East History and Culture A2 Coursework

Pages: 5 (1777 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: History - Asian

East, Culture, History

Beijing, previously known as Peking after Romanization, is the capital of the People's Republic of China and also one of the most populated cities on the entire globe. It is an important city not only because of its position as capital of China but also because of its historical significance to the region and to the country as a whole. The Great Wall of China, which is not physically within the borders of Beijing but very nearby, is -- arguably -- the most important historical landmark in all of China due to the very fact that it was built over the course of two thousand years and it was a project that took the lives of thousands of men (Morton 49). The Great Wall was built primarily during the Ming period (1368-1644) (47) and Keay (1) posits that rather than the Great Wall's purpose being to defend and define Chinese territory, it was more likely designed to augment and project it.

Created by the third Ming emperor at the start of the 15th century, the Forbidden City in Beijing served as the imperial palace for both the Ming and Qing dynasties. The fact that it was built to serve as a palace is one of the reasons for its importance in history, but today, it is viewed as one of the most extraordinary examples of architecture in the world. The palace consisted of different buildings for formal receptions, for ritualistic services and domestic quarters -- among others -- as well as lush gardens. Three types of religions were acknowledged there -- Lamaism, Taoism and Buddhism. Keeping with Chinese beliefs, the Forbidden City was designed using five elemental colors that were designated by philosophers of the time.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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A2 Coursework on East History and Culture Assignment

The name Shenzhen goes back to the Ming dynasty -- approximately 1,400 years. "Zhen" refers to the drains in paddy fields, aptly named by the local people and literally meaning "deep drains" (Shenzhen History). It was during the Qing dynasty that Shenzhen became an official township. In recent years it has become quite an important city in China after being named a "Special Economic Zone" in 1980. Once just a small fishing village was made into a sort of capitalistic experiment adopting "socialism with Chinese characteristics" (Shenzhen History). Shenzhen is one of the economic hubs of China and it is also becoming known as the biggest manufacturing region in the world. While Shenzhen is not the home to such landmarks as the likes of the Great Wall or the Forbidden City, the city is known for its beautiful seaside as well as its lush forests -- earning its name as the "International Garden City."

Color, smell and taste are fundamental aspects of Chinese cuisine. That is, Chinese food must taste good, but its presentation must also whet the appetite. There are a number of different cooking techniques in Chinese food culture and using them is what makes the same ingredients taste so different. Some of those different methods are steaming, double-boiling, stewing in soy sauce, quick-frying, stewing after frying, sauteing, and braising (Hong 32-33). Hot and spicy dishes are very typical in Chinese food but are especially prevalent in the regions of Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, Jiangxi, and Shanxi (42). Though the Chinese have a plethora of dishes (and spicy ones at that) within each region, the main staple of Chinese diet is rice. Plain grains are a staple in China (Newman 11).

The way in which food is served in China is also very important. The Chinese believe that beautiful dishes and utensils make a meal. In some of the older porcelain serving dishes one can see very intricate designs consisting of birds and other animals. During the Shang and Zhou dynasties food was served in carved bronze (Hong 46). During the Han Dynasty utensils looked more like beautiful pieces of art. Over the years styles for dishware changed ranging from silver and gold utensils in the Tang Dynasty period to more practical bowls and teacups during the Ming Dynasty (47). A quirky tradition of serving Chinese food is that the food must not match the serving dishes. Food is also served in dishes that are color consistent with the season. For example, summer cuisine is served in blue or green serving dishes while winter cuisine is served in warmer tones of red, yellow and orange (48).

As expected considering China's long history, its food history is also quite long. The cooking methods, serving customs as well as table manners have been in place for thousands of years. The Chinese have the belief that food is basic to survival and because it was often scarce (due to floods or droughts) it was really honored when it was met at their table (Newman 11). This is still true for the Chinese today. Food is used first for survival, second for communication and for maintaining social groups, and also importantly, for expressing one's identity (11). Food is used in China as a connection to the past.

Buddhism was introduced into China a bit before the first century a.D. -- approximately six hundred years after the deaths of Confucius and Gautama (the historical Buddha) (Ching 125). Of course by the time Buddhism was introduced in China the religion had already gone through many centuries of development in India. The pre-Buddhist Chinese tradition in terms of religion was more like the one known by Westerners consisting of a three-tiered universe consisting of Heaven, Earth and Hell with one single life given to all men (125). Buddhism had much more complicated ideas about human existence and thus Buddhism was met with some conflict. Buddhism thus adjusted itself to meet Chinese needs and responding to pre-existing Confucian values and beliefs as well as incorporating some Taoist ideas (125). Ching notes that the biggest question Buddhism brought to China and which still remains is: Did the Buddhist conquer China or did the Chinese conquer Buddhism (125)?

One of the main differences between Chinese and Western business practices is that for the Chinese business is connected to the family. In fact, Chen (19) notes that "the family serves as the basis for and prototypical unit of all organizations -- from social clubs to educational institutions to political parties." Knowing this it is easy to get a sense of how business practices might differ in China as opposed to Western cultures.

Renqing is an important concept when it comes to understanding relationships in relationships. The term expresses unpaid debts that occur throughout relationships, but literally it might mean "human empathy" and it has come to refer to "gift-giving" (Chen 49). Basically, what this means is that if you receive something good from someone, you should return that goodness in abundance. This is true in business and familial relationships.

Etiquette when meeting people in Chinese business situations is different from the West. A Westerner, for example, may ask a business acquaintance about what company he or she works for or what their title is, a Chinese business person will more likely ask about where the other is from or about their family. The Chinese are more about making real connections with people as opposed to superficial ones that depend solely on talk about business. Chen (52) warns that one stereotype held by the Chinese is that Americans do not have respect for family values and this thus makes them less trustworthy. Some Americans further this stereotype, according to Chen, by throwing lavish parties and giving expensive gifts while trying to make a deal with the Chinese and then forgetting about them as soon as the deal is done.

In business practices with Chinese it is often difficult for Westerners to use humor since cultural differences usually make context or metaphors hard to understand (Chen 133). Idioms especially are difficult to translate across cultures. Likewise, Chen (133) notes that sarcastic humor is often misunderstood as well.

Shenzhen, a once small agricultural city across the border from Hong Kong's territories, is a city that has made its mark upon the landscape. Campanella (31) states that it's strange how the most visible transformations didn't occur right in the city but rather in the countryside around Shenzhen. This was due in large part to something called the "Household Responsibility System" -- and experiment that was developed to increase agricultural production and help increase the income of the peasants in the area (31). Farmers were thus able to construct new houses, which created a major urbanization.

In the 1970s there were very few people crossing from Hong Kong over to Shenzhen, however, by the 1980s more than 10 million individuals were crossing over every year (Campanella 35). After Shenzhen was named a "Special Economic Zone" its industrial output increased from 60 million Yuan to more than 2.5 billion Yuan (35). This helped change the landscape from that of fishing village to major metropolis. Between the years of 1982 and 1996 there were more than 600 buildings constructed, drastically changing the entire landscape of Shenzhen… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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