Culture can be defined as the way of life of a given people. It entails how people behave and perceive different life issues. It includes aspects like religion, ethnicity, customs, language, beliefs, and food among others that define a people.
Culture varies from one place to the other depending on the circumstances surrounding a place, for instance, climate and environment as well as how people perceive different things. Chinese culture is unique in its way and stands out distinctively among other cultures through different cultural aspects such as foods taken on different occasions.
This piece of work will give an in depth discussion of Chinese culture with the central focus being on the Chinese New Year Foods and its relationship with the changes that have been experienced in the Chinese Cultures. How the cultural production or cultural producer struggled to change the boundaries and meanings of what can be said or done will also be discussed.
To have a clear understanding of the concept in question, it is advisable to give some background information. Chinese New Year is a concept that has received a lot of concern among different people. It has been celebrated for more than 4000 years.
In China it was a holiday that was initially meant to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring, which was deemed to be the start of a New Year (Flanagan, Zhurkina, & Labbo 7). It is one of the most significant holidays in Chinese traditions that is celebrated all over east and South-East-Asia.
A lot of importance is attached to this celebration to an extent of influencing the overall Chinese culture to a large extent. Most things done during this festive are clearly seen in carrying out of different Chinese cultural aspects.
What the Chinese New Year Foods reveal about the changing and contested nature of Chinese cultures and how this cultural production or cultural producer struggled to change the boundaries and meanings of what can be said or done
Chinese culture is a unique one. It is considered to be one of the world’s complex and oldest cultures. The Chinese culture is portrayed in a relatively large geographical region of eastern Asia.
Although there exists some differences in the customs and traditions among different cites, towns, and provinces some cultural aspects are usually maintained. These include traditional food, cultural celebrations, music, martial arts, literature, and visual arts among others (Davis 10).
Just like any other aspect, culture is subject to changes with passage of time. Although Chinese culture has been perceived by many to be static, the reality is that no one culture is absolutely static but rather undergoes some changes no matter how minor they may be.
The modern civilization that emerged from Europe and America is one of the factors that are linked with the changes in the Chinese culture. Modern Chinese culture has been invaded by other external cultures especially from Europe and the United States of America.
Over the past 20 years, the Peoples Republic of China has been observed to be adopting western culture and technology in a rapid rate. A good example to support this statement can be seen in their extensive acceptance of a lot of aspects such as cell phones, fast food as well as the American television (Kleinman & Tsung-Yi Lin 4).
The Chinese New Year’s festival has had a lot of influence on the Chinese culture as a whole. This is more so due to the significance that has been attached to this festival. This can even be seen through the number of days it is given on the lunar calendar as compared to other holidays.
Some of the beliefs associated with the Chinese New Year festival have been maintained up to date while others have undergone some changes over the years. The Chinese New Year festival or the spring festival is still the largest celebration in China.
Despite the fact that Chinese New Year occurs on dates that usually vary from between mid January to mid February, it is strictly observed among different Chinese populations.
During this time, people are involved with various activities, for instance, a thorough cleaning of houses to signify a new start and giving of the children money packaged in red envelopes as a sign of good luck and attainment of happiness in the coming year.
This occasion is also dedication in honour of the ancestors and activities such as fireworks and parades with dancers who are smartly dressed are common during this function.
The Chinese New Year festival is considered to be a significant part of China’s culture. As stated earlier, Chinese New Year is the most regarded festival in China and therefore it is highly celebrated not only in China but also in countries and territories with a considerable number of Chinese populations, for instance, Hong Kong, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet, Singapore, and Mainland China among others.
Among the reasons behind the aspect being considered to be Chinese and to form a large portion of the overall Chinese culture is the fact that it started in China, that is, it has its roots in china. Despite the fact that the Chinese New Year festival is celebrated in different parts of the world, its origin is in China.
Consequently, the festival is practiced mainly by the Chinese populations and it involves China’s cultural aspects including the foods that are prepared and served during this time. To show how important the festival is perceived in China, Chinese New Year is the longest holiday in the country’s calendar taking a total of 15days.
The Chinese New Year Foods is a significant element in the entire festival. Food is given noteworthy importance in the Chinese culture. Traditional Chinese food is prepared way before the beginning of the New Year since according to the Chinese culture, the people are not supposed to prepare and cook food within the first five days of the year.
This is however somehow tricky due to the fact that as opposed to other holidays that have some fixed calendar dates, the date of the Chinese New Year changes each and every year based on the lunar calendar. The Chinese people stay prepared at around this time to avoid any form of inconveniences.
Some of the traditional foods include savoury dumplings, nian gao also known as sweet sticky rice cake, turnip cakes, Yusheng, taro cakes, noodles, mandarin oranges, fish and Buddhas’s delight among others. All these foods offered during the Chinese New Year are extremely delicious and deemed crucial to the Chinese people. Each type of food carries along a symbolic significance.
For instance, serving a whole chicken during this festival is a sign of family togetherness. For this reason, all family members are expected to come together and celebrate in union. The noodles on the other hand are a sign of long life and should be prepared and served without cutting them.
The sweet steamed cakes also have a symbolic meaning. The sticky rice cake, for example, stand for a wealthy sweet life that is full of good things for the coming year. This is represented by its sweetness and layers (Chiu par 12).
Back from the early days, a lot of importance has been given to the traditional Chinese New Year food. They are for example taken as a symbol of opulence, good health, long life and good luck in general life for every individual who partake it.
Apart from offering physical satisfaction, the food is associated with some old Chinese beliefs that keep the Chinese people going to present moments. For instance, most of the foods are expected to wish the people good things in the coming year.
The Chinese cultures are portrayed by the different activities that the people engage in. Research shows that even though some concepts have been maintained to today, there are some cultural changes that are quite evident. This can even be seen through the Chinese New year Foods.
These changes can be attributed to changes in times and cultural beliefs about some issues due to exposure, for instance, through technological innovations and developments. Gleason (12) asserts that years ago, on the New Year’s eve, Chinese people would take baths with mint leaves in the water with the believe that this practice would make them superfluously clean.
It was as well believed that it was not right to wash during the New Year’s Day since by doing so people would wash away their good luck for the coming year. Although some of these beliefs still stand among some individuals, there are some other cultural aspects that have been adopted in today’s world among the Chinese people.
For instance, there is a tendency of many people getting their haircut and buying of new clothes before or on the eve of the New Year’s Day as a sign of being fresh and leaving the past. Colour red is preferred by many for the clothing due to the fact that it is associated with happiness and thus it was believed that putting them on the New Year’s Day would bring happiness to the people throughout the following year.
It is also a belief that change of appearance through new haircuts and clothes is a way that is expected to put off the evil spirits that disturbed them in the past year as they would not recognize who they were, after the change.
Another issue that is linked with the Chinese New Year festival and culture is the fact that people have believed that they ought to do away with or finish everything that had been started over the past year.
For instance, people are expected to pay back any money they owe others as well as settle any form of discrepancies that could exist between their families and friends before the begging of the New Year. The children are also expected to catch up on their schoolwork.
In a nutshell, the Chinese culture requires that everything should be in a perfect condition for New Year’s Day in an effort to make the coming year a success; filled with good things (Gleason 13).
Looking at the Chinese New Year ceremony and all the issues that surround it, including the food taken and the significance attached to them, it is clear that it has played a great role in shaping the overall Chinese culture. There are various do’s and don’ts that are stipulated in regard to this ceremony with respect to what ought to bring good luck to the people and what could be a source of bad luck in the coming year.
The Chinese New Year celebration stipulates what is supposed to be done and said among the Chinese population all over the world not only during this season but also under normal circumstances, for instance, when doing business.
Amazingly, the practices of the Chinese New Year have been seen to influence the overall Chinese culture in many ways. One good example is on the changing culture and etiquette. From the Chinese New Year festivals, a lot of cultural aspects can be learnt most of which affect how the Chinese people behave and how they expect those they come across, irrespective of their origin, to behave.
The understanding of several key cultural concepts associated with the Chinese culture is helpful in carrying out both individual as well as business related activities in China. It is therefore advisable to have some basic knowledge of the socio-cultural, historical, political, and economic situation in China before entering the country for any purpose.
The cultural differences are also essential. They include the verbal and non verbal communication styles and the issues surrounding the Chinese etiquette, for instance, proper banquet behaviour and giving of gifts. All these aspects can be drawn from the Chinese New Year festival and hence its importance in the overall Chinese culture.
From the above discussion, it is evident that the Chinese New Year food and the entire festival have an extremely critical part to play in the cultures in China. This is more so because a lot of importance is attached to this issue and a lot of activities are done in preparation to the big day and it is celebrated for a relatively long period of time (15 days) as compared to other holidays.
Over the past decade, there are some cultural traditional concepts that have been maintained year after year while some concepts and beliefs have changed for the best of the communities. All in all, a great percentage of the cultural concepts that were present long before have been maintained up to today; an aspect that contributes much to the value that is attached to the Chinese New Year festival.
However, it is clear that no single culture in the world is absolutely static but rather it undergoes some changes no matter how minor they may be. China’s culture is therefore not an exception and it has experienced a revolutionary rate of change.
External factors play a great role in facilitating cultural change in different parts of the world, for instance, expansion of international trade and mass media as well as massive human population increase.
Chiu, Lisa. “The History of Chinese New Year.” About.com. 2011. 19 Oct. 2011. <https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-chinese-new-year-687496>
Davis, Edward, Lawrence. Encyclopaedia of contemporary Chinese culture. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2005. Print
Flanagan, Alice., Zhurkina, Svetlana., & Labbo Linda. Chinese New Year. Minneapolis, MN: Compass Point Books, 2003. Print
Gleason, Carrie. Chinese New Year. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2008. Print
Kleinman, Arthur., & Tsung-Yi Lin. Normal and Abnormal Behaviour in Chinese Culture. New York: Springer, 1981. Print