China shares one of the existing oldest cultures in the world, which has grown over thousands of years. Festivals, cuisines, zodiac signs, ancient rituals…Chinese culture is such a huge topic and it is unlikely to be able to learn it all within a short time – even a Chinese person can’t say he knows everything. To learn some basic ideas about it, however, will help travelers avoid trouble (or embarrassment in front of the locals).
China is a country steeped in ancient customs and traditions, of which the native people are proud. Below are China’s three major traditional festivals; all are celebrated according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
Celebrating Spring Festival
1. Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival), the most important festival celebrated across the country- just like what Christmas is for the West. The whole country will be on an at-least-7-day holiday and most Chinese get together with their families, dressing their house in red, cooking family reunion dinner and celebrating the lunar new year. Look at to Day-by-Day Celebrations to know more traditions and taboos during Chinese New Year.
2. Lantern Festival, falling on the 15th day of the first lunar month, marks the end of the Spring Festival celebration. On this day, there are dragon-dancing and lion-dancing parades in the morning and lanterns shows at night. Tang Yuan, or rice gluten balls which are symbolic of reunion, is a must dessert for the Lantern Festival.
3. Mid-Autumn Festival, August 15 in Chinese lunar calendar, is also a day for family reunion for the Chinese. People reunite with families, eat mooncakes, appreciate the bright full moon and hang up Mid-Autumn lantern.
Chinese Food and Table Manners
Food is also one of the traditional cultural elements of China which enjoys a great popularity around the globe. From Peking Duck to Cantonese dim sums, no one would deny that Chinese cuisines are various- if you have heard of the “Eight Cuisines” of China, congrats, but there are actually more than eight!
When it comes to dinning culture, it may be interesting for a foreign tourist to hear Chinese people greeting each other by asking “Have you eaten yet?” instead of “How are you?”. If you are aware but unsure of Chinese table manners, you can tailor-make your trip with us and our local guide will help you learn them.
What is the Chinese Zodiac?
As a part of Chinese astrology, the Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao (生肖), consists of the 12 animal signs designated to China’s 12 earthly branches: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. Each of the animal signs is related to the Chinese lunar calendar, based on a twelve-year cycle.
The Chinese believe the animal signs assigned by year represent how others perceive you or how you present yourself. For example, if you were born in a Year of the Pig (…1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995…), then you’ll share the same characteristics with the zodiac pig, and no offence, but believe it or not, you can also say you are a Pig.
Traditional Etiquette and Taboos
The Chinese pay great attention to etiquette, especially the elders. From daily customs to festival traditions, there are very many. For instance, it might get you in trouble if you give a clock as a gift to a Chinese person, because “giving a clock” (sòng zhōng 送钟) sounds exactly the same as “attending a funeral” (sòng zhōng 送终) in Chinese.
China boasts a history of 5,000 years and rituals have mattered a lot since ancient times. There are different types of rituals in China: religious, political, ancestral, and secular.
Heaven Worship was the most solemn ritual of the Chinese. It was a form of “communication” between mankind and heaven, usually presided over by the “Son of Heaven” (emperors were regarded as the Sons of Heaven in ancient China). The most famous and well-preserved altar for this ritual is the Temple of Heaven. This attraction is included in our 4-Day Beijing Essence Tour.
In China, tea-drinking serves not just a way to better enjoy life, but also a symbol of etiquette in all aspects of people’s lives. In the past, Chinese people observed strict rules and rituals in serving tea, while today, it has been a custom to offer tea to show respect, to express gratitude to parents, or as a sacrifice to ancestors and gods on Chinese New Year or at other festival times.
Hangzhou is one of the best cities to savor high-quality in China. Our Hangzhou and Wuzhen Water Town Tour will provide you an opportunity to visit Meijiawu Tea Plantation and learn how Chinese tea is hand-made.
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Experience Chinese Culture
Traditions such as greeting friends with “Have you eaten yet?” are sometimes difficult to explain in words or pictures. The best way to understand China’s unique culture is to visit China and experience it your way. In this case, a professional and responsible travel agency matters a lot. China Travel can help you tailor-make a care-free culture trip for you, saving time and money! Below are our three sample tours we’ve hand-picked for your inspiration:
8-Day China Experience Trip (Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai)
11-Day Glories of China (Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, Yangshuo, Shanghai)
11-Day China Impression Journey (Beijing, Xi’an, Yangtze River, Chongqing, Shanghai)