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Culture Comparison between China and Japan Essay


Culture can be described as the way in which a certain group of people lives. Kroeber and Kluckhohn describe culture as being a pattern of feeling, adaptation, and belief that are practiced by a certain group of individuals and the common mindset they possess (p. 2).

This mindset influences the perception and general outlook of the group of people. Culture also influences the attitude that these groups of people have towards other people and other notions.

Culture differs amongst groups of people even though they may occupy similar or close geographical locations. For instance, China and Japan are different in terms of culture. This is despite the fact that they both are in Asia, and they may have very many similarities.

Most people can be forgiven for confusing various aspects of these two cultures because they have so many similarities on face value. Individuals in these cultural groups are characterized with the same physical appearance of a short stature, dark hair, and oriental almond eyes. Their clothing also bears close resemblance and their martial arts skills are popular worldwide.

However, a closer look reveals that there are differences between these two cultures. This work will closely evaluate these two cultures with the aim of comparing and contrasting the several aspects of their cultures to bring out the unique nature of each.

The work also evaluates different aspects of these two cultures and brings out the comparisons and contradictions between them that may influence business and sociological aspects of an organization.


The aspect of history has to do with the origin of a certain people. China and Japan, apart from the being close to one another in a geographical sense; they have a very interesting and unique history. China is said to have been the origin of Japan.

China has a culture that has been heavily borrowed by Korea, Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia (Morton & Lewis, p. 21). In Japan, it can be proved by the fact that the name Japan is written in the Chinese Kanji and not the Japanese Katakana or Hiragana.

This is a very interesting fact, which arouses the curiosity of many individuals, and there is a theory that might support this critical fact. China comprises of one big tribe and four small ones, which is depicted by the large star that is surrounded by four small ones on the Japanese flag.

History has it that the king of China in 2000 BC, whose name was Shin, united the scattered tribes and became very powerful. He had power and fame that spread far and wide, and only one thing was lacking, immortality. Therefore, he assigned a close right man to search the world for medicine that would ensure he lived forever.

The right man gathered a group of people and set off to an unknown shore. This was after knowing too well that getting such herb was a difficult task. He settled there and named the land Japan, which is in Chinese Kanji. After all, it was the only language he knew (Morton & Lewis, p. 65).

Historical similarities between China and Japan

The historical aspect has to do with language, geographical, governance, and the external environment of the two cultures through history. China and Japan share a lot of similarities in the historical aspect, but there are glaring differences between them too.

The language used in Japan is closely associated with symbols from the language used in China. The Japanese scripts, Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji are all imported from China. This means that China existed before Japan and that Japan finds most of its culture by modifying that of China. China was the first to develop a written language, which Japan adapted to form its own.

The two cultures are closely related to one another geographically. The near physical semblance of people from both cultures suggests a common origin. China and Japan both have the same system of governance. The Chinese’ imperial court was the system of governance that was also adapted by Japan.

In history, both Japan and China faced the same invaders who were the Mongolian invaders. Therefore, the two cultures had to fight back these invaders using martial arts. This was another common historical feature of the two cultures.

Historical Differences between the Two Cultures

Geographically, Japan was cut away from the rest of the world. It existed as an island isolated from the rest of the world. China was not isolated and was quickly populated by both the indigenous Chinese race and a few other races. Ironically, Japan had significant western presence which greatly influenced its culture and modernization process.

The Japanese might have adapted the Chinese governance system, but they did not adapt the weight and power of the emperor. For the Chinese, the authority was vested in the empire. On the other hand, in Japan, the empire was just a formality. The one who held the power was a military ruler known as the Shogun.

Even though China greatly influenced the martial arts in both cultures, the styles that the two cultures use are totally different. China uses Kung-fu and Wushu while Japan uses Bushido, Judo and Jujusu. China prides in its Shaolin Monks while Japan has the Samurai.


Sociology has to do with the way individuals interact with each other in a given setting. This has to do with the way people express themselves, their cuisine, their leisure activities, the dressing, among others. Just like in the historical aspect, Japan has borrowed heavily from the Chinese culture in the sociological aspect too.

Social similarities between Japan and China

Both Japanese and Chinese cultures are known to be highly contextual, compared to the western cultures (Li & Putterill, p. 149). This means that their communication skills are characterized by very little explicit message since most of what they need to say is vested within the context.

Morton and Lewis observe that the art of culinary is highly valued in China, which is also the case in Japan (p. 69). Both of these cultures have cuisines that are exclusive to their cultures and that are popular around the world.

The traditional dressing of these two cultures is similar. Japan is popular for the Kimono, which is worn even today by women and children during special occasions. Strangely, Kimono, which is another name for Wafuku, means dress in Chinese and closely resembles the Chi-Pao dress which was worn by Chinese women in the 1940s and 1950s.

China and Japan are known for the prowess in sculpting. They use the same material to sculpt the images. These materials are wood, stone and pottery.

Other materials are bronze and metals, though these are rarely used. The finishing of these sculptures by the two cultures is done using materials like gild, bright and paints, and lacquer. Therefore, it is very difficult to tell a sculpture from china and Japan apart.

Social Differences between China and Japan

Even though the social ways of china and Japan appear to be so similar, there exist small differences between the two cultures socially. It would take a very keen eye to notice some of these differences.

Even though Asian countries are known to be precise and to the point when conversing, Japanese are known to hold more high- context conversations than the Chinese. Japanese are more self-restrained and talk very little (Li & Putterill, p.151). However, the Chinese are open to the conversation when compared to the Japanese.

China and Japan are known for their culinary skills and expertise. Even though Japan has borrowed a lot from the Chinese culture, the cuisine is one area that is unique to each culture.

China’s cuisine is summarized in a Chinese proverb that says: “a sweet taste in the south, a preference for salt in the north, a sour or vinegar taste in the east, and a hot, pungent taste in the west” (Morton & Lewis, p. 9). Chinese cuisine is made up of dishes like Sushi, Sashimi, among others.

The Japanese cuisine includes Kaiseki, Yakimono, among others. The western countries are known to have largely adopted the Chinese “hot, pungent taste in the west”. A good implication that these two cultures have different cuisines is the fact that Japanese restaurants and Chinese restaurants worldwide serve totally different foods.

The difference in traditional dressing is also noted between the two countries. This is because in Japan, the Kimono is still very much alive. In this case, it is still worn by women and children during certain occasions. On the other hand, in China, the Chi-Pao was only worn during the period between 1940 and 1950.

Even though China and Japan use the same material in sculpting, and the finishing one too, Japanese traditionally majored in sculptures of Buddha, while the Chinese sculpted virtually anything.

The sports in both cultures differ. Apart from martial arts that also differed, with china going by Kung fu and Japan by Judo, modern sports also differ between the two cultures.

As for Japan, due to its early interaction with the western countries and the influence it got during that time, tends to major on modern sports like soccer and baseball. These are sports that are associated with the west. However, China is closely associated with badminton and eastern ping pong, sports that are in a way closer home. This goes to show the extent of the western influence on Japan.


The aspect of business has to do with economic state of a country and its main business activity. The two countries are major economies in the world. China had been a dormant economy until the late 80s when it began to make economic strides and has been growing ever since, with an annual economic growth of 10%.

Japan started growing economically a little bit earlier than China due to westernization and its cooperation with western countries. China is the second, leading economy in the world, while Japan is the third. On the other hand, the United States is regarded as the world’s leading economy.

Economic Similarities between China and Japan

The high-context communication method employed by the Chinese and Japanese cultures is very suitable for practical business. It brings out a similarity between the Chinese and Japanese and how they conduct business. It is considered as a contribution to the quick rise of the two economies in the world economy ladder.

Both economies of china and Japan were influenced by westernization which contributed to their growth. Japan started its collaboration with the western countries in the 16th century. China also had contact with the west at the time but was not highly influenced as Japan.

Both economies depend largely on agriculture and industry as their main source of export commodities. The agricultural products found in both countries are rice, sorghum, wheat, and cotton.

Both of china and Japan trade with each other. China imports mineral fuels, organic chemicals, metal ores and some industrial equipment from Japan while Japan imports mostly foodstuffs from china due to its lack of land for cultivation. The large percentage of foodstuffs like rice that Japan consumes comes from china.

Economical Differences between China and Japan

The geography of the two countries creates a major difference between the types of business that these two economic giants conduct. Japan is an island surrounded by water while china is characterized by endless tracts of land.

The water around Japan provides an opportunity that china does not have- fishery which contributes to a large percentage of Japan’s revenue. Zaidan also observes that the introduction of cotton made a great difference in Japan as it also forms a large part of its exports (p.51).

Japan is also well known for its precious metals due to its location near water. On the other hand, China is one of its biggest importers of these precious metals.

Another economic difference between the two is the times of economic expansions. Japan, even though it was an isolated island, made a lot of contact with the west towards the close of the 19th century (Zaidan, p. 62).

This move contributed majorly to the speedy modernization of Japan. China, at the time, lacked any interest in the western culture. Therefore, the country only began making economic strides after the millennium.


Religion is another critical factor of culture that cannot be overlooked. Every culture is characterized by its beliefs and values. Religion is the belief in the existence of a supernatural entity that controls and has power over life and nature. This forms a critical aspect of human life.

Similarities between Chinese and Japanese religious beliefs

The Chinese and Japanese believed in the existence of many gods prior to the onset of Buddhism. Once Buddhism saturated Asia, both cultures majored on Buddhism. However, it is worth to note that polytheism is still existent in the two countries.

Differences between the religious beliefs of China and Japan

These two cultures might have shared a religion, but they had different deities. China is known to have traditional china religions while Japan majors on Shinto. Therefore, there is a major difference between these two cultures in terms of religion.

How culture influences the business and sociology in China and Japan

The culture of China and Japan sure has an impact on their business and sociology, especially when interacting with other cultures. Their high context communication is a very good quality in managerial positions as it makes workers more keen and efficient.

This should explain the success and efficiency of Chinese or Japanese based organizations. The cuisine of these two cultures is certainly a cause of curiosity and influence in world cuisines. This is because they are adapted globally. The traditional wear too is a great source of cultural expression that is unique to the two cultures.

It can be acknowledged that the Japanese, even though they are notorious for the high-context expression, are accommodative to other cultures than the Chinese. This is evident by their initial interaction with the west in the 19th century while the Chinese were still reluctant to do the same. This may have an impact in a work setting on the interactions between members of an organization.


The many similarities shared by the Chinese and Japanese cultures that leave most of the world unable to tell them apart are many. This can be explained by the fact that Japan was once part of china that broke away and sought its own independent ways.

Even so, the basic of the two cultures are similar, and the differences they have are also solid. Japan is a state on its own running its own government and business, as China is. The cultural similarities and differences between them are what ignite and kindle curiosity and interest about the two cultures.

Another reason of interest could be the fact that these cultural aspects influence the way business is conducted and how these cultures interact with other cultures in common places like the work place, as seen above.

Works Cited

Kroeber, Alfred Louis and Clyde Kluckhohn. Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. Millwood, N.Y: Kraus Reprint Co, 1978. Print.

Li, Xinjian, and Martin Putterill. “Strategy Implications of Business Culture Differences between Japan and China.” Business Strategy Series 8.2 (2007): 148-54.

Morton, Scott W. and Charlton M. Lewis. China: Its History and Culture. 4th ed. New York; London: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Print.

Zaidan, Kokusai Keizai Kōryū. Japan Spotlight: Economy, Culture & History. Tokyo, Japan: Japan Economic Foundation, 2004. Print.

This Essay on Culture Comparison between China and Japan was written and submitted by user Juan S. to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Juan S. studied at the University of St. Thomas, USA, with average GPA 3.43 out of 4.0.

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S., Juan. "Culture Comparison between China and Japan." IvyPanda, 1 Apr. 2019,

1. Juan S. "Culture Comparison between China and Japan." IvyPanda (blog), April 1, 2019.


S., Juan. "Culture Comparison between China and Japan." IvyPanda (blog), April 1, 2019.


S., Juan. 2019. "Culture Comparison between China and Japan." IvyPanda (blog), April 1, 2019.


S., J. (2019) 'Culture Comparison between China and Japan'. IvyPanda, 1 April.

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