EASIA 202R - Chinese Culture and Society

Huaping Zhuang

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

Table of contents

Quick Facts

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  • China
    • Population: 1.41 Billion(18.54% of the world total population)
    • Area: 9.597 million km2
    • China population is equivalent to 18.54% of the total world population. (2017)
  • Canada
    • Population: 36.79 million (0.48% of the world total population)
    • Area: 9.985 million k㎡
    • Canada population is equivalent to 0.48% of the total world population (2017)

Canada is 4% larger than China, but has only about 2.6% of China’s population.

When did China and Canada establish diplomatic relations?

  • Trudeau vows to strengthen China relations: ‘I celebrate well 45 years of strong relations between Canada and China,’ Prime Minister tells Chinese leader
  • China & Canada established diplomatic relations in October 1970
  • Pierre E. Trudeau’s visit to China in 1973
  • J. Trudeau visiting China in 2016
    • J. Trudeau & Xi Jinping at G20 Hangzhou Summit in 2016
    • J. Trudeau performs Chen Taijiquan in Shanghai in Sept. 2016

National Day of China: The Chinese people celebrate October 1st as National Day in honor of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on Oct. 1st ,1949.

Beijing - Capital City of China

  • Tian’anmen Square in Beijing
  • Monument to People’s Heroes in Beijing
  • People’s Conference Hall in Beijing
  • The Forbidden City
  • The Great Wall
  • Temple of Heaven
  • The Thirteen Ming Tombs
  • The Summer Palace

Chinese Currency: Renminbi (RMB). Tourist Attractions on RMB

Chinese Standard Language: About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over 1.4 billion people in the world speak Chinese.

How many Chinese characters should you learn to read Chinese newspapers?

A well-educated Chinese today recognizes approximately 6,000-7,000 characters; some 3,000 characters are required to read a newspaper.

English is the language with the largest number of speakers.

  • English is one of the most spoken languages ​​in the world and by far the most common.
  • It is spoken in every continent.

Chinese Geography

  • With a land area of about 9.6 million sq km, China is the 3rd largest country in the world.
  • China has a sea area of 4.7 million sq km.

Topography of China: China is a country of varied topographical features with highlands in the west and plains in the east. Mountainous land and rough terrains make up about 67% of Chinese territory, basins and plains 33%.

Rivers: (More than 1,500 rivers)

  • Yangtze River: the longest river in China (6,300km); the 3rd longest river in the world;
  • Yellow River: the 2nd longest river in China (5464km); seen as the cradle of Chinese civilization and the spiritual home of the Chinese people.

Lakes: (approximately 2,800 natural lakes)

  • Freshwater Lakes: Poyang Lake; Dongting
    Lake; Taihu Lake and
    Hongze Lake.
  • Saltwater Lakes: Qinghai Lake and Nam Co Lake.

The Grand Canal: (1,801km, Beijing-Hangzhou) Links 5 major rivers: Haihe River, Yellow River, Huaihe River, Yangtze River and Qiantangjiang River; Open to navigation over 1,000 years ago.

Climate of China

  • Most of China lies in the North Temperate Zone, characterized by a warm climate and distinctive seasons, a climate well suited for habitation.
  • Most of China has a continental monsoon climate.
  • In terms of temperature, the nation can be sectored from south to north into equatorial, tropical, subtropical, warm-temperate, temperate, and cold-temperate zones.

China’s Administrative Divisions: China has 34 provincial regions, including 23 provinces,5 autonomic regions,4 cities and 2 special administrative regions(SAR).

The Political System of China

  • Up: China National-Level Political Power Structure as Described in Chapter 3 of the 1982 State Constitution
  • Down: China’s Political Structure as Implemented: The Communist Party sits atop China’s political power structure, controls all political institutions, and commands the military

Chinese History & Civilization

In which regions of the world did the early civilizations begin?

  1. The Nile River Valley Civilization (Egypt; 3500BC)
  2. The Tigris/Euphrates Rivers Valley Civilization (Mesopotamia; 3500BC)
  3. The Indus River Valley Civilization (India; 2400BC)
  4. The Yellow River Valley Civilization (China; 2100BC)

Obvious Features of Chinese Civilization

  1. It is one of the four oldest and most complex civilizations in the world
  2. It is the only one that has an uninterrupted history which has continued through over 4000 years to the present.
  3. It has the world’s longest continuously used written language system, and is the source of the “Four Great Inventions”.
  4. Historically, China’s cultural sphere has extended across East Asia as a whole, with Chinese religion, customs, and writing systems being adopted to varying degrees by neighboring nations.

The Origin of Chinese Civilization

  • Most people have myths about their origins, and the Chinese are no exception.
  • The legends of Fu Xi, Shen Nong and Huangdi reveal how Chinese from the time of Confucius onwards constructed “China”.

Dawn of History and Civilization

  1. By 5000 BC, Neolithic cultures with agriculture, pottery, villages and textiles emerged in many of the river valleys of today’s China.

  2. Villages have been found in the great bend of Huanghe (Yellow River) on the North China Plain (as well as other major river valleys), which closely resembles cradles of other ancient civilizations such as the Nile River valley of Egypt.

Later history

Pre-Qin Period (2100BC-221BC)

  • Xia Dynasty (ca.2100-ca.1600BC)
  • Shang Dynasty(ca.1700-ca.1100BC)
  • Zhou Dynasty(ca.1100-256BC)
    • (1) Western Zhou (ca.1100-771BC)
    • (2) Eastern Zhou (770-256BC)

Shang Dynasty (ca.1700-ca.1100BC)

  • Bronze Technology: an important marker of technological progress in world history
  • Chinese Writing System (some 5000 characters): Oracle Bone Inscriptions

Simuwu Ding (Quadripod)

  • 司母戊(Sīmǔwù) or 后母戊(Hòumǔwù)?
  • 1.33m in height; 832.8kg in weight. 1.1m in length and 0.79m in width of the opening;
  • The largest bronze ware found in the world.
  • It was for the ceremony of the deceased mother of King of Shang.

Dĭng: Symbol of Nation/Power

  • 一言九鼎 (yìyánjiǔdĭng; words of enormous weight)
  • 三足鼎立 (sānzúdĭnglì; a situation of tripartite confrontation)
  • 问鼎中原 (wèndĭngzhōngyuán; plan to seize power of the whole country)
  • 大名鼎鼎 (dàmíngdĭngdĭng; a great reputation)
  • 钟鸣鼎食 (zhōngmĭngdĭngshí; to have an extravagant life style)

Zhou Dynasty (ca.1100-256BC)

  • Marked by disunity and continuous conflicts.
  • It is recorded in history as West Zhou Dynasty and East Zhou Dynasty due to the relocation of the capital city, the latter period divided into two periods historically:
    • (1) Spring&Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC)
    • (2) Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC)

Spring & Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC)

  • The Golden Age of China - philosophy comes along thereafter with competing ideologies of the “hundred schools”.
  • The five most influential schools of thought that evolved during this period are Confucianism, Taoism (Daoism), Mohism, Legalism and Militarism.

Warring States Period (476 BC - 221 BC)

  • Introduction of coinage.
  • Seven socially and politically developed states (Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, Qin) compete for supremacy.

Qin-Han Periods (221BC-220AD)

  • Qin Dynasty(221BC-207BC)
  • Han Dynasty(206BC-220AD)
    • (1) Western(Earlier) Han (202BC-AD8)
    • (2) Eastern(Later) Han (AD25-AD220)

Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC)

  • Infamous & tyrannical Emperor Qinshihuang unites China for the first time.
  • Weights, measures, roads & writing standardized.
  • Revolutionary books burned.
  • The Great Wall & The Terra-cotta Worriors.

Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD)

  • Paper and compass invented in this period.
  • Confuscianism becomes prominent.
  • Silk routes are used to export Chinese silk to the Roman Empire.
  • Buddhism introduced into China.
  • Taoism as a religion formally comes into being.

Three Kingdoms- Jin (West & East) -Southern & Northern Dynasties (220-589)

  • Fragmentation of successive regimes competing for power.
  • Increasing popularity of Buddhism.
  • Famous war heroes become part of Chinese legend.

Sui Dynasty ( 581-618 )

  • Re-establishment of a unified state
  • Re-adoption of many of the Han institutions.
  • Restoration of many sections of the Great Wall.
  • Construction of the Grand Canal

The Grand Canal (1,801km, Beijing-Hangzhou) links 5 major rivers: Haihe River, Yellow River, Huaihe River, Yangtze River and Qiantangjiang River and has been open to navigation since over 1,000 years ago.

Well-known Canals in the World

  1. The Grand Canal: 1801km; five river systems being connected; China (starting from 5th century B.C.)
  2. Rideau Canal: 202km, Ottawa River-Ontario Lake, Canada (1832)
  3. Suez Canal: 172.5km; Mediteranean Ocean-Red Sea; Egypt (1859)
  4. Panama Canal: 81.3km; Atlantic Ocean-Pacific Ocean; Panama(1881);

Tang Dynasty (618-907), China becomes a superpower

  • Introduction of sophisticated judicial and administrative structures to govern the state.
  • Military strength assures Chinese control of the lucrative silk route.
  • Neighboring Asian cultures, ideas and goods enter China.
  • Buddhism and the arts flourish.

The Leshan Budha

  • The largest Budha in the world.
  • height:71m;
  • height of head: 14.7m;
  • length of nose: 5.53m;
  • length of ears: 6.72m

Song Dynasty (960-1279), Fast-paced economic development

  • Warring factions unified.
  • Re-introduction of established government doctrine e.g. Confucianism, Civil Service Exam System.
  • Improvements in agricultural productivity and transport infrastructure.
  • Rise of merchant class in urban centres.
  • Introduction of paper money.
  • Growth in the arts.
  • Hangzhou—capital of the Southern Song Dynasty

Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)

  • The Mongol Horde sweeps through China annexing it to the world’s largest, land-based empire.
  • The Han Chinese become third class citizens in their own Harshly administered country.

Marco Polo (Born in Venice, Italy in 1254; traveled to China between 1271-1295)

  • First Trip
    • His father and uncle were merchants who began their first eastern journey in 1260. They visited Great Kublai Khan, ruler of China.
    • Khan sent them on their way home as his ambassadors with messages of peace and interest in converting areas of China to Christianity.
  • Second Trip
  • The merchants remained in Venice for two years and decided to return to Kublai Khan, and took 17-year-old Marco Polo with them.
  • The journey took three and a half years by horseback.
  • Marco stayed in China for 17 years.
  • The Travels of Marco Polo

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Resumption of Chinese rule

  • The Great Wall further fortified against barbarian invaders.
  • The Forbidden City constructed (1406-1420)
  • Eunuchs used extensively for government.
  • Flourishing of arts and culture.
  • Zhenghe and the 7 maritime expeditions.

Qing Dynasty Ⅰ (1636-1840)

  • Manchu rulers initially expand the empire, reduce taxation and improve infrastructure.
  • Chinese as second-class citizens.
  • As later Manchu rulers are sinicised, they become isolationist and conservative.

Qing Dynasty Ⅱ (1840-1911)

  • The European powers use gun-boat diplomacy to carve up China between them.
  • Internal rebellions and foreign conflicts marked the 19th China(two Opium Wars, Taiping Rebellions,…).
  • Efforts and failure in the Self-strengthening Movement.
  • The failure of Hundred Days’ Reform and aftermath.

The First Opium War (1839-1842)

  • The western powers arrive
  • Treaty of Nanjing (1942) — Start of the national humiliation
    • (1) Ceded Hong Kong Island to the British.
    • (2) 5 ports opened to British residence and foreign trade.
    • (3) Granted British residence exemption from Chinese laws.
    • (4) Paid a large indemnity
    • (5) Most-favored-nation treatment

Colonization of Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong Island was ceded to the British in Nanjing Treaty as a result of the 1st Opium War.
  • Kowloon was ceded to Britain in the Beijing Treaty at the end of the 2nd Opium War.
  • In 1898, the British acquired a 99-year lease over the New Territories of Kowloon, which increased the size of their Hong Kong colony.

Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864)

  • The largest uprising in modern Chinese history led by Hong Xiuquan
  • Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace established with Hong as the King
  • Some 30 million were killed in the rebellion
  • Zeng Guofan and his Hunan Army—war-lordism entailed

Self-Strengthening Movement

  • Groups of students sent abroad by the government (1872-1881)
  • Establishing modern institutions
  • Developing basic industries, communications and transportation
  • Modernizing the military force
  • Self-strengthening Movement did not recognize the significance of the political institutions and social reforms

Republic of China (1912-1949), Wars and chaos

  • Warlords only challenged by Chinese Communist Party and Nationalist Party(or KMT Kuomintang).
  • Japan’s 1931 invasion of China curtailed by the end of the second world war.
  • Chinese Communist Party wins civil war. Nationalist Party flees with all China’s gold reserves and cultural relics to Taiwan.

Chiang Kai-shek, Sun’s successor (1887-1975)

  • Sun Yat-sen died of cancer in Beijing in March 1925.
  • Chiang Kai-shek, Sun‘s successor as head of the Nationalist Party。
  • By 1928 China was under Chiang‘s control, and his government received international recognition.

Rise of the Communist Party

  • 1919 May 4th Movement
  • Communist Party of China (CPC) founded in 1921, Mao Zedong as one of the 13 representatives on 1st CPC National Conference.
  • The first Nationalist Party-Communist Party (or KMT-CPC) Alliance in 1923.
  • The CPC was still small at the time, having a membership of 300 in 1922 and only 1,500 by 1925.
  • KMT in 1922 already had 150,000 members.
  • In 1927 KMT-CPC rivalry led to a split in the revolutionary ranks.
  • Japan initiated the seizure of Manchuria in Sept. 1931 and established ex-Qing emperor Puyi as head of the puppet regime of Manchukuo in 1932.
  • Chiang government’s policy of “internal unity before external danger”, and therefore the anti-Communist extermination campaigns in the early 1930s.
  • The Long March of Red Army (Oct 1934 - Oct 1935)
  • During the Long March, Mao finally gained unchallenged command of CPC.
  • The Communists set up their headquarters at Yan’an.
  • Full-Scale Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945)
  • Formal announcement of 2nd KMT-CPC united front against Japan in 1937.
  • The Communist Party membership increased from 100,000 in 1937 to 1.2 million by 1945.
  • John Rabe (1882-1950)
    • The Nanjing Safety Zone, which Rabe helped to establish, sheltered some 200,000 Chinese people from slaughter during the Nanjing Massacre.
    • Rabe also opened up his properties to help 650 more refugees.
    • Rabe’s former residence in Nanjing was renovated and now accommodates the “John Rabe and International Safety Zone Memorial Hall”, which opened in 2006.
    • The film John Rabe was released in 2009 during the Berlin Film Festival. The film won 4 awards during the German Film Awards, including Best Film and Best Actor
  • Return to Civil War (1945-1949)
  • Chiang Kai-shek and a few hundred thousand Nationalist troops fled from mainland to Taiwan in 1949.
  • On October 1, 1949, People’s Republic of China (PRC) was formally established, with its capital in Beijing.

People’s Republic of China (1949 - now)

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