China’s Cultural Diversity

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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Today I would like to talk about the cultural differences that can be found in the Chinese area, starting with a brief explanation of China’s History.

China is one of the biggest countries of the world and the most populated one. Understanding its history is very important to understand the global development, because some of the most decisive discoveries and inventions took place precisely in this area (e.g.: paper, printing, gunpowder, compass, etc.)

One of the most important elements of Chinese history is the Dynasties.  Emperors and Empresses from the same bloodline ruled China from 150 BCE to 1911 CE. When a dynasty was overthrown, a new one would take its place or China would be divided into different states.  These Dynasties were held together by one of the most influential ideas of though, known as Confucianism. (1)

Confucianism was developed in China by Master Kong in 551-479 BC, who was given the name Confucius by Jesuit missionaries who were visiting there. However, the fundamental principles of Confucianism began before his birth, during the Zhou Dynasty.

At that time, the ideas of respect and the well-being of others were prevalent, but there was also an emphasis on spiritual matters – specifically, the goodness of the divine and the mandate to rule given to those in power. These ideas were meant to unite the people, create stability and prevent rebellion.

Confucius believed his philosophy was also a route toward a civil society. However, he shifted attention away from ruling authorities, the divine or one’s future after death, focusing instead on the importance of daily life and human interactions. This new, refined version of the philosophy did not completely take root until the next dynasty, the Han (140-87 BC). The foundation of Confucianism is an appreciation for one’s character and the well-being of others. 

This doctrine has a complete system of moral, social, political, and religious thought, and has had a large influence on the history of Chinese civilization. (2)

In 1911, China overthrew the Qing Dynasty to form a democracy, however in 1916 the government fell apart.  This caused a great chaos leading to China being divided up into several smaller states.  Eventually, two major parties tried to reunify them: the Nationalist party, that sought for democracy, and the Communist party lead by Mao Zedong, that took control of the country after the 1949 revolution.

Mao Zedong lead multiple cultural and industrial revolutions with varying degrees of success, turning this country into a mix of Communism and Capitalism. (3)

Even though it recently got reunited, china’s cultural differences still live. Due to the many barbaric invasions that got different ethnic groups mixed up, to the different geographical features that can be found in this vast land, to constant political and economic divisions and reunifications, etc. China possesses an incredible variety of cultures.

For example China legally recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups and 292 living languages. All these languages could communicate thanks to Chinese characters, that could be well understood all over the country.

Concerning religion, the government of the People’s Republic of China officially espouses state atheism, but over the millennia, Chinese civilization has been influenced by various religious movements, such as Taoism and Buddhism, that were combined with the doctrine of Confucianism.

Diversity can be found also in Chinese cusine. In China we have the “Eight Major Cuisines”, including Sichuan, Cantonese, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan, Anhui, and Zhejiang cuisines. All of them are featured by the precise skills of shaping, heating, colorway and flavoring. Generally, China’s staple food is rice in the south, wheat-based breads and noodles in the north. Furthermore, southern cuisine, due to the area’s proximity to the ocean and milder climate, has a wide variety of seafood and vegetables, that the northern cusine do not possess. (4)

There are many other cultural differences that can be mentioned, but there is not enough space to list them all.

So, to conclude, China is an example that cultural differences do not exist only among different countries, but also inside one country. To negotiate effectively, we must be aware that even our closest neighbour, culturally speaking, can be the exact opposite of us, even though we both share the same place of origin.

Chinese Regions

(1) http://goayc.org/blog/2018/5/17/a-brief-overview-of-chinese-history

(2) https://study.com/academy/lesson/confucianism-definition-beliefs-history.html

(3) http://goayc.org/blog/2018/5/17/a-brief-overview-of-chinese-history

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China

Article written by Ginevra Bighini, www.interculturalnegotiation.wordpress.com; mentoring by Dr. Daniele Trevisani, www.studiotrevisani.com

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