This is a very concise summary of Confucius and his thoughts. This is not meant to be comprehensive, but the core ideas of Confucianism are presented here.
1. Who is Confucius?
A spiritual leader and teacher born 2500 years ago, Confucius is recognized as a culturally symbolic figure of Chinese thinking. He was the founder of the School of the Literati, but there is no record of his own writing. His teachings were preserved and compiled into Analects by his disciples. Confucius, which is the latinized form of his name, is known in China as Kong Zi.
2. The Core Tenets of Confucianism
Confucianism has two pillars in its teachings:
- Family ethics Since parents give life to their children and raise them, the children are indebted to their parents and should treat the parents with submission and gratitude. The primary virtue of the children is to be obedient and to respect the absolute parental authority.
- Political philosophy On the basis of its family ethnics, Confucius developed his political philosophy — the subjects owe absolute loyalty to the emperor; each one in the society should fulfill his or her duties associated with their social roles. In this way, an orderly society is created.
Confucius expected the ruler to “rule by moral force”, but he didn’t say what to do if the ruler chose to be immoral.
3. Its Influence on Chinese Society
His political philosophy was an important factor in maintaining an ultra-stable agricultural society in China. An ideal society is established, if everyone carries out the responsibilities designated by his social roles. This idea has been echoed by the Chinese government in its recent initiative to build a “harmonious society”.
His teachings on ethics shaped the Chinese national character. Members in both the family and the society are expected to treat each other with benevolence and civility. The idea of a gentleman, who should continuously pursue self-cultivation and self-elevation in order to serve his family and country, explains the emphasis on education in Chinese culture.
4. A Summary in Confucius’ Own Words
- On government There is government, when the emperor is emperor, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.
- On social harmony What you do not desire for yourself, do not do to others.
Qing Ming or the Tomb Sweeping Day is the time for Chinese people to visit tombs, present offerings and burn the spirit money for the deceased. It typically falls on April 4, 5 or 6 every year. Last Friday, I was surprised to see that street stalls were selling the spirit money that looked like the U.S. dollars.
The traditional Chinese belief holds that when people die, they go to the underworld and continue to live on. The underworld does have a currency in circulation, but it is not designed or printed by the residents of the underworld. It is people who are alive that make the spirit money and burn it on memorial occasions. The idea is that the spirit money, after being burnt, will be received by the people in the underworld for them to spend. Sometimes, paper-made miniature cars, houses or electronics are also burnt for the people who are six feet under.
Interestingly, to avoid the remittance being robbed or stolen, a small amount of spirit money is burnt first for the roaming spirits of the strangers. After taking care of the homeless ghosts, the living people then burn the larger sums for the deceased in their family.
Generally, the spirit money is designed to resemble the real banknotes. However, the head on the spirit money is changed into the Jade Emperor, the god who governs the heaven, the earth and the underworld. Also, the face value of the spirit money is exponentially higher than that of the real banknotes, ranging from millions to billions per note. For example, this one has a face value of one billion!
Why is the spirit money copying the design of the U.S. dollars? Perhaps citizens from the Chinese underworld are now making trips to the American underworld, I guess?
Although I don’t like QQ and use it only on rare occasions, I have to admit it is the most popular instant messenger program in China. Especially for teens and twenty somethings, this program is a must-have.
QQ was known earlier as OICQ. It changed the name into QQ in 2001 because of its copyright infringement on AOL’s ICQ.
The discussion group and the resumable file transfer are the two distinctive features of QQ. The users can create and join discussion groups if they have a high user rank or pay some fee. QQ is also capable of transferring large files at a very high speed. If the file transfer is interrupted, it can be resumed upon reconnection.
Many critics of QQ, including myself, think it has grown cumbersome and resource hogging over the years. Even the most loyal QQ users are annoyed by its incessant flashy advertisements.
Some people began to modify QQ and released many so-called “optimized QQ”. Among the hacked versions of QQ, CoralQQ is the best known and the most popular. It is ad free, less resource hungry, and capable of showing the IP address and the location of the chat buddy.
In August 2007, the author of CorealQQ by the name of “Soff” was arrested on charge of violating the copyright of Tencent, the owner of QQ. A poll held by a Chinese portal site, however, shows that the predominant netizens are supportive of Soff rather than Tencent (96.3% vs 3.7%).
Your Chinese zodiac sign may be a rooster, but you are actually influenced by the dog sign. How could this be possible?
1. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar
The Chinese calendar is both lunar and solar based (lunisolar). Nearly all the important traditional Chinese festivals are celebrated on the basis of moon phases. The solar aspect of the Chinese calendar, however, is important for agricultural activities and remains constant from year to year.
2. Signs also rotate on the Start of Spring
Chinese New Year’s Day, which is the first day of the first lunar moon, is generally regarded as the time for the rotation of astrological signs. But this is not the case in the solar-based system of the Chinese calendar. In the solar-based system, a year is broken into 24 seasonal markers to accurately reflect the positions of the sun. Lichun, which means the Start of Spring in Chinese, is marked as the time for the changeover of signs according to many astrologers. The Start of Spring almost invariably falls on February 4th.
3. A decision has to be made
Sign rotation on Chinese New Year’s Day is better known among the general population, but many Chinese astrologers tend to recognize the Start of Spring as the time for the transition to the next sign. Although the dates of Lichun and Chinese New Year’s Day are different, these two methods do not make much difference for most people. However, for those who were born around February 4th, a decision has to be made as to which one to adopt.
For example, January 29th of 2006 was the beginning of the Year of the Dog. But in the solar-based system, the rooster sign ruled until February 4th. In the year 2008, the Chinese New Year was on February 7th, while the rat sign had come three days earlier according to the solar aspect of the calendar.
5. Perhaps you have a different sign
Using the solar-based method is no doubt simpler. It may reflect the true qualities of the people whose birthdays approximate February 4th. You can find your Chinese zodiac sign here. If you want to use the solar-based method, just remember the rotation of signs starts on February 4th.
The Importance of Living by Dr. Lin Yutang was once the best-selling book in America in 1938. In this book, he explains why Chinese don’t think it is a big deal to make noises when eating. Read it with a sense of humor:
The Chinese have no prudery about food, or about eating it with gusto. When a Chinese drinks a mouthful of good soup, he gives a hearty smack.
Why do the Westerners talk so softly and look so miserable and decent and respectable at their meals? Most Americans haven’t got the good sense to take a chicken drumstick in their hand and chew it clean, but continue to pretend to play at it with a knife and fork, feeling utterly miserable and afraid to say a thing about it. This is criminal when the chicken is really good.
Such is human psychology that if we don’t express our joy, we soon cease to feel it even, and then follow dyspepsia, melancholia, neurasthenia and all the mental ailments peculiar to the adult life.
Believe it or not, many Chinese never realize they make noises when eating, and the noises often go unnoticed by the fellow diners. There are indeed, however, some basic Chinese table manners to follow. (Photo courtesy of whysb.net)
When you eat with Chinese people, the general rule of thumb is: just enjoy your food and don’t worry too much about the table manners. Still, the following tips may prove helpful when you are in China:
- It is quite alright to smack the lips or make “noises” when eating.
- Use two hands when passing things to other people (such as dishes or cups).
- Nobody licks the fingers. Chinese never lick their fingers.
- Don’t stick the chopsticks upright inside the bowl of rice (it is a funeral ritual).
- You can lift the bowl up and eat from it. This avoids dropping the rice on the table.
You may also want to know:
- The more distinguished the guests are, the more dishes are prepared or ordered.
- Chinese don’t put ice in their drinks. Chilled drinks are considered bad for the stomach.
- Daily consumption of soft beverage is considered unhealthy, especially for kids.
- Generally you don’t have to pay tips in restaurants and the service is good.
- “Desserts” are sweet soup or fruit, not pies or cakes.
- There is no legislation to limit alcohol consumption in China. Alcoholism barely constitutes a social problem there.
- Chinese don’t drink unboiled tap water. Boiling tap water is a sanitization process and a must-do for preparing tea.
If you are curious to know why Chinese don’t mind noisy eaters, read the reason here. Of course, there are exceptions to every cultural rule, and some Chinese do mind noisy eaters.
China briefly observed daylight savings time from 1986 to 1991, but suspended it in 1992. One important reason for this is that China, the fourth largest country in the world, only has one time zone (UTC+8). Moving the clock an hour ahead would further widen the time differences between the east and west part of China. Here is an account by an American living in Xinjiang.
There are many words in Chinese that defy translation. Due to their culture-specific nature, these words lack the exact equivalents in English. It is definitely worth the while to understand these words, because they convey so much about Chinese culture.
Each of the listed words is defined in English, followed by its literal meaning and examples.
Guanxi （关系）: nepotistic connections (connections). He has Guanxi in the local railway station, I am sure he can get you a few coveted tickets.
Mianzi （面子）: feeling flattered by somebody or something (face). We felt we had a lot of Mianzi, because so many important people came to our party.
Hongbao （红包）: a small bribe (red envelop). To get a better sickroom, be sure to give the doctor a Hongbao.
Tie Fanwan （铁饭碗）: permanent job positions (iron rice bowl) His 20-year Tie Fanwan was smashed when he was laid off by the state-owned factory.
Zou Houmen （走后门）: get an unfair favor or advantage (enter through the back door). His father Zou (le) Houmen, so he won the audition quite easily.
Laowai （老外）: foreigners, especially westerners (outsider). Look at that Laowai from America, he is so fat.
Hukou （户口）: registered permanent residence (household). He doesn’t have a Beijing Hukou, so it is difficult for his son to go to school in that city.
Danwei （单位）: any place of employment owned by the state or the Collective Group (unit). She got a sinecure in a Danwei, but she decided to quit and work in a joint-venture company.
Some Chinese netizens have launched a site called “anti-cnn.com” to vent their anger toward CNN.
In a CNN report on the turmoil in Tibet dated on March 15, an accompanying picture of the report showed two army trucks on the street in Lhasa. Some Chinese netizens found the original picture from AFP, and condemned CNN for cropping the picture to screen out the rioters stoning the trucks. On the Anti-CNN site, several other western media are also criticized for using the pictures of the Nepalese protests to report what happened in Tibet.
The link to the inflammatory report at CNN.com, which has over 1300 diggs, has been replaced by CNN with the original picture and a different story.
You may want to read the following links to further investigate what is going on and form your own opinion.
1. Anti-CNN.com. Screenshots of some foreign media reports are posted and annotated to “expose the lies and distorted facts in the western media”.
2. ESWN. An analysis of the pictures posted on Anti-CNN and the author’s own opinion: “It won’t do to tell them [Chinese netizens]: Since the your media are rotten, we are surely entitled to suck (but not as much)! “.
3. Xinhua News Agency. A spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to questions about the Anti-CNN website, saying “What the Tibetan incident leaves us is a mirror which tells us the true colours of some in the international community”. This site also posted a commentary saying “Now a word for these Western media: watch out for your credibility crisis.”
4. Danwei. A source of this site reports that CNN was not invited on the journalist junket to Tibet in the aftermath of the Tibetan riots. A post on this site says the anger of the Chinese netizens toward the CNN correspondent in Beijing is “misdirected”.
1. What is it?
The squat toilet or squatters is a widely used toilet in China. It is basically a porcelain pot built into the floor. Unless you stay only in upscale hotels or restaurants, you are very likely to see and use this kind of toilet in China.
2. The cons of the squat toilet
- Bad smell. There isn’t much water in this kind of toilet when you go. You only flush it after finishing the business.
- Muscle strain. For someone who never used it before, expect the strained muscles on both legs after squatting over the pot a few minutes.
- Not so clean. Restrooms with squatters, unlike the restrooms in hotels or fancy restaurants, are often not so well maintained and cleaned.
3. The pros of the squat toilet
- Cheap. It costs about one fifth of the regular toilet.
- Water efficient. The squat toilet does not retain much water after flushing, and it uses much less water than regular ones.
- Possible health benefits. According to this article, bowel evacuation when seated results frequently in obstructive constipation. This problem can be avoided using a squat toilet.
- No skin touch. The charm of using a suqatter is that you never have to let your skin touch the toilet like you do with the regular ones. This is a big deal when you have to use the public toilets in crowded places. Actually, Chinese are very reluctant to use regular toilets in public places for fear of contracting skin diseases.
A word of caution: when you are traveling by train in China, be prepared to use the squatters because very few trains have regular toilets.