Chinese Culture and Traditions

Women performing traditional dances in Shanghai. Many aspects of Chinese culture combine both old and new.
Women performing traditional dances in Shanghai. Many aspects of Chinese culture combine both old and new.

Chinese culture is distinctive and ranks as the predominant culture of East Asia. The fact that China is one of the oldest organized civilizations has translated to tons of explanations of present-day Chinese culture. The culture of the Chinese people at present day is heavily influenced by the traditions that have been passed down through generations as well as a western influence. These two cultures co-exist in a kind of balance as is evidenced by the contrasting western fashion and the traditional Chinese attire, the immense skyscrapers of Beijing and Shanghai juxtaposed against the innumerable heritage buildings sprinkled across the country. China’s culture is fodder for many an anthropologist and has a wealth of information for avid historians.


The architectural prowess of the Chinese is renowned the world over. Today, the Shanghai Tower stands an impressive 2,073 feet above the ground ranking among the tallest buildings in the world second only to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Hong Kong, Beijing and other administrative urban centers of the People’s Republic of China are all accentuated by some of the finest architectural masterpieces of all time. However, the design skills of the Chinese people are not of the 21st century alone. The Chinese people have been acknowledged as master builders since ancient times and have been a significant influence on the architectural styles of Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. Over the years, the structural principles of this style of architecture have been retained. Additionally, many Western-trained Chinese architects have made successful efforts to fuse western architectural styles with those of traditional China.

Art and Design

Chinese art has been described as elaborate, flashy, and colorful. There are early "stone age" art pieces that date as far back as 10,000 BC. These mostly consist of simple sculptures and pottery. Unlike the western classical styles that were dropped and then gradually recovered, Chinese art is laced by a distinctive level of continuity within the tradition. Chinese ceramics stand out globally with China being one of the leading producers of ceramic products.


Clothing in China has always varied by region, and over the years it has also changed rather dramatically. During the imperial era, fashion was highly distinguished based on the social status of an individual. Silk was a privilege left for the extremely wealthy of the society. Silk was not only a primary material in the design of outfits but was also a crucial trade commodity for the country. The Silk Road was a vital network of trading routes that date back as early as 207 BCE. These trade routes connected Asia with the Middle East, East Africa, and southern Europe. China has remained one of the biggest exporters of silk to date. In recent times the fashion industry has shown a renewed liking of traditional Chinese attire which has led to a movement that is advocating for the return of ancient Chinese clothing from the Han dynasty.

Chinese Cuisine

Chinese food is highly favored by many populations. It is reputed for its variety which includes exotic selections of seafood, vegetables, and tantalizing menus that promise an exciting gastronomic experience. Chinese food has had a significant influence on other cuisines across Asia with adaptations made to cater to the different localities. Modern Chinese cuisine is mostly similar to traditional methods with the cooking techniques and the seasoning preferences varying from one province to another. The geographical features of China have always had a strong influence on the ingredients that are locally available. The imperial expansion and international trade brought a wider array of ingredients and cooking techniques from other regions which slowly became embedded in Chinese culture over time.


The Chinese language ranks among the oldest languages known to the world today. It is also one of the few languages with an intelligible written script that has lasted for thousands of years. Chinese has been ranked among the most marketable languages to learn. With a population of about 1.2 billion people, China hosts the largest concentration of Chinese-speaking individuals in the world. This value represents about 16% of the population in the world, and they all speak one variant of Chinese as the first language. There are different variants of Chinese that native speakers commonly describe as dialects of the same language; however, linguists have shown that Chinese is more of a family of languages rather than a language with varied dialects. Today Mandarin (standard Chinese) is not only spoken within China but is also being taught in schools in some African countries and the west.


During the Shang and Xia dynasties, the people of China were inclined to the worship of Shang Di, a supreme god. The king and the diviners acted as priests in this time. When the Zhou dynasty came into power, the orientation of worship shifted towards the broader ideology of heaven. Today, a large part of Chinese culture revolves around the notion that there is a spiritual world similar to traditional China. Additionally, in traditional China the line between myths, unexplained phenomena, and religion was blurry. This situation led to the development of folklore to fill the gaps between things that could not be explained. Many stories have since evolved into modern Chinese holidays. Taoism and Buddhism are the main religions of the country. The religious practices of ancient China have left an indelible mark on the present day culture of the people and some Buddhist temples and grottoes, for instance, have become tourist hotspots bringing people from all over the globe.

Emphasis on Community

A significant characteristic of Chinese culture is its social nature as opposed to western culture which is hugely individualistic. Chinese culture has a strong focus on society, and the values of respect, honesty, kindness, and strong family values are held in high regard. The stress on these values has been passed down for ages starting with philosophical thinkers like Confucius. The warm and friendly demeanor of the Chinese people thus gives even the most westernized cities in the country the feel of traditional China where people live in close-knit communities.


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