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About China
A General Introduction to China and Chinese Peoples
Exotic and breathtaking - The Land of the Dragon awaits intrepid explorers with a warm welcome and an intoxicating blend of traditions and cultures spanning millennia.
Mystery and Magic

Like no other country, China confuses the senses with a history that comes to life during festivals and celebrations bringing an ancient world once more into the spotlight. The Chinese peoples (For their are many within their culture), consider themselves to be The Children of the Dragon - and Chinese Dragon's flight is wingless and always beneficial, unlike their Western counterparts.

Ancestry, myth and folklore play a large part in the lives of today's people, as epitomised by such beliefs in Dragon Lore. This contrasts markedly with modern cities and thronging masses who drive the modern Chinese economy to such dizzy heights upon the world stage. When walking the modern streets of Beijing or Shanghai, it is sometimes difficult to appraise that what you see today did not exist a mere 30 years ago - for such is Chinese industry and phenomenal development.

Visitors will become enthralled with the unique cultural traditions, as displayed on stage and within local communities. One such example is Huang Mei Song, the predecessor of all Chinese Opera, and in itself a folk theatre about the lives of ordinary people. Buddhist and Taoist festivals combine in symmetry to extend and baffle the senses with lavish shows and a sense of mystery that keeps you intrigued. China's 57 minority groups add their own distinct flavours to this cultural melting pot via song, music, dance, and spectacular costumes (Most of which are made by hand).

Land of Contradictions

Tourists and recent Expats will often stay in the modern cities and visit the normal tourist attractions. They may find Chinese roads to be completely baffling, although modern driving standards are slowly being enforced in the cities. One of the first clues to the Chinese psyche lies in their normal greetings - which are always of the form "Have you eaten today?"To enquire "How are you" would be impolite at least, and possibly insulting! Perhaps visitors will next notice that Chinese are a very communal people, and great emphasis is placed upon 'Family' and attending family occasions. They always collaborate when faced with a new project, even something as simple as hanging a notice on an office wall. Family excepted, Chinese people are very open and forward when meeting strangers - especially foreigners. They will go to great lengths to assist you with even the simplest of tasks. However, unlike Westerners, their open face belies their privacy, and the curtain separating their public persona from their private one closes far quicker than in the west. Please respect this and enjoy their childlike openness for what it really is.

'Face' is one of the most important things for virtually all Chinese, although it may have many facets. Normally foreigners are excepted from this, but knowing a little etiquette goes a long way. Face may be regarded as the perception other Chinese have of them, and could be likened to Victorian attitudes of England, or certain Japanese cultural traits. This extends to how other foreigners perceive them as an individual or group. Face is displayed in many ways, especially in the modern Eastern cities, where a person may be judged by his home or car. The emphasis is always upon having something 'New', and not something of higher quality and intrinsic value that has been used before. This is what drives the new and booming property markets, that foreign correspondents never mention - perhaps because they never troubled to understand it? Therefore a young family will gladly spend 10Million RMB on a single bed apartment in the right place and development - in preference to buying an older used property with 3 bedrooms and 4 times the floor space just around the corner for 1 Million RMB. Answer: The older property has no Face. It is just the same with cars and other similar items. Lets finish this quick introduction to Face by stating Chinese business people will judge a person by three things: His shoes, his watch, and his ability to drink alcohol. That simple!

The exceptions are works by old and revered Masters from centuries before such as: Paintings, Calligraphy, Literature; and skilled arts such as jade works, porcelain and sculptures, or Emperors stylised weapons.

The second most important thing to most Chinese is 'Money', and either having or saving money. They save money to buy a house of course, and often it is the women that drive this. Money drives the Chinese family unit, which has the following stages: Courtship, new car, expensive 3-day wedding, a new home, and a baby. After the boy has completed all these tasks, he regains a lot of personal freedom - just so long as the bills are always paid! In order to get enough money for this, Chinese will work very long hours, every day of every week, and live in squalor or shared rooms for a while. During this time they will not pursue leisure activities, nor take holidays that are not family related. Therefore virtually all the money they make is either sent home to family, or saved for their own future.

Regarding business transactions, then the first of the contradictions becomes noticeable, for whilst Chinese pride themselves upon having a good face, their creaseless drive to maximise profit will see them altering contracts and technical specifications without agreement or knowledge, just so as to make a fraction more profit by fitting a cheaper part. This is why Chinese products worldwide are renowned for being cheap and of poor quality. In fact most are not, they just have this stupidity to replace bona fid parts with cheaper ones = more profit for the boss. To many foreigners, this shows they have no face! Unfortunately the Chinese factories do not recognise this, and believe there is always another buyer waiting on their doorstep. Slowly they are waking up to the reality that there is not.

This comes in stark contrast to the plethora of wonderful works of art and the technological advances made over millennia. Some of the skills exhibited when a Master carves a work of multi-coloured Jade are truly awesome. Their use and development of porcelain and glazes from ages contemporary with ancient Greece are phenomenal However, the best was reserved for The Emperor, and getting this wrong could cost them their lives. Nowadays the Market Economy does not offer any such hazards, and so they will try and get away with whatever they can. China does need to change its attitude to international contracts, specifications, and component parts.

Community ranks third in my list, and is the social network provided by Chinese families for themselves. This is slowly changing and evolving, but the standard model is that parents will raise children and give them the very best education possible - even if this means they go hungry. State education is free up until 16 or 18 (Depending upon examination results), but parents will normally pay for their child to attend a better school, and pay for extra-curriculum classes offered by the private sector - such as English lessons. University and College are really the same thing with different emphasis. These are not free and have to be paid for, although top students can gain full scholarships. Once a child reaches adulthood and enters the job market, then things reverse immediately and the child will then support the parents - and this continues into old age and infirmity.

The sense of Brotherhood extends far beyond family, as you will discover when you make lasting and true Chinese friends. They will tell you about their own perceptions of this world, and how interrelated all Chinese peoples are. Forget Western media hype, or those seeking their own fame at the expense of their Country. Put your own perceptions to one side and see what is real vs what is hyped. Can you do this with an open mind? If you can, then Taiwan, Tibet and Urgars are not political hot-potatoes, they simply express different aspects of the Brotherhood of all Chinese peoples (Be they Han or otherwise). It may be the same in your own family, where one branch or Brother has differing views from the norm, or does different things with his or her life. Families are like this, but will all rally round the same standard when threatened by a determined aggressor. The perspective is the 1937 - 45 war (Correct dates), when Japan invaded China because it saw weakness due to the ongoing Chinese civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists (The forefathers of modern China and Taiwan). The Chinese Brothers were fighting for a different future political system, yet paused their civil war to repulse the Japanese aggressors. After 1945 the civil war resumed for another 4-years ... and the rest is history. From this example you may conclude that being Chinese comes First to all Chinese peoples, and herein lies a hard truth you ignore at your peril - the mistake the Japanese made. This observation leads us very nicely back to our main topic, and the next section:

Those who stay in China a while will soon come to realise that for every rule there is at least one exception. This holds true for all spheres of life. It is a gradual process of awakening and discovery for most foreigners, who at times are totally baffled by Chinese ways - before finally coming to a realisation and being able to 'Put it all in a box'. This works great until you meet an exception, and then confusion sets in again. You realise the perception of China you placed over there - is in fact better put in another new box over the other side. Then this works for a while, before something else confounds you. There is no end to this process, and China simply cannot be put into a box - it is much too contrary.

It is this rich and unexpected diversity which I find so very fascinating about China - the oldest of extant world cultures. This in its own turn makes every day a new day, with something out of the box arriving on my doorstep. This will all be largely irrelevant to tourists coming for a few weeks. Longer term Expats will find this a frequent occurrence and need to deal with it. Therefore you need an open mind when dealing with China, and be open to new ideas, whilst not rushing to judge simply because something is different from how it is in your home country.

Related Pages:

1. Demographics
It is hard to better the excellent CIA Factbook, a lengthy webpage which details just about everything relevant to modern China. The aim of this page is to supplement their information with understanding...

China Expats propose to shortly offer a corrected and simpler version of this 'Factbook', differing in that it offers a view of China as Beijing (And the special regions) see it. Our immediate problem is one of presentation: as China offers such a rich diversity of geography, cultures, weather systems, and eco-systems - each one special in its own way. Therefore this page will also expand accordingly, but please forgive our sloth, as many facts need independent corroboration, and then presenting in an informative way that is immediate, surfer friendly, and checkable (Referenced). Our timeline is latter 2010
This information is as supplied by the Chinese Embassy in UK, as dated 20th June 2008, and/or other reliable sources. Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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