Chinese Society

Three main elements of the Chinese society can be described as:

Chinese Culture

The traditional values in China are mainly derived from different versions of Confucianism. Legalism is also an influential, authoritarian thought of principle. Today, things like examination and a meritorious culture fetch big value in Chinese society. Recently, it was advocated by New Confucians that democratic ideals and human rights go in sync with traditional Asian values of Confucianism. Today, China is recognised as the combined systems of social, economic and political organisation allowing the reintegration of the nation owing to the dynastic collapse.

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Social Structure

The society in China basically refers to the social structure of China. When we talk about the social structure, we trail back to the period of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, since when one of the other forms of Chinese monarch has been on place always to rule the country. Within each different period of history, there have been different positions for government and military officials within society holding higher ranking in the hierarchical structure. The rest of the Chinese population is under regular Chinese law. After Zhou Dynasty post-256 BCE period, the entire Chinese society was given a hierarchic system of socio-economic classes, not including all social groups though. Some of the customs and rituals found in the ancient Chinese society also included Chinese marriage, wherein families used to give importance to arranged marriages; however, love marriages were also allowed at that time.

Many a times, Chinese marriages also played a key role in affecting the political stability and international relations within the Chinese society with other countries. Since the Han Dynasty, women were given due importance in being considered to rule powerful foreign tribes such as Mongolians, Manchus, Xiongnu and Turks. So, Chinese society was more or less dominated by the lady of the Chinese families and can be related to politics. Besides, the ancient Chinese society also included Taoist sexual practices as one of its habitual rituals to stay healthy and attain immorality.

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Value System

Talking about values in Chinese society, most of them have been derived from Confucianism and Taoism with an element of conservatism in them. Concepts such as Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism were given due diligence. The schooling of an individual was also considered the most important thing. Things like reincarnation and rebirth are also considered an integral part of the Chinese society, and are taken as a connection between the real life and the next life.

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Chinese Festival and Holidays

Festivals in China are Numerous and Diverse

China is a very old country with a rich and storied history full of traditions known all over the world.  Among those traditions are many festivals that are celebrated annually.  Spread around the Chinese calendar, these festivals are exciting events for Chinese and others alike, and they offer an opportunity to enjoy some incredible spectacles.  Of those festivals, seven are typically considered more relevant than others and should be studied to understand Chinese culture.Chinese New Year – By far the most widely known a celebrated across the world, Chinese New Year is the most important festival of all.  It takes place in the end of January or beginning of February and is the largest of the celebrations.  It features fireworks, gift giving, fairs, and serves as a chance to look upon the past year and learn from it.

Lantern Festival – The Lantern Festival marks the end of Chinese New Year events.  It takes place on the first full moon of the New Year and features bright lanterns that are hung from buildings and taken through the streets.  Dragon dances, which many Westerners can identify, often take place on this day.

Qingming – Qingming is one of the more solemn festivals in China.  It features memorial ceremonies, the cleaning off of graves after winter, and the honoring of ancestors.  Kite flying often takes place on this day as well.

Dragon Boat Festival – The Dragon Boat Festival, while once a religious event, is now a water celebration that involves boat races and Zong Zi, a special Chinese dish.  The festival is in honor of the ancient poet Qu Yuan, who, in order to draw attention to the corrupt government of the time, drowned himself.

QiXi Festival – The Chinese equivalent to Valentine’s Day, QiXi is a time for love and romance.  While in the past it involved acts of prayer for marital bliss for girls later in life, it is now more like a Western commercial holiday.

Mid-Autumn Festival – Like the Dragon Boat Festival, this event also has boat races and great food treats.  Once a day, for lovers, the Mid-Autumn Festival is now primarily focused on sharing among families and enjoying treats.

Chongyang – The last of the great festivals, Chongyang has been honored in the past by climbing mountains or hills to escape epidemics and plagues.  While rarely done for the same reasons today, many people still travel to high spots to celebrate this festival.

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Chinese Identity

To put one’s finger on the idea of “Chinese Identity” would be as complicated as defining American or Italian identity. Throughout China’s vast history, Chinese thinkers and citizens have drawn from wide many influences, stemming from both at home and abroad, ranging from American progressivism to Marxist thought. The dominant Chinese ideologies, and the most widely recognized, are Confucianism, Chinese Buddhism, and Maoism.

Confucianism

During the 5th century BC, Confucius developed a complex system of moral, social, political, and philosophical ideology. These teachings amassed into the basis of Confucianism. Though Confucius was Chinese, Confucianism has greatly influenced the history and culture of East Asia. Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam have at some point considered Confucianism as a state religion.

Confucius taught that humans are perfectible, and that through individual and communal activity pure virtues and morality can be found. At its core, Confucianism is a humanistic philosophy. The classical view of Confucianism is made of five parts: Humanity, Righteousness, Ritual, Knowledge, and Filial piety.

In Confucianism, there is a strong sense of honor and respect shown towards hierarchy. Therefore, the father’s relationship to his family, most importantly to his son, was the subject of many of Confucius’ teachings. This attribute is a main reason that the Chinese government adopted Confucianism.

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Buddhism

Buddhism came to China from India in the early first century CE. The trade route, known as the Silk Road, is thought to be an avenue in which the first Buddhist missionaries came to China. Indian Buddhism had already been in practice for over 500 years. When Buddhism first got to China, it quickly spread from the South and quickly overpowered Confucian beliefs.

The Buddhism that became popular in China is Mahayana Buddhism, which spawned variations like Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. The tenants of Buddhism deal with the idea of human suffering, and during the late Han Dynasty, China was in chaos and disunity. The calming teachings of Buddha and the intense meditative states became an elixir for China’s troubles. Now, over 100 million Chinese are followers of Buddhism, there are over 20,000 Buddhist temples, and Buddhism is the largest religion in China.

Maoism

Maoism is a socio-political philosophy conceived by Moa Zedong who was a communist revolutionary in China during the mid 1900s. Five main pillars represent Maoism: People’s war, New Democracy, Contradictions, Cultural Revolution, and the Three Worlds Theory.

The People’s Republic of China has Maoism as one of the four cardinal principals. Moa Zedong is seen as a great revolutionary leader who played an integral part in bringing China out of the domineering feudal period.

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Chinese Philosophy

Chinese philosophical thought has a long history dating back thousands of years. The most notable philosophies that have come out of China are Confucianism and Maoist Marxism. While they differ in many aspects, the prevailing theme of these two philosophies, and most other Chinese philosophies, is the importance of the family and social unit.

Ancient Philosophy

The basis of Chinese philosophy dates back to 1099 BCE. Under the rule of King Wen of Zhou, Yi Jing wrote the Book of Changes. The Book of Changes is a system of 64 hexograms that describe the divinity of action and teaches the reader to live a good life. This text evolved throughout the next eight centuries and had great influence on the whole of Chinese philosophy.

The pre-Socrates, Buddhist writings of Lao Tzu and the writings of Confucius, both appeared around the 6th century BCE. Lao Tzu is considered to be the founder of Daoism and his writings in the Tao Te Ching are held in high regard by most Buddhists. Confucius, who lived around the same time as Lao Tzu, began the philosophical school of thought called Confucianism. His teachings dealt with everything from politics to sincerity, with a strong focus on family and structure. Confucianism and the later political philosophy, Legalism, helped create the first ideas of meritocracy, which deals with the individual’s status comparably to others in their community. The works of both Lao Tzu and Confucius are still very influential in China and throughout Asia.

Modern Philosophy

The modern age brought Western influences into China. There were many philosophical movements, like the May Fourth Movement, that tried to abolish the traditional philosophies and replace them with Western thought. Many other movements incorporated democracy, republicanism, and industrialism into existing Chinese philosophies. The most winning of these combinations was Mao Zedong’s blend of Marxism, Confucianism, and Taoism in order to create his own philosophy, Maoism.  While Moa Zedong was in control of the People’s Republic of China, he boasted Socialism with Chinese characteristics; there were strict policies against philosophical practices of Imperial China, as well as all Western thought.

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Chinese philosophy prevails world over in the guise of New Age thought and New Confucianism. Though these ideas are not taken seriously by most Western academics, the philosophies are still influential in East Asia, South East Asia, and the United States.

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