Beijing is an undeveloped city
If you travel to China today, you might be amazed at the contrast between old historical buildings and futuristic skyscrapers. This contrast reflects the troubled history of China over the past 100 years, which is characterized by strong fractures and diverse influences from different regions and countries around the world.
Until 1911, China was the emperor's land. He ruled in the center of the empire and was considered the personified connection between heaven and earth. His task was to rule the state harmoniously according to the moral rules of Confucianism, to look after the people and to cultivate the spiritual and cultural heritage of his and the previous dynasties. At that time social life was shaped by the philosophy of Confucianism. This provided for a strictly regulated social structure based on the five relationships. Everyone's behavior had to be based on these, and even today the hierarchical thinking of the Chinese is strongly influenced by the Confucian relations. Man and son, woman and man, man and man, etc. - Confucianism envisaged a role for everyone in society that they had to fulfill. It was not the individual that was in the foreground here, but the community in which the individual had a certain place. If you wanted to become a "venerable" one, according to the Confucian rules, you started by sweeping your own front door and getting everything right in your family. Then came the neighbors, then the village, and so on, until one reached the level of the state. This principle lasted through the centuries of the various dynasties until the upheaval came in 1911. The community, whether of a family, neighborly or state nature, was the principle that has always had to be protected in China. The mother country China is therefore still referred to today as the “country family” and was protected from intruders from the north by the Great Wall. The traditional homes of the Chinese, the "Siheyuan", provided protection from evil spirits and other harmful intruders. China's extraordinary foreign policy in the Ming and Qing dynasties was aimed at protecting the country from invading foreign ideas and values.
The fact that China was not completely liberated from foreign powers and ideas is reflected in modern history since 1911, when after the overthrow of the last emperor all sorts of ideas for the future of the Chinese state were tried and then discarded. A Chinese republic was proclaimed by Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing in 1912 and lasted for several years, communists and nationalists fought for supremacy in and between Chinese territory - the foreign powers. When Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic from the south gate of the Imperial Palace in 1949, the country had reached a point where a leader was urgently needed to counteract the chaos and turmoil. What followed was the communist "retraining" of the country on an industrial, agricultural and spiritual level. The old theories were thrown overboard, everything was subordinated to the one new socialist spirit and foreign powers were banished from the country again. The new emperor of China was now the Communist Party.
After the Communists came to power, China was once again cut off from the outside world and the new “socialist rural family” was protected from Western ideas and capitalist development. Only after the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 did China break free of its line and Deng Xiaoping declared the "opening of the country" to be a program. New ideas and thoughts were finally able to reach the country again and not only led to the rapid economic development, as it is known in the West, but also to rethinking one's own past and what one had been taught in recent history.
In Shanghai, the IT and high-tech district of Pudong emerged with huge skyscrapers and futuristic buildings, for which the city is still known today and which is still today the symbol of the Chinese economic boom. Special economic zones were set up, which should allow a quick connection to the economic life of the West and especially the coastal regions were made fit for the economy. In order to make the “faster-higher-further ideal” viable, the traditional residential buildings began to be replaced by high-rise buildings, which were supposed to provide a home for all those people who moved from the countryside to the big centers in order to benefit from the economic Part of success and wealth. Completely new cities emerged, such as the city of Shenzhen bordering Hong Kong, traffic routes were opened up and foreign and domestic investors recognized the advantage of the low-cost production possibilities.
In the cultural field, poets, artists and musicians enjoyed the opportunity to finally be able to receive foreign theories and ideas again. The hunger for new things was so great after the period of conformity that some people almost “overdone”. After the long phase of emptiness, the abundance of the offer was almost unbearable! The artists began to grapple with their past and the recent history of China and went in search of their cultural identity. The vacuum created by years of retraining had to be filled with new content. But not only the artists recognized the need for new content for the value vacuum created by the cultural revolution. The Chinese population also turned to new content. However, these did not only arise from one's own past. Even if the writings of Confucius were prepared for the modern age and were supposed to replace missing values, the former "enemy" capitalism spread in China. This manifested itself in the need of the Chinese to “be there” and led to the fact that a new layer of the “nouveau riche” was born in China, which drew its wealth from the opening of the country.
Today you can find sumptuous shopping streets and shops for luxury goods in every major Chinese city. Old residential areas had to give way to flashing buildings, cars populate the metropolises where only bicycles could be seen on the streets 30 years ago, McDonalds, Burger King and Co. are an integral part of any Chinese cityscape. China has arrived in the new modern age.
Family is very important in China. The principle in the family is: We share everything with one another, regardless of whether it is luck or bad luck. This also means that if someone has difficulties, every means will be tried to help. If a family member is wealthy, everyone will feel something of it.
There are basically two family models in China.
One is the "traditional family" according to Confucius. In such a family, there are numerous rules that each family member must obey. For example, that the seating order at family dinners is sorted by generations or that the names of previous generations are taken into account when choosing a name for a newborn.
For parents-to-be, choosing the right name is a real and important act. They consult fortune tellers and visit an infinite number of libraries to find a name that promises as good luck as possible. Because in China names are not proper words, but arise from the normal stem of the language. Children can be called “intelligent and fragrant” or “lovely brook”. The generation name added provides additional information about the family and was previously an indispensable part of the name.
The second model is that of the “modern family”. After the imperial era, before the time of Mao, this meant that the parents had to determine the spouse and especially the wife had to be well behaved and had bound feet, an ideal of beauty in the old days. After 1949 the women were liberated and allowed to lead a self-determined life. Nevertheless, the class society still determined who one could marry.
Nowadays, as a result of increasing modernization and globalization, material values count above all. A man needs to have an apartment or house, a car, and a good job to impress a woman. As everywhere in the world, the divorce rate has increased significantly.
However, courtesy and respect continue to be important virtues in family life. When arguing, everyone tries first to find the faults in themselves and to apologize. Tolerance and loyalty are very important to men and women.
COLORS AND NUMBERS IN CHINESE CULTURE
Chinese culture is very symbolic and in many ways one is much more superstitious than in the West. Colors and numbers are also given a meaning.
For example, the color white, with which purity and innocence is associated in the West, is a symbol of sadness and emptiness in China. Thus, the bride does not wear a white but a red dress at the wedding. Red, the color of fire according to the five-element theory, stands for luck and prosperity in China and is historically an omnipresent color. During the Chinese New Year, the color can be seen everywhere, the symbol for good luck 福 fu is printed on a red background, red lanterns adorn the houses in many streets. The color of the Chinese government is also red.
Another very important color is yellow, the color of the earth element, which was reserved exclusively for the emperor and is considered the most beautiful of the colors. Yellow-washed roofs or roof decorations indicate that it is or was an imperial dwelling. The color yellow is also common in Buddhist temples. The fact that yellow is the imperial color can also be traced back to the fact that the first character of the Chinese name for emperor huangdi 皇帝 is pronounced just like the name for yellow 黄 huang. A saying in China also says that yellow connects Yin and Yang and is therefore at the center of everything.
In Germany we know quite a few superstitions about the number 13, in China many more numbers are associated with a symbolism. In China, the numbers 4, 7 and 10 are considered unlucky numbers. The pronunciation of four (sì) and ten (shì) hear are homophonic to the pronunciation of the word for "death". The pronunciation of the word seven (qì) sounds similar to the word for "departed". When making an invitation, you should also make sure that you invite an even number of guests to avoid unhappiness. Numbers with positive connotation are 6, 8, and 9 because their pronunciation is homophonic to positive words. The word for 6 in standard Chinese is liù, which also means something like problem-free or promising. The number 8 is pronounced in Cantonese fa. This can also express impending wealth.
The number 9 Jiù reminds of the word for "forever" and is mainly used in connection with friendship.
The teaching of Master Kong, who lived from 551 to 479 BC. He lived in Lu State and was born in Qufu city, influencing the values of Chinese society to this day. He instructed people to work on perfecting central virtues (humanity, respect, filial piety, ...) in order to become a "noble". In no other culture in the world was the famous saying "What you don't want to be done to you, don't do it to anyone else."
His students recorded conversations with their master and summarized them in the famous Lun yu, the "Conversations of Confucius". This is a real treasure trove of wise sayings, which even today cannot be ignored when dealing with China.
An important element of Confucianism is the regulation of interpersonal relationships, which are strictly hierarchically structured: the subject has to serve the ruler, just as the children have to serve their parents, the wives their husbands and the younger the elderly. Confucius believed that an orderly life in society would create order of the state on its own. The rulers took advantage of this and so his teachings became the doctrine of the state, all officials had to know them by heart and act according to them. Many reformers in modern China have rebelled against the strict rules and described Confucianism as a dictatorship hiding behind the concept of humanity. The reformers further argued that teaching promotes blind loyalty and is unreasonable for free and enlightened people. The most successful in the fight against Confucianism was probably Mao Zedong, who, even before he proclaimed the People's Republic in 1949, put an end to the Confucian rules that were still in effect especially in the countryside. In the cultural revolution between 1966-1976 he finally succeeded in (almost!) Completely destroying the old way of thinking.
After decades of struggle, however, the Communist Party had to realize that it could not win the fight against the old traditions in society and today Confucianism is once again considered typically Chinese and is perceived as chic in a modern version. The Communist Party demands a harmonious society and, in the spirit of Confucius, has breathed new life into its statues. In doing so, she calls for a return to old values, with success!
RELIGIONS IN CHINA
The five most common religions in the People's Republic of China are Buddhism, Daoism, Islam and Protestant and Catholic Christianity. These religions are fully recognized by the government and the protection of their religious activities is enshrined in the constitution. Confucianism, which is not considered a religion, nevertheless forms the basis of a moral behavior for many Chinese, which is still of great importance today.
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