 24 segments, with each segment being about half a month long. In both the lunar and solar calendars, the Gregorian calendar date of each solar term is basically fixed, with minor differences of within one or two days.

Traditional Chinese Ideology

This semester I was really exited to enroll in World 203. This class is titled Exploring Chinese Culture. I was anxious to be able to learn and expand my understanding of different cultures.

The fist topic we come across in this class was the Traditional Ideology of the Chinese.  We learned that compared to us westerners, Chinese pay much more attention to harmonious relation between human beings and nature. One very familiar statement of their traditional ideology is”Nature and Man are one.” Also much emphasis is laid upon individual moral cultivation and temper refinement as well as the spiritual enlightenment rather than upon logic reasoning.

This holistic system of thoughts composed of Confucianism , Taoism, as well as Buddhism have influenced China for thousands of years shaping the traditional Chinese ideology.

Confucius Tang Dynasty.jpg

孔子 Confucius (551 BC-479BC)

He was a great thinker, educator in the late Spring and Autumn Period o Chinese history. And the founder of Confucianism.

He was a descendant of a noble family who descended from royals. When he was child his father died and resulted in his family declining the social ladder. But Confucius maintained focus and studied very hard. He would go on to travel and instruct disciples, 3000 of them before he passed away.  Many of his disciples were from poor families defying tradition only nobilities had the right to receive education.

Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. His followers competed successfully with many other schools during the Hundred Schools of Thought era only to be suppressed in favor of the Legalists during the Qin Dynasty. Following the victory of Han over Chu after the collapse of Qin, Confucius’s thoughts received official sanction and were further developed into a system known as Confucianism.

Confucius’s principles had a basis in common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor worship, respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives. He also recommended family as a basis for ideal government. He espoused the well-known principle “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”, the Golden Rule

老庄与道家思想 Laozi, Zhuangzi and Taoism

The founder of Taoism was Laozi. He lived in the later years of the Spring and Autumn Period, and worked as an archivist in the Imperial Library of the Zhou’s court. His masterpiece Tao Te Ching (The book of the Way and Its Virtue) had a significant impact upon the thoughts of later generations. Laozi applied “Tao” to elucidating the origin and evolvement of the universe. Moreover, Laozi maintained that the characters and law of “Tao” could be applied to guide people’s thinking and behavior, which should be in conformance with the nature. Laozi believed that what appears soft and weak can actually defeat what is hard and strong, inasmuch as what looks fragile is hard in nature.

Proficient in the philosophy of Laozi, Zhuangzi was an inheritor and promoter of Taoism. In the book bearing his name, Zhuangzi succeeded to and developed Laozi’s viewpoint that “Tao is defined by nature”, and claimed that everything exterior can be equated with self, and life and death are equal. What Zhuangzi had been pursuing is a spiritual realm of absolute freedom. Since there are so many similarities between Laozi and Zhuangzi in terms of thinking, descendants usually mentioned them comparably.

Hanshan Deqing, a leading Buddhist monk of the Ming Dynasty

佛学思想 Buddhism

As early as in the Han Dynasty, Buddhism, originated from ancient India, had been introduced to China. During its development in China, Buddhism had to constantly adapt itself to the actural conditions in China so as to become one of the most important religions in China and to deeply influence upon thought and living habits of the majority of Chinese.

The Sui and Tang dynasties are the important periods for the localization of Buddhism in China. In this period, with the unity of country, the development of the economy and the more and more frequent exchange of culture, the study of Buddhism reached an unprecedented height. In the Tang Dynasty, the state put forward the policy that Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism would coexist. In the process of amalgamation of Buddhism and Chinese traditional culture, Buddhism had absorbed the thought of Confucianism and Taoism and therefore some Chinese schools emerged, amongst which Zen is considered to be full of vitality. The speculative philosophy of Buddhism made up the shortage of directness and simplicity of the traditional ideology, and enriched Chinese culture.