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Each country has its own history and culture. History is the chronological accounts of events that a country has gone through to achieve its present system. The culture could involve the way of life, the type of food, or even the type of clothes that the residents of the particular nation wear. China has its own history and culture, which can be traced to the time that the country was ruled by different dynasties and the invasion of the Western empires. There is a rich history and culture that the Chinese boast of. This paper aims to discuss the history and culture of the Chinese community. A special discussion of the Chinese hat will be made as well in order to identify it with regard to its original use, the meaning of its different colors, shape, and size.
Chinese History and Culture
Chinese history is a highly regarded history, as it is said to be among the four ancient civilizations. The history of China records the various dynasties that ruled this nation for many years. The Xia Dynasty was the first dynasty to rule over China in the period of 22000 B.C. Other immediate dynasties that followed the Xia Dynasty are the Shang and the Zhou dynasties. The Zhou Dynasty is believed to have ruled China for more than one thousand years; therefore, it has been the longest recorded dynasty to have ruled China.i
In 221 B.C., various lords were united into one lordship of Qin, thereby ending the feudal system of rulership. However, his leadership was cut short when the Han Dynasty took over the ruler-ship. The end of the Han Dynasty gave way to a period of more than three centuries that were characterized by disunity among the Chinese. The leadership of the Han Dynasty made China to be ruled by the Mongols because the country had been divided into several areas. The next two dynasties that governed China were the Sui and the Tang dynasties. The Tang Dynasty is the dynasty that introduced poetry and art in China. The country was then able to grow in size.
Another notable dynasty is the dynasty of Qing, which was characterized by several attacks from the Western powers. The West was interested in China because its leaders wanted to introduce opium into this region. However, the Qing Dynasty was opposed to the introduction of opium. As a result, the four wars that were associated with opium erupted in China. It is worth noting that the defeat of China by the West led to the creation of what was known as ‘spheres of influence.’ It was also under the Qing dynasty that famous Hong Kong was lost to the British. In 1912, the Qing Dynasty was overthrown through a powerful rebellion by the boxers, who were opposing both the Qing Dynasty and the invasion of the West. It has been revealed that Sun Yatsen became the first president of the new China after the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty.
The period between 1915 and the early 1920s obtained the name ‘May Fourth Movement’ from the fact that this was a notable resistance by the public to the Western influence, as well as the teaching and adherence of the Confucius. Some scholars have said that this movement gave rise to the socialist nature of China, which later led to the creation of communism in China. Shortly after this period, there emerged two opposition groups, the Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalist Party. Ii The two parties were the catalysts for civil wars in China, as they tried to join hands to oppose the then-current leadership, but to no avail.
The Chinese Communist Party, or the Kuomintang, is a notable Chinese party in the historical development of China. This party was mainly concentrated in the countryside, where it urged the rich to divide their land so that the peasants could also get land. This happened during what was popularly known as the ‘Long March.’ This could be argued to be a bold move that encouraged many peasants to join the party and form a strong military power. On the other hand, the Naturalist party was concentrated in the cities, such as Nanjing City. This party did not grow as significantly as the Kuomintang grew. Eventually, the Kuomintang attacked the Naturalists in the cities and overthrew their existence.
Various development projects were initiated under Mao’s leadership. They include the famous ‘Great Leap Forward,’ where Mao was encouraging the expansion of the agricultural sectors through the creation of dams, irrigation systems, and the distribution of land into the famous communes. However, nature favored Mao because a great drought killed more than 2 million people during the implementation process of the ‘Great Leap Forward.’ Still undeterred by the catastrophic event, Mao’s government initiated the ‘One Hundred Flowers’ project to encourage the freedom of creativity. In 1956, the project led to the freedom of the intellects.
It is worth noting that the Cultural Revolution emerged from this freedom, where the intellectuals, as well as the critics of the Communism way of governance, expressed their dissatisfaction with the leadership of Mao. Mao met his death in 1976, and Hua Goefeng took over the leadership of China. Unfortunately, Hua’s leadership was faced with a lot of opposition, some emanating from his wife. As a result, Hua ruled for only one year, giving way to Deng Xiaoping, who saw the onset of modernization in China. Deng is popularly remembered with the ‘June Fourth Massacre,’ where many Beijing Students who were opposing his way of governance were killed when demonstrating at Tiananmen Square.
The British handed back Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997. It coincided with the death of Xiapong, thereby paving the way for Jiang Zemin as the president of the People’s Republic of China. The Portuguese handed back Macao to China in 1999. Taiwan and Tibet’s regions have remained contentious with mainland China, as these regions continue to fight for their independence from China.
The culture of the Chinese is one that has remained relevant, even in the 21st century. The staple food for the Chinese and the people in the region have been rice for as long as China has been in existence. Wheat has also been interchanged with rice, especially in the regions whose climate cannot support the growth of rice. There is a section of the Chinese people who eat what many cultures around the world do not approve of as man’s food. Dog meat, cat meat, fish’s eyeballs, as well as birds’ feet, are foods that are unique to China. The Chinese had to embrace these types of food due to the hard economic times, famines, as well as droughts that had hit China severely.
Most marriages in China are organized by the parents. A wedding ceremony is normally an extravagant occasion that takes time and lots of resources to prepare. The family unit has been a special unit in the Chinese culture. It has been revealed that the boy child has, for a long time, been preferred over the girl child because it is the boy that carries on the family name for the next generation. This had resulted in the neglecting of the girl child up until recent times when Chinese women are seen working hand in hand with the males. However, Chinese women still demonstrate what can be termed as the search for gender equality.
China is mainly an atheist nation, with 59% of the Chinese population having no affiliation to any religion. Some of the religions that are shared among the remaining 40% of the population include Buddhism, animism, Islam, and Christianity. Some of the Chinese celebrations include New Year’s Day, International Women’s Working Day, International Labor Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Children’s Day, the Founding of the Communist Party of China Day, and the Teachers’ Day. These celebrations are observed even in modern China.
The Chinese Hat
The culture of wearing hats in China started long ago when the various dynasties were introduced. Men were supposed to start wearing a cap at the age of 20, where a ‘Ceremony of the Cap’ was carried out to signal that he had now officially started wearing a cap. It is claimed that the tradition of wearing a cap brought with it social discrimination. The poor, for example, were not allowed to put on any cap, though this type of discrimination was revised from dynasty to dynasty. Therefore, it can be said without any reasonable doubt that this hat was traditionally worn by men
The different colors in the hat signified different meanings in Chinese culture. The black color was the most regarded color in the ancient Chinese, as the Chinese had observed the northern sky to be black for many years. In fact, the North Star was said to be the residence of the ‘Heavenly Emperor.’ It explains why the hat has most of the color as black. It is this color that forms the base of the hat. The red color is associated with happiness in Chinese culture. According to some scholars, the red color is used in almost all occasions that are characterized by happiness. It is offensive to use the red color in funerals, as this red is a color that is associated with joy.
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This explains why the red color is at the top center of the hat. It is a symbol that whoever is wearing the hat should be happy and joyful at all times. The green color has been used in Chinese culture to refer to good health, prosperity, and harmony. Therefore, the green color in the hat means that the wearer will be in good health and have a prosperous life. It is worth noting that the green color has recently been used to indicate infidelity. It is said that green hats have been at the center of controversy, where the wearers have been mistaken to be infidels. This has resulted in many Chinese restraining from putting on the green hat.
The white color has been extensively used to indicate brightness and purity. However, this color has also been associated with periods of sorrow. Therefore, a white hat is worn for almost every burial occasion. Although the white color has been used in the hat to indicate the purity of the person wearing it, the color has seldom been used as a majority color because it would change the meaning to show sorrow. The yellow color has been used in China as the most beautiful color. It is said that color is associated with good luck for the Chinese people. It explains why the yellow color has been applied on a wider scale on the hat than, say, the white color. On the contrary, the Buddhist religion is said to associate the color with occasions of mourning.iii
The wearing of hats has been associated with men in the Chinese culture since the leadership of the dynasties. The Han Dynasty allowed the wearing of a hat that could only be matched with a headband.iv The lower class of people was allowed to wear a headband only without the hat, with the minors wearing a hollow headband only. Only the royal family was allowed to wear a hat during the Ming Dynasty, with the laborers having to put on a headband only. It has been recorded that this headband could sometimes be used as a sweat wiper during work. It is worth noting that the Chinese hat was traditionally made to fit the head of the wearer, hence the description of its roundish shape.v Therefore, the size and shape of the hat would mimic the size and shape of the head of whoever was to wear the hat.
Today’s hat has changed in terms of purpose. No longer are the Chinese people putting on caps to represent any form of affiliation to leadership. Instead, the modern Chinese are using hats to protect themselves from cold, for decoration, and only a few of them are using hats on occasions like burials.vi
Chinese history is a past that many historians give reference to because it is one of the four ancient civilizations. China is a nation that was initially characterized by the rule of several dynasties, such as the Han and Sheng dynasties. Chairman Mao initiated the war that was known to support communists’ opinions over the opposing groups. His rule encountered stiff opposition and was overthrown in later years. The culture of the Chinese has come a long way through the dynasties to the present day.
Marriage is regarded as a highly ceremonial affair, where parents of both couples get involved in the planning of the wedding ceremony. The boy child has for long been the preferred child to the girl child due to the mere fact that it is the boy child that carries on the name of the family to the next generation. A Chinese hat has been in use since the dynasty rule. Its shape had to be according to the head of the wearer. Different colors of the hut have different meanings; thus, care has to be exercised so that certain colors like white and green are not overemphasized. It is men who normally wore hats in the ancient Chinese.
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- Wang, Ling. Tea and Chinese Culture. Beijing: Long River Press, 2005.
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Lewandowski, Elizabeth J. The Complete Costume Dictionary. Plymouth: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2011.
Ma Yunchao. “An Innovative Oral History on the Chinese Cultural Revolution: Review of Cultural Revolution: Testimonies of 14 Witnesses from Nanjing University.” Modern China Studies 21, no. 2 (2014): 189-201.
Dillon, Michael. China: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary. Richmond: Curzon Press, 1998.
Morton, Scott. China: Its History and Culture. London: McGraw Hill Publishers, 2005.
Chey, Siew. China Condensed: 5,000 Years of History & Culture. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2010.
Wang, Ling. Tea and Chinese Culture. Beijing: Long River Press, 2005.
Jian, Chen. “The Beginning of the End: 1956 as Turning Point in Chinese and Cold War History.” Modern China Studies 22, no. 1 (2015): 99-126.
Johnson, Lain. Cultural Realism: Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995.