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The term culture has diverse definitions. Some scholars refer to culture as an indebtedness of authentic art, music, art, literature and food (Giskin and Walsh 56). However, behavioral scientists define culture as entire behavior patterns learned by human. These learned behaviors constantly change; hence, easily lost since they are in human minds. The Chinese culture is extremely rich and varied blend with communist and other modern international and postmodern influences. China is among the four antique civilizations, alongside India, Babylon and Egypt (Guillain 89). The Cultural Revolution damaged a large number of cultural possessions of immeasurable value. In addition, the revolution destroyed practices of countless arts and crafts through prohibition (Giskin and Walsh 97). Vigorous efforts, since the 1980s, focused on renewing the remarkable culture of the Chinese people and repudiating the prohibitions of practice of arts and crafts. This paper investigates the various aspects of the Chinese culture such as the history, religion and social cultural.
History of the Chinese culture
Before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, the indigenous culture of the Chinese people dominated the Chinese territory (Giskin and Walsh 76). The greatest changes experienced in this culture focused on eliminating traditional social inequalities, which includes sexism, serfdom and ethnocentrism. The Central People’s Government supported Putonghua, which was a form of mandarin Chinese, as a lingua franca (Lewis 56). Russian culture, precisely Russian language, also merged with the Chinese culture, but the blend halted in 1961 due to the end of border dispute. The commencement of Cultural Revolution in 1966 suppressed all forms of indigenous culture, including the ancient cultures and western (Giskin and Walsh 12). This period witnessed the vandalism of Chinese temples by the Red Guards; rejection of Confucianism; and promotion of cult of personality. Essentially, the artistic community experienced a substantial effect by the Cultural Revolution (Lewis 6).
The period between 1917 and 1923 experienced the replacement of the Chinese literary writing styles by the vernacular in almost all literature areas by Lu Xun. Lu Xun was the first Chinese vernacular stylist (Giskin and Walsh 78). Others such as Guo Moruo and Mao Dun were among the first significant novelists. The late 1920s was a period of creativity in Chinese literary journals and fiction (Guillain 43). Societies also embraced and facilitated the proliferation of numerous artistic theories. The establishment of Left-wing writers in 1930 included the Lu Xun in its leadership. In 1932, Left-wing writers implemented the social realism (Lewis 13). This strongly insisted that art should focus on modern events in a realistic manner by unearthing the evils of nonsocial society and supporting communism.
Drama or Chinese opera is a traditional art that shows the rich Chinese culture. Drama grew from the Zaju, which is a collection of Yuan dynasty’s plays (Giskin and Walsh 19). Chinese dramas exist in 368 varying forms with the best being the Beijing soap opera. In this soap opera, ancient Chinese drumming and string instrument generate a rhythmic complement to the acting (Kalman 12). The acting uses gestures, allusions, footwork and other body movements to communicate actions such as boat rowing and horse riding. The drama also indicates that the Chinese spoken dialogue is divided into recitative and Beijing colloquial (Giskin and Walsh 67). Serious characters in the drama use recitative speech, whereas young females use Beijing colloquial. The characters in Chinese dramas have strictly defined roles as revealed by the traditional range of Beijing opera of more than 1000 works. These collections are derived from historical sources about military and political struggles (Lewis 67).
The early years of PRC witnessed the encouragement of Beijing soap opera and development of other new performances on ancient and modern themes (Giskin and Walsh 54). However, the operas had rules to follow. For example, in ancient Chinese theater, plays were accompanied by singing. Nevertheless, in the early 20th century, Chinese scholars from overseas began employing western styles in their plays. This indicates the penetration of western culture to China (Kalman 65). By 1920s, Chinese playwrights had begun emulating western plays. With the Cultural Revolution, Chinese theaters with some western aspects experienced a revival. Many new artistic works condemning the political atmosphere and limits of creative freedom popped up (Kalman 51).
Music is another traditional art that expresses Chinese culture. The Chinese music dates back to the onset of Chinese civilization as indicated by Chinese artifacts and documents (Giskin and Walsh 6). Some research also points out that Chinese had a well-established musical culture during the existence of Zhou dynasty. Another study also posits that traditional Chinese music first came into existence in the Qin dynasty, and immensely grew under the Han emperor Wu Di (Guillain 5). The preceding dynasties significantly influenced foreign music such as the central Asian music. The traditional music is also melodic and not harmonic (Guillain 56). The Chinese people play bowed, stringed, plucked and solo instruments. The dominant, traditional musical instruments in China include gongs, drums, flutes and various cymbals. However, in the 1920s, Chinese scholars from overseas developed a long-lasting interest in the western music. The return of these scholars to china affected the Chinese music in that they performed classical music and composed their works based on western music system (Guillain 67). Orchestra music bands performed in major Chinese cities to a huge audience.
Giskin and Walsh (13) point out that performance of revolutionary songs continued even after the founding of PRC. Symphony orchestras spread throughout china, performing American classical music. Some orchestra bands from Eastern Europe also performed in china as indicated by studies. However, at the pinnacle of Cultural Revolution musical composition and performance faced some restrictions. The present music culture of china has gone further to integrate rap (Giskin and Walsh 67). Mandarin rap music has gained popularity in shanghai and Beijing that are extremely diverse and modern. Rock and heavy metal music have also penetrated into the Chinese musical culture, with “Nothing to my name” as the first Chinese rock song. Rock first emerged in China in the late 1980s.
Painting and calligraphy form a substantial part of the Chinese culture (Guillain 56). The royal times of China appreciated painting and calligraphy arts, especially in court circles. Amateurs produced these arts absolutely. The amateurs comprised of aristocrats and scholar officials who intended to develop their perfection in the technique and necessary sensibility for brushwork (Lewis 56). The Chinese strongly believe that calligraphy is the highest and purest way of painting. During the ancient times, writing and painting was done using silk, which was later replaced by paper. Authentic calligraphy writings by famous people have been suspended on walls and attached to scrolls in the entire Chinese history. This shows how the Chinese people highly value calligraphy writing as a culture. On the other hand, traditional painting primarily involved similar procedures as calligraphy (Kalman 67). Paintings are made on paper and silk as with calligraphy. Finished paintings are attached to scrolls for hanging and rolling. Conversely, Cultural Revolution affected Chinese painting and calligraphy techniques (Giskin and Walsh 12). The new culture movement made Chinese artists adopts new painting techniques from western countries (Giskin and Walsh 36). It was during Cultural Revolution that oil painting found its way to China. During the early years of PRC, Chinese artists employed the socialist realism, which is a form of art developed in Soviet Union.
Chinese culture and religion
The Chinese people strongly believe in religion. The Chinese people share beliefs, customs, values and behaviours, and artifacts held together by religion (Kalman 56). Chinese religion enables them to cope up with each other and the entire world and transmitted from one generation to another. The Chinese religion, just like any other religion, attempts to explain the world and its natural phenomena, frequently involving supernatural forces (Lewis 65). The religion demands the Chinese people to adhere to religious obligations. This implies that Chinese religion significantly influences their culture. The most influential Chinese religions on their culture include Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism (Lewis 78). Presumably, all these religions have almost the same teachings; hence, the cultures that resulted from them was less or similar. The fact that Chinese pursue to live in peace with their surrounding is a fundamental cultural aspect.
Confucianism and Taoist philosophies existed between 600 and 400 BC (Guillain 67). Taoist philosophies stressed that being harmonious with the surrounding is the driving force behind progress. According to the beliefs of Taoist, wrongdoings and ill behaviours come to haunt anybody who commits them. Additionally, Taoist beliefs restrained that self-control and respectful behaviours were the key to happiness. As a result, Taoist had a massive effect on the cultural values of the Chinese people. Confucianism appears to have influenced Chinese culture in the areas of governance and family life (Guillain 31). This religion taught about the rights of children and parents over each other. Despite Buddhism being the most popular religion in china, various aspects of Chinese culture reflect the effect of Confucianism. Buddhism religion instilled the virtues of perseverance and patience under difficult life circumstances (Lewis 21). With such religious beliefs, the Chinese people need to behave admirably in the society and their family. Religion requires the Chinese to practice self-control and avoid material life temptations.
The Chinese social culture
Chinese people tremendously emphasize on family and lineage ties (Kalman 61). Some families can trace their genealogy over centuries. It is more of a culture for men, especially firstborns, to stay with their parents during old age as a way of taking care of them. Chinese marriage is procedural in that at some instances it involves consulting matchmakers in order to find a husband or a wife. Once married, the woman should join her in-laws and move under the same roof with them (Guillain 65). Chinese traditional beliefs have usually placed men above women in the social ladder. This has led to contentious issues related to gender roles and equality. Additionally, the adoption of one-child policy by the communist government exacerbated the issue. Ancient beliefs demand families to produce male children to carry on the family name. The outcome of such beliefs is always an ugly past of female abandonment and infanticide. Women have advanced in other professional areas under communism despite being suppressed by their own culture.
Chinese culture highly values a group over any one individual (Giskin and Walsh 67). This resulted from the rise of communism. According to the Chinese, failing to perform a responsibility by an individual is disgraceful to the entire family and to the individual. The Chinese culture also stresses on obeying and respecting the elders.
In conclusion, Chinese culture is extremely rich and varied blend with communist and other modern international and postmodern influences. The main changes in Chinese culture stressed on eliminating traditional social inequalities. The portrayal of Chinese culture takes various forms such as dramas, music, painting, religion and social cultural beliefs. Chinese religion enables them to cope up with one another and the world as a whole and transmitted from one generation to another.