Chinese Culture and Traditions
An introduction to get you started with spoken and written Chinese. Explains key concepts
and starts with the most common and useful words and phrases in Chinese.
In ancient China the Emperor would do very little without consulting the Yi Jing
(I Ching). The Imperial court had experts to interpret the answers given by this method of Divination. Because it produces a set for 'now' and also a 'change' it is called the Book of Changes and contains explanations of the transformation.
The lotus is an emblem with strong Buddhist links. As the plant grows in mud and muck and yet produces a pure white flower it is considered a metaphor for favorable transformation.
The plum is one of the earliest trees to flower and this often coincides with Chinese New Year. It is considered one of the three friends of winter for this reason. As a symbol it represents long life as the tree is long lived and takes many years to come to flower.
The Three Character Classic (San Zi Jing 三字经
) was for centuries a language primer
for children who aspired to a scholarly life. It introduces the student to Chinese history, philosophy as well as the most common characters. There are many exhortations for the student to study hard.
The owl is a bird of ill omen in China and is considered to be unlucky.
After the Han dynasty
the custom of foot binding of girls from a very early age kept them house bound. The tradition lasted from the Sui to the Qing dynasty
and was at times inflicted on half of all girls. It was seen as a badge of wealth of a household because it implied that the family was rich enough to not need women to carry out physical work. In poor areas the feet of women were not bound so they had to share the work of husbands in manual labor. Slightly richer families would have girls' feet bound and live out their lives indoors, bringing up the family.
Bats are commonly used in handicrafts, paintings and artwork to give a wish for good luck. This is because 'bat' and 'good luck' sound the same in Chinese.
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