Monday, December 12, 2011

Kinship Terms? Titles? Personal Names? It Is a Culture

Kinship plays an important role in Chinese families. Because of the paternalistic system, the use of kinship terms in address is mandatory for the closest relationship; it is preferable for medium-distance ones; and it is usable even with strangers. The use of pronouns, which is quite common in many languages for addressing people of all different classes, has rather limited scope in China, in contrast to kinship terms. Because of the cultural and educational background, I prefer to address seniors with kinship terms or proper titles, rather than personal names.

When I was young, I was taught to address others who are older than me with kinship terms even though we do not have a blood relationship. When the person is female, the term of "jiejie" (older sister) is better than the term of "ayi" (younger aunt), and the choice of "ayi" is certainly better than the choice of "nainai" (grandmother), as well as "uncle" and "grandfather".

I have an aunt who is one of my mother's cousin. Although my aunt belongs to the same generation as my mother, she is two years younger than me, so I have to call her "aunt" when meeting her. Though it is the manners, personally, I feel so strange to address a girl who is younger than me "aunt", however, no matter I am willing to do so or not, I have to.
Unlike Americans, who usually seek the most egalitarian forms of address, Chinese usually seek to be told about their status relative to one another through the help of a mutual acquaintance, and they do so throughout their lives.
Actually, how to use proper titles to address people is a kind of art in China. Every time before I went to do an internship in China during vacations, my father always told me that I should address each employee in the company as "teacher". Because uttering the title "teacher" in China usually shows the speaker's respect towards the person who is addressed and makes the person feel that he/she belongs to the educated class and is someone with culture. What is more, if you call the person "teacher", he/she always becomes willing to help you.

Today, although I am studying in America, I prefer to utter the staff at FDU as "professors" if I do not know his/her status, even though we've never seen each other before. Besides I have been used to employing the title in universities, that is because in my mind, addressing them as "professors" is a kind of propriety and shows my respect to them, I do not believe that anyone would refuse respect from others.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chinese Paper-cutting, a Fantastic Folk Art

paper-cutting is a special kind of Chinese folk art, it has more than 1700-year history since it first appeared in 400s AD in China. This form of handmade culture is full of artistic characteristics, fun and joy. On every occasion, such as festivals and weddings, Chinese people prefer to paste paper-cuts on windows, walls, doors and lanterns, which can enhance the festive atmosphere. 

According to the contents, paper-cutting can be divided into eleven categories, they are, figures, birds, beasts, aquatics, insects, characters, utensils, flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables, and landscapes. 


This paper-cut is about a Chinese myth—Eight Immortals.

This paper-cut is about a phoenix. The phoenix is a kind of auspicious bird in Chinese culture. It always appears in weddings. Besides, in old time, the Empress is considered as the Phoenix while the Emperor is considered as the Dragon. Both phoenixes and dragons are legendary living beings that represent the power in Chinese culture. 

This paper-cut is about a character—囍. It is only used for weddings. The word—囍 means double happiness in English. There are a phoenix on the left side and a dragon on the right side of the paper-cut.

This paper-cut is about the roosters in a variety of forms.


This paper-cut describes an ancient beauty among a pool of lotuses. 

This paper-cut is called Monalisa's smile. Believe me, it is made based on the famous painting—Monalisa's smile.

Here is a video that is about a paper-cutting tutorial. Follow the instructions and you are able to make a simple but beautiful paper-cut by yourself.


I love such kinds of Chinese culture because they are folk arts and purely handmade, which reflect Chinese people's wisdom and ingenuity.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs

In the course of its over 5,000-year history, the Chinese culture had developed different and unique traditions. One tradition that is significant is the twelve Chinese zodiac signs, which refer to rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Although the twelve Chinese zodiac signs have little scientific foundation, they are important parts and widely used in Chinese culture.

There is a popular myth that explains how the twelve Chinese zodiac signs are formed. Long long ago, Yellow Emperor (2697-2589B.C.) wanted to select twelve animals to be the Palace guards. The cat asked the rat to sign up, but the rat forgot and the cat was not chosen; therefore, the two animals became opponents (The real reason, however, why the cat is not on the list is because the twelve Chinese zodiac signs had shaped before cats came to China from Egypt). The elephant also came to participate in the competition, but the rat entered into the elephant's nose and as a result, the elephant ran away. The rest of the participants recommended the ox to be the first one, however. The rat jumped onto the ox's back, and the pig rose up in an uproar. Finally, among the twelve animals, the rat became the first one while the pig was the last one. The tiger and the dragon were resentful because they were respectively the monarch of the mountains and the monarch of the seas, and they were after the rat and the ox. However, the rabbit disagreed with the result. The rabbit won the race with the dragon and was ranked before the dragon. The dog felt the process unfair, bit the rabbit and was punished to be the next to the last. The snake, horse, sheep, monkey and rooster achieved their positions after a series of competitions. Finally, the order of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. 

The following video is about another story that tells how the twelve animals are formed, interesting as well.

Each symbolic animal, actually, has its special characteristics in Chinese culture.

The Rat stands for emotion and opportunism. The Rat is clever, sensitive and always cares for his/her lover, and is always ready to face challenges whenever there is difficulty. 
Rat Year: 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

The Ox stands for power and faithfulness. The Ox is a good leader and has a positive attitude toward work and family. 
Ox Year: 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

The Tiger stands for independence and optimism. The Tiger is well organized, often works alone, is lucky, and will enjoy success, but refrains from being too self-centered. 
Tiger Year: 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

The Rabbit stands for honesty and elegance. People who are born in the year of the Rabbit are particularly creative and are well received by others, but may sometimes cause envy.  
Rabbit Year: 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

The Dragon stands for confidence and idealism. Dragon is a symbol of luck, virtue, peace, and long life. People who are born in the year of the Dragon will do everything to make their dreams come true. 
Dragon Year: 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

The Snake stands for beauty and romance. The Snake is equipped with exceptional judgment and is always conscientious and well groomed. 
Snake Year: 1953, 1965 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

The Horse stands for optimism and good leadership. The Horse is kind-hearted and liked by others. People who are born in the year of the Horse are always working independently and are good at managing their money, but not their love affairs.
Horse Year: 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

The Sheep stands for kindness and creativeness. People who are born in the year of the Sheep love nature. They are creative, responsible, and much stronger than they look.
Sheep Year: 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

The Monkey stands for naughtiness but wisdom. The Monkey is an intelligent person with good memory. People who are born in the year of the Monkey act like politicians so that they can avoid falling into traps. In addition, the Monkeys take every opportunity to show off their abilities. 
Monkey Year: 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

The Rooster stands for outspokenness and high-profile. The Rooster does not trust anyone but is ready to give advice and support others. People who are born in the year of the Rooster are vain, but lucky and resourceful as well. 
Rooster Year: 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

The Dog stands for frankness but pessimism. The Dog always seeks the truth, is faithful and ready to serve others; that is why the Dog is respected by others. 
Dog Year: 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

The Pig stands for fairness but materialism. People who are born in the year of the Pig are reliable and make a lot of friends. Their diligence and hardworking pave the way for their great success. 
Boar Year: 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

The Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs

Besides the unique meanings, the zodiac signs are matched according to positive and negative relationships.

Zodiac Signs         The Best Partners           The worst Partners
Rat                       Dragon, Monkey, Ox         Sheep, Horse, Rabbit, Rooster
Ox                        Rat, Snake, Rooster          Dragon, Horse, Sheep, Dog, Rabbit
Tiger                    Horse, Dog                      Snake, Monkey
Rabbit                  Sheep, Dog, Dragon           Rat, Ox, Monkey, Rooster, Horse
Dragon                  Rat, Monkey, Rabbit          Dog, Ox, Dragon, Monkey
Snake                   Ox, Rooster, Horse            Tiger, Monkey, Pig
Horse                   Snake, Sheep, Dog             Rat, Ox, Rabbit, Horse
Sheep                   Rabbit, Horse, Pig             Rat, Ox, Dog
Monkey                 Rat, Dragon                     Tiger, Snake, Pig
Rooster                 Ox, Dragon, Snake            Rabbit, Rooster, Dog
Dog                      Tiger, Rabbit, Horse          Ox, Dragon, Sheep, Rooster
Pig                       Sheep, Rabbit                   Snake, Pig, Monkey

Although the partnerships seem to have no scientific basis, however, they influence people in the aspects of their love, fortune, health and fate at times. Take my father and me as an example. My father is a Monkey while I am a Tiger. According to Chinese culture, monkeys and tigers are usually rivals. It does not mean that my father and I do not love each other, instead, I am very precious to my father and I dearly love my father. I was always sick when I was at home. However, I became healthier when I went to university, which is located far away from my hometown. What is more, I have been sick only twice since I came to America two and a half years ago. Unfortunately, I got sick as soon as I went back to China last summer vacation. Therefore, the relationships among the twelve signs may have no scientific basis, but they exist for their meanings, and I believe that they influence each other at times.

Overall, the culture of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs is really special and interesting. Due to its long history and important role in Chinese culture, the twelve Chinese zodiac signs influence people's daily lives, and sometimes give people suggestions on choosing good or bad partners. Although such kind of culture has no scientific foundation, however, if considering it as a kind of entertainment, people will find it is completely funny.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Traditional Female Costume in the Chinese History

Because of the long history, there were different kinds of Chinese traditional costumes that appeared in different periods in China. Today, I want to introduce three female traditional costume styles.

Han Chinese Costume
Han Chinese Costume played an important role in the Chinese history, it began in 2698 BC and ended in 1650s AD, which had existed for more than 4,000 years.

Due to its long history, Han Chinese Costumes have different styles on design. The common features are alternating collar, overlapping part and lacing. A Han Costume consists of underclothes, inner dress and pants, and robe.

The pictures below show different kinds of Han Costume for females. 

The three styles, especially the middle one, were for the females who had got married.

The four styles were popluar in girls who had not married yet.

Manchu Attire
Manchu attire is women's dress for Man nationality. Man is a minority in China. After Man controlled the whole nation after 1650s. Manchu attire boarded the stage.

The common features of Manchu attire are round collar, narrow cuff, rightward front, and slit skirt.

However, dressing Manchu attire is a symbol of high status in the Qing Dynasty, because such a kind of costume belongs to the upper class. Only dowagers could own it. 

The last empress in the Qing Dynasty—Empress Wanrong, who dressed in Manchu attire.

Cheongsam originated in 1920s and was popular among Chinese females in 1930s. It was a female clothing style after 1920s.

The common features of cheongsam are stand-up collar, rightward front, narrow waist, and slit skirt.

The last emperor and empress—Emperor Puyi and Empress Wangrong. Wangrong dressed in cheongsam who looked elegant.

Cheongsam was popular during 1920s-1930s. Women dressed in cheongsam usually appeared in commercials.

A Chinese female who is in cheongsam always looks more attractive.

Cheongsam now has become a symbol of Chinese women. And the most Chinese females love to wear Cheongsam during their weddings.

Actually, there were more than three kinds of traditional costumes in Chinese history, they all played important roles, and each of them was related to the culture, economy and politics in their separated periods.

Qixi Festival

The seventh evening of the seventh month in Chinese lunar calendar, is a Chinese traditional festival, which is called "Qixi". It is the most romantic festival in China because this festival is considered as the "Chinese Valentine's Day."

There is a story about the festival. It is one of the four folklore in China, as well as the earliest and the most popular among the four, which plays an important role in Chinese folkloric history.

Long long ago, there was a boy called Niulang, whose parents passed away when he was a little baby. He had a elder brother and a sister-in-law, who always abused Niulang. Niulang had nothing but an old ox. He took good care of the ox.

One day, the ox began to speak, which surprised the boy. The ox originally was a mythical animal from Heaven. The ox told Niulang that the boy's wife who was called Zhinu would come to the little village several days later. The ox taught him how to marry the girl. According to the ox's instructions, the boy fell in love with the girl and got married.

The couple led a happy life and had two cute kids. During this period, the old ox died. Before it was dead, the ox told Niulang to keep its skin after its death because it would help him someday. The couple were very sad about its death.

One day when Niulang went out for farming, something unfortunate happened. His wife, Zhinu, actually was the adored daughter of the Queen Mother in Heaven. The Queen Mother was super angry to find out that her youngest daughter had married a boy on the earth. Therefore, she came to their house and took Zhinu away by force.

When Niulang went back home, only finding the kids were crying in the house. After realizing what had happened from his kids, Niulang remembered the ox's skin. He found it out and put it on, he could fly at once. The Queen Mother found Niulang run after them, she took off her hair clasp and made a slash in the sky, the Milk Way appeared between them and Niulang, Niulang could not cross the Milk Way any more. He and Zhinu were separated.

After came back to Heaven, Zhinu could do nothing but teared everyday. Finding that Zhinu was heart-broken , the Emperor of Heaven and Queen Mother decided to let the couple cross the Milky Way to meet once a year, the day was just the seventh evening of the seventh month in Chinese lunar calendar.

On that day, all magpies, which are supposed to be the lucky birds in China, will fly to the Milk Way and build a bridge for the couple's meeting. It is said that, in the evening of Qixi Festival, people could hear the couple's honeyed words while standing under grape trellis.

 Niulang, Zhinu, the Ox and Magpies

It is only a myth, however, each year on that day, especially in the past, girls prayed to Zhinu to have a happy marriage because a good marriage was so important for a girl who lived in old times in China. Today, since it has been the "Chinese Valentine's Day", it becomes a celebration for couples.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Culture, Culture, Different Cultures...

Because the topic of my blog is mainly about Chinese culture, I interviewed a Chinese professor who declined to be named. Due to the fact that usually the professor is extremely busy, there were just three questions to be asked. The professor was very nice and gave me satisfying answers.

Question 1--Do you and your family celebrate any Chinese festivals in America? 

Yes, we do celebrate major Chinese holidays such as 春节(the Spring Festival), 元宵节(Lantern Festival), 中秋节(the Mid-Autumn Day). We do this to keep our tradition and maintain our cultural identity.

Comments: The festivals mentioned above are three very important and traditional festivals in China. The Spring Festival is the biggest Chinese festival, another way of saying it is "the Chinese New Year", which is much more important than New year's Day—January 1 of each year. The Lantern Festival, is the fifteenth day after the Spring Festival, it is the sign that the Spring Festival of this year is over. The Mid-Autumn Day is important because family members must get together on that day.

Question 2--Did you feel any culture shock when you came to America for the first time? If so, would you please share your experiences with us?

Several weeks after arriving in the States, I went to a garage. An American worker greeted my by saying "Hello, my friend." I felt very surprised if not shocked because Chinese people never call a stranger "friend." 

Comments: The reason why I asked this question is because everyone who goes to another country for the first time must feel some culture shocks. The first day that I came to America was Sunday. I walked to Target in order to purchase something necessary. However, the store was closed. It never happens in China, because people have more spare time on holidays. Even though the business hours may be shorter than usual, all the public stores are open on holidays. 

Question 3--For those people who are born and raised in their motherland, do you think it is a little difficult for them to adapt themselves to a new national culture when they are twenties or older? 

Yes, it is hard, if not impossible, for an adult (like me) to adapt him to a new country. No matter how long I have lived in the States, I still behave in a Chinese way and cannot shake off the impact of Chinese culture on me. Yet, I become much more conscious of the positive and negative characteristics of Chinese culture and appreciate and adopt some values of American culture. So, I am no longer the man before coming to the Sates.

Comments: Why I ask the question is because I came to the States on my twenties, and I find that there is a little difficult to adapt myself to American culture. Since I had accepted Chinese education for more than twenty years, I have a different background from my American classmates'. We have different educational and cultural background, we watched different cartons when we were kids, we are interested in different TV programs now, we talk about and love different idols. All the things are due to the differences between Eastern cultures and Western cultures. We can learn and realize another kind of culture, however, it cannot replace our own culture.


Panda, whose scientific name is Ailuropoda, is one of the most rare animals both in China and around the world. The panda has been listed as one of the first nationally protected animals in China and it is known as the national treasure of China.

At the very beginning, pandas were flesh-eating animals. With the sudden increase of population, however, pandas were forced to migrate to alpine areas. In order to avoid the competitions with the carnivorous animals there, such as black bears, pandas began to be accustomed to taking bamboos as their staple food.

World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) took panda as the organization's symbol when it was founded in 1961. There is no doubt that the panda has begun the most important symbol of species conservation. For China, in addition, the panda is also considered as an important representative to promote good will in diplomatic relations.

The video below is about the baby panda which was born in San Diego Zoo. Usually, in law, those baby pandas that are not born in China should be sent back to China. 

The following video is about the process of how a newborn baby panda grows up. It is incredible.

Padans are so cute that I am extremely eager for having one someday.