Chinese Language and Chinese Culture of Premodern China
As the world’s most populous nation, China is also the fifth-largest country
in terms of territory. China has a population of approximately 1.4 million people. The philosophical, moral, etiquette, and cultural legacies of ancient China abound. Chinese traditions and festivals are revered and celebrated around the world. Chinese culture, language, business etiquette, architecture, music, dance, literature, martial arts, food, visual arts, pottery, philosophy, religion, politics, and history have all had an impact on the rest of the earth.
In Chinese 7A, students learn about China’s literary and cultural history
from prehistory through the Song period. The course lasts for one year
(960-1279). We will pay particular attention to the rich tradition of thought
and debate in China about the function and essential nature of language,
writing, and poetry; and we will examine the evolving conceptions of
representation that helped shape how literary works were produced,
circulated, and interpreted. While studying the works of major Chinese
authors, students will be given the chance to strengthen their reading,
writing, and speaking skills so that they can think critically about the issues
highlighted by these works. There are no prerequisites for this course. You
don’t need any prior understanding of Chinese literature, culture, or history
to take this class. There is an English translation for each passage. Original
texts should be read whenever possible by students who are proficient in
A multitude of methods has historically propagated
the Chinese language to its neighbors. After joining the Han dynasty in 111
BCE, Northern Vietnam remained virtually completely under Chinese rule
for over a millennium. A century before Christ, the Four Commanderies
existed in northern Korea but collapsed decades later. Between the 2nd
and the 5th century CE, Chinese Buddhism spread throughout East Asia,
bringing with it the study of Chinese scriptures. Late 19th century Korea
(and to a lesser extent Japan) and early 20th century Vietnam created
powerful central governments modeled on Chinese systems. Scholars
from different countries may communicate in Literary Chinese, but only in
Each country has its unique history of reading texts aloud in Chinese,
known as Sino-Xenic pronunciations. Their vocabularies now contain
nearly half of Chinese terms with these pronunciations. Massive
immigration changed the phonological structure of languages such as
Japanese and Korean.
Similar to how Latin and Greek roots are utilized in European languages,
borrowed Chinese morphemes have been extensively used in all of these
languages to create compound terms for new notions.
Western concepts and objects were named with new compounds or new
meanings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Coinages in common
Chinese characters have been readily borrowed between languages.
Their written form obscured their foreign origin, allowing them to be
adopted into Chinese, a language normally resistive to loanwords A winner
was sometimes chosen after many different compounds for the same notion
were tested. The proportion of Chinese vocabulary is higher in technical,
abstract, and formal language. Examples of Sino-Japanese words include
35% of words in amusement publications, 50% in newspapers, and 60% in
Initially based on Chinese characters, the Hangul alphabet for Korean and
kana syllabaries for Japanese were eventually added, but the Ch nôm script
for Vietnamese was retained. Until the late 19th century, these were limited
to popular literature. Today’s Japanese uses a hybrid script of Chinese
characters (Kanji) and kana. North Korea uses only Hangul to write
Korean, whereas South Korea uses Hanja less and less. After French
colonization, the Vietnamese adopted a Latin-based alphabet.
A major form of Chinese art and pottery, Chinese
ceramics have evolved continuously since pre-dynastic times. The
The paleolithic epoch saw the earliest pottery. It includes building materials
like bricks and tiles, hand-built pottery vessels burnt in bonfires or kilns,
and exquisite porcelain products for the imperial court and export.
Porcelain was invented in China and is still called “china” in ordinary English.
Because later Chinese ceramics were produced industrially, few individual
potters’ names were documented. Most key kiln workshops belonged to the
emperor, and vast amounts of Chinese export porcelain were sent as
diplomatic gifts or for trade, first to East Asia and the Islamic world, then
to Europe around the 16th century. Chinese ceramics influenced many
other ceramic traditions in various regions.
Ceramic bowl, Song dynasty, 10-11th century.
Over time, Chinese ceramics have evolved into three distinct categories:
those created for the imperial court, those for a niche Chinese market, and
those for mass markets or export. Some items were created specifically for
use in tombs or on altars.
As a result of its development over millennia in
China, Chinese architectural style has spread throughout East Asia. The
structural elements of Chinese architecture have remained virtually
unaltered from the early imperial period’s solidification of style, with the
main alterations being in the ornamental decorations. As early as the Tang
dynasty, China’s architectural style has had a significant impact on the
architectural styles of countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan,
Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Southeast and South Asia, with varied
degrees of influence.
Bilateral symmetry, the usage of enclosed open spaces, and the application
of Feng Shui concepts such as directional hierarchy and horizontal focus
are just some of the characteristics of Chinese architecture. Pagodas and
palaces are two examples of Chinese architecture’s classification system,
which is based on the kind. The use of wood, a deteriorating material, and a
lack of emphasis on massive monumental structures built of more
permanent materials have resulted in much of the historical knowledge of
Chinese architecture being derived through ceramic models and written plans.
In China, the term “music of the Chinese people” refers
to a broad range of musical styles that include music from the Han Chinese,
as well as music from different ethnic minorities around the country.
Aspects of Chinese music made by persons of Chinese heritage in some
places outside of mainland China, employing traditional Chinese
instruments or performed in the Chinese language, are also included. It
incorporates music from a wide range of genres, ranging from the classic
to the cutting-edge.
Dance has a long and illustrious history in China. The first
depictions of dance in China date back more than 4,000 years. The earliest
dances may have been folk dances or ritual dances, some of which may
have evolved into court dances in later centuries.
It is known as a value, the
most important of the early dances, which had key ritual and ceremonial
responsibilities and were performed at the imperial court until the end of
the Qing dynasty. Ancient writings provide a plethora of dances from
popular and court entertainment, as well as folk dances, which demonstrate
a wide range of styles. The art of dance in China reached its zenith during
the Tang period (618–907 CE) when a plethora of dances was written
down and preserved.
Female dancing likewise faded as a separate art form
in subsequent centuries as dances were increasingly included in operas,
and male dancing also dropped as footbinding grew more prominent.
Recent years have seen a resurgence in the popularity of dance, with both
the general people and professionals taking part in a variety of
From the oldest recorded dynastic court archives to
the mature vernacular fiction novels that appeared during the Ming dynasty
to delight the masses of literate Chinese, the history of Chinese literature
spans thousands of years. Woodblock printing was widely used during the
Tang dynasty (618–907), while moveable type printing was invented
during the Song dynasty (960–1279) by Bi Sheng (990–1051). Lu Xun
(1881–1936), a notable baihua author in contemporary China is often
regarded as one of the country’s most important literary figures.
Two seminal anthologies of Chinese poetry laid the foundation for a
thriving literary culture. There are nearly 300 poems in the Shijing or
A classic of Poetry (approximately 11th–7th century BC) that ranges from
folk music-inspired to ceremonial hymns.
As well as its use in criticism to characterize one of China’s lyrical poetic genres, the word “shi” means
“poem” or “poetry.” The Shijing is typically attributed to Confucius. There
are usually couplets of four lines each (four characters in Chinese) and an
end rhyme structure in its majestic verse. This is a type of construction that
is common in Chinese. A common theme in many of these early poems is
that they begin with a description of nature and then transition into
emotional expressions, known as bi, xing, or sometimes boxing.
Qu Yuan (c. 340–278 BC) and his pupil Song Yu (fl. 3rd century BC) are credited
with the Chuci, which is distinguished by its more emotionally strong
effect, frequently filled with melancholy, and depictions of the weird. The
Chu Ci employs a six-character per line meter in certain of its portions,
splitting these lines into couplets interrupted in the middle by a forceful
caesura, creating a driving and dramatic rhythm. Shijing and Chuci have
had a significant impact on Chinese culture throughout the ages.
The philosophical writings of the Hundred Schools of Thought (770–221
BC) had a profound impact on early Chinese prose. It is clear from the
works of Mo Zi, Mencius, and Zhuang Zi that their discourses are more
well-developed and organized than those of their predecessors.
Methodological reasoning was the foundation of Mo Zi’s polemic writing.
Like Zhuang Zi, Mencius used parallels, stories, and allegories in his
writing. The clear, succinct, and economical language style produced by
these writers in the 3rd century BC has served as a model for literary form
for more than 2,000 years. They were composed in the language of the
Spring and Autumn period, Classical Chinese.
Chinese Martial arts
Many different kinds of Chinese martial arts are
known as kung fu, Thong Fu, kuoshu, or wushu, and they have evolved
over the years in the greater China area. These martial arts are often
grouped into “families” based on their shared characteristics. Physical
activities including All Other Animals mimicry or training methods based
on ancient Chinese philosophies, religions, and stories are examples of
such qualities in Shaolinquan. internal and external styles are distinguished
by their emphasis on the manipulation of qi and the improvement of
muscle and cardiovascular fitness. Another common classification
approach is based on geographic location, such as northern and southern.
There are many different types of Chinese cuisine that
originate in China, as well as those that are influenced by Chinese people
who have migrated to other countries. To adapt to local tastes, Asian
cuisines have incorporated Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques,
which have spread throughout the region. Rice, soy sauce, and noodles are
some of the most popular Chinese culinary items that can now be found
around the world. Also popular is the use of chopsticks and the wok.
A piece of Chinese art is a piece of visual art that originated
in China or was created by a Chinese artist. As long as it is based on or
draws from Chinese ancestry or culture, Taiwanese and overseas-Chinese
art can be deemed Chinese art. Simple pots and sculptures from the early
“Stone Age” dates as far back as 10,000 BC. After the early period, Chinese
art and history are usually classified according to the succession of Chinese
emperor dynasties, the majority of which lasted for several hundred years or longer.
The “Hundred Schools of Thought” period, during
which great intellectual and cultural breakthroughs took place, is when
Chinese philosophy emerged during the Spring and Autumn and Warring
States periods. The Warring States period was a formative time for Chinese
philosophy, yet some aspects of Chinese philosophy date back thousands
of years before that. These ancient divination methods can be found in the
I Ching (the Book of Changes), which dates back to at least 672 BC.
The primary philosophical schools of China—Confucianism, Legalism, and
Taoism, as defined by Sima Tan—rose during the Warring States period,
as did less well-known schools including Agriculturalism, Mohism,
Chinese Naturalism, and the logicians, according to Sima Tan. This
etiquette is still adhered to by Chinese society, even in current times.
Industrial policies and strategic five-year plans are
part of the People’s Republic of China’s expanding market-oriented mixed
economy. While the economy is dominated by SOEs and mixed ownership
firms, there is also a strong domestic private sector and an openness to
foreign businesses in a system known as a socialist market economy.
For the first time, state-owned enterprises accounted for more than 60 percent
of China’s stock market value in 2019, while domestic and international
private businesses and investment accounted for the remaining 60 percent
of China’s GDP in 2020. All Chinese SOEs, including those in the financial
sector, had total assets of US$78.08 trillion at the end of 2019. SOEs
belonging to the 2020 Fortune Global 500 list comprises 91 percent of these
enterprises. As of 2014,
China has been the world’s largest economy when
measured by PPP (purchasing power parity), which some economists
believe to be a more realistic indicator of an economy’s size. Since 2010, it
has been the second-largest economy in nominal GDP, based on market
exchange rates. China is expected to overtake the United States as the
world’s largest economy in nominal GDP by 2028, according to an official
prediction. For over two millennia, from the first to the nineteenth
centuries, China was one of the world’s top economic powers.
While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) claims to
be an atheist state, many Chinese residents, including CCP members,
adhere to a variety of folk religions. Many of the world’s most lasting
religious and philosophical traditions have their origins in Chinese
civilization. The Chinese culture has been molded by a combination of
Confucianism, Taoism (Daoism), and Buddhism.
Folk religion is enriched by the inclusion of components from a variety of different religious
traditions, none of which claim to be exclusive. The Chinese emperors
believed in the Mandate of Heaven and participated in traditional religious
rites throughout their realms of authority. China has been ruled by the CCP
since 1949, an atheist institution that forbade its members from practicing
their religious beliefs while in office after reform-minded officials and
intellectuals assailed all religions in the early twentieth century as
“superstitious.” After decades of atheistic and anti-religious campaigns that
began in the late 1800s,
China’s Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976
destroyed or pushed into exile many of the country’s traditional ways,
beliefs, customs, and culture. Religious institutions enjoyed increased
independence under succeeding leaders. Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism,
Protestantism and Islam are all officially recognized religions by the
government. China’s official cultural heritage now includes more
acknowledgment of Confucianism and Chinese folk religion in the early
Since at least the Shang and Zhou dynasties in the second millennium BCE,
popular religion, or folk religion, has evolved and adapted as the most
a widespread system of beliefs and behaviors.
In the Axial Age, theological
and spiritual explanations of the nature of the world were further developed
on the basis of ideas that date back to this time period. For the most part,
Chinese religion focuses on devotion to the shen, which can be loosely
translated as “spirits,” and refers to an array of deities and immortals.
Many of these figures appear in Chinese mythology and history as natural
environment deities or ancestral principles of human tribes, as well as
notions of civility and cultural heroes.
Neo-Confucianism emerged in
response to the widespread acceptance of Buddhism in the Tang dynasty,
and Confucian philosophers responded with Neo-Confucian ideas;
salvation groups and local cults also flourished during the later Zhou
The 7th century saw the arrival of Christianity and Islam in China. It wasn’t
until Jesuit missionaries returned in the 16th century that Christianity
began to take hold. After 1949, foreign missionaries were removed and
churches were taken under the supervision of government authorities.
During the late 1970s, the religious freedoms of Christians were improved
and new Chinese groups were created.
For more than 1,400 years, the
Chinese people have been Muslims. According to the most recent
estimates, Muslims make up between 0.45 percent and 1.8 percent of
China’s population. Xinjiang has the highest concentration of Muslims,
with a large Uyghur minority, despite the fact that Hui Muslims make up
the majority of the population. Humanism and secularism, two global
ideals that date back to Confucius’ period, have long been associated with
This makes it hard to acquire trustworthy numbers because many Han
Chinese don’t consider their spiritual beliefs or practices to be a “religion”
and don’t feel they must pursue any one of them exclusively. “The vast
majority of China’s 1.4 billion population” participates in Chinese
cosmology religion, its rites and festivals of the lunar calendar, according
to scholarly view. National surveys conducted in the early 21st century
estimated that some 80 percent of the population of China, which is more
than a billion people, practice some sort of Chinese folk religion; 13–16
percent are Buddhists; 10 percent are Taoist; 2.53 percent are Christians;
and 0.83 percent are Muslims. 2–3 percent to 13 percent of the population
adheres to folk religious movements of salvation, while many intellectuals
subscribe to Confucianism. The Hui and Uyghur people, for example,
practice Islam, and Tibetan Buddhism is practiced by ethnic minorities.
we can say that The Chinese nation built a magnificent ancient civilization, which demonstrates human cultural riches of exceptional value through its values and ideological culture, institutional and social operational mode, crafting, technologies, implements, and economic life. Needless to say, this culture is riddled with problems. With the decline of small-scale production and agrarian civilization, as well as the invasion of Western industrial civilization, Chinese culture marched toward a new historical turning point. To recreate the cultural homeland of the Chinese nation, China must face industrialization and the era of globalization and imaginatively establish her new culture