Category: 漢文化/Han Cultures (Page 2 of 2)


A central tenant of Chinese culture is the emphasis placed on harmony. Harmony is achieved through balance, through Dao 道, the Natural Way.

All natural phenomenon – tangible and intangible – are categorized into yin and yang; and further correlates to five elements – metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. All five elements are interconnected by 气, the current of life.

A healthy state of being maintains all attributes in equal proportions. Malaise arises when there is an imbalance, which is true for both the world-at-large (eg; war and strife) and the individual (eg; disease and illness).

Traditional Chinese Medicine thus focuses not on the symptoms but the underlying imbalance and promoting the flow of qi, or life current, through the body.

The goal of meditation is calming the mind to regulate the flow of qi within one’s body and achieving balance. Two outward manifestations of this philosophy in everyday life can be seen in the use of tea and incense.

Traditionally, the art of preparing and drinking tea are introspective actions carried out in silence. The steps are methodical and tools standardized. Only after bringing oneself to a calm state can one begin to drink the tea, thus allowing the tea to travel through the body, stimulate the mind and promote active thought leading to harmony.

Incense similarly evolved to become an art unto itself. On the metaphysical level, incense smoke links the human realm with that of the heavens. On the individual level, perfumes in traditional Chinese medicine correlates to the five organs. Incense was thus especially formulated to incorporate different fragrances which once inhaled would flow through the body to help achieve internal balance and external harmony with nature.


Culture cannot be defined as culture without shared beliefs and practices cumulating in food and celebrations.

There is widely considered to be eight unique cuisines in China with countless regional variations and local specialties. Arguably, the most well-known are Sichuan cuisine 川菜characterized by its heavy use of peppercorn and hot chili peppers and Cantonese cuisine 粤菜famous for its dim sum and savory soups.  However,in terms of prestige, no cuisine can compare with the imperial cuisine, gongting cuisine宫廷菜, reserved for the imperial family and the inner circle and said to combine the best and rarest ingredients available with exquisite and often-times imaginative presentation.

Cuisines aside, there are also special dishes, common to all but with regional variations, associated with specific holidays. For example, a hallmark of the Dragon Boat Festival is making and eating zongzi, glutinous rice stuffed in a flat leaf; and no Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations would be complete without moon cakes.

The Chinese year is based on a 12-month lunar calendar with an extra leap month approximately every three years.  Historically a primarily agrarian society, many traditional Chinese holidays mark key dates of the planting and harvest season and later given added significance by societal beliefs and cultural norms of filial piety and ancestry worship.

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