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Cultural Traditions

Page history last edited by Bob Andrian 10 years, 2 months ago

China's Cultural Traditions


Class #1 Outline:


I. Welcome


II. Goals of the Course/"Syllabus" by topic


Class 1Cultural Traditions

Class 2Alien Influences and the Demise of Imperial China (1911)

Class 3Looking for China's "Glue": Chinese Fighting Japanese and Chinese Fighting Chinese (1940s)

Class 4"Liberation" and Mao's China (1950s)

Class 5The Cultural Revolution (1960s)

Class 6Late Cultural Revolution and then a Big Change (1970s)

Class 7Post Mao China: The Four Modernizations: (Deng Xiaoping & Jiang Zimen-1978-2005)

Class 8Post Deng China: The Emerging Superpower (4th generation: Hu Jintao) (2005-Present)


III. A Word About the Chinese Written and Spoken Language


IV. A Word About Geography


V. Identifying Key Chinese Traditional Values, Beliefs, Customs

     A.  Yin Yu Tang at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA

     B.  Selected documents (handout):  Class#1wikidocs.pages

     C.  Small Happiness video (excerpts)

     D.  Wu Liang Shrine (computer reconstruction)

     E.  "You are what you eat" (Taste of China video)

     F.   List of Key Traditions:

               1. Importance of family

                    a. Ancestor worship

                    b. Reverence for the past

                    c. Filial piety and thus loyalty

                    d. Authoritarianism, patriarchy and paternalism

                    e. Patrilinealism

                    f. Remonstration

                    g. Proper language and behavior (decorum)

                    h. Importance of ritual ("li") (e.g. wedding, funeral)

                    i.  "Fengshui" (geomancy)

                    j.  Reciprocity

               2. Hierarchy, rank and status

               3. Inequality (unequal relationships)

                    a. Familial: father-son, husband-wife, older-younger brother, friend-friend, ruler-subject

                    b. Social: scholar-bureaucrats, peasants, artisans, merchants

                    c. Gender: male child ("Big Happiness")-female ("Small Happiness")

                    d. Age: older-younger

               4. Group over individual 

                    a. Concept of "face" (embarassment, shame, loss of virtue, not following "li")

                    b. "Group" shame and punishment (extended family)

                    c. Individual self-cultivation, self-control, self-criticism for the public good

               5. Role prescription

               6. Mutual responsibility (baojia--a kind of communalism or communism)

               7. Family as microcosm of the state: order, stability, harmony, unity

               8. Ancestral rituals to maintain power

               9. Cultural homogeneity and continuity 

                    a. "Cultured" vs. "Barbaric"

              10. Emperor as "Son of Heaven" ruling by "Mandate of Heaven"

              11. Correlative cosmology: Wu Liang Shrine

              12. State power: corruption and nepotism ("guanxi") -- (rule of men vs. rule of law)

              13. Wu ("command ethic=laws")-Wen ("virtue ethic=moral force") amalgam (Confucianism and Legalism)

              14. Age over youth, past over present

              15. Education and power (education as indoctrination)

              16. Autocracy vs. individual rights (no political opposition)

              17. Cyclical conception of history (dynastic cycle) vs. linear ("progress")

              18. Guilty until proven innocent: magistrate(moral and intellectual) as detective, prosecutor, judge and jury

              19. Localism and mediation: "The mountain is high and the emperor is far away."

              20. Justice: particularism vs. universalism (everyone not equal in the eyes of the law)


VI. Key Themes/Topics to think about China in the 21st century:

     A. The Past is never far from the Present

     B.  Rapid Modernization: "It does not matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice," and "To get rich is glorious."

     C. Socialism/capitalism with Chinese characteristics. "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away."

     D. The preponderance of corruption and nepotism

     E. Alive and well but rife with challenges: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

     F. Democracy someday Chinese style?

     G. Nationalism as China's cultural "glue"

     H. Stability and harmony vs. chaos and disharmony: preventing China from becoming a "heap of loose sand"

     I.  Extraordinary diversity (geographic, ethnic, social, economic, generational ...)

     J. U.S./China tight-knit relationship

     K. A "simplistic" vs. "complex" understanding of China

(Note: Key Themes adapted from Tese Wentz Neighbor's piece in EAA, Winter, 2003)


VII. Class "wiki" (website)---Note: "wiki" comes from Hawaiian phrase, "wiki wiki" meaning "super fast"










Han Feizi










Emperor Qin Shi Huang di                                      






Terra Cotta warriors in Qin's tomb at Xian









China in Revolution: Mao to Xi


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