China

Welcome to the Chinese culture page!

This page, like all of our cultural guide pages, will forever be a work in progress. Please check back at a future date for additional information. If you have cultural or culinary expertise when it comes to China please share! Email us at with your thoughts.

In just a few short years, the number of students Canada Homestay International hosts from the People’s Republic of China has risen from zero to more than 500 per year. This makes China our number one sending country! We are proud to offer first language support for students from China, as well as a wealth of cultural knowledge for hosts.

Introduction

The Peoples Republic of China is a country of great magnitude. With over 1.3 billion people, it is the worlds most populous and second largest country by land area. It is the worlds largest exporter and importer of goods and has the fastest growing major economy. China is a country rich in history, being one of the worlds earliest recorded civilizations, it has many stories to tell. From the Terracotta Warriors of the Ming Dynasty to the Great Wall, it is an archaeologist’s dream. The Chinese characters, to represent China, literally means central nation and in present times, it is certainly proving itself to be.

Nice to meet you!

Greetings in China are considered of utmost importance and are taken seriously. A handshake is the most common form of greeting, and the gesture can mean more than simply welcome. It can also express congratulations, gratitude and encouragement. Another way to greet someone in China is by a slight bow or nod. You may notice that your student may not look you in the eye for long, or at all, which can be somewhat confusing for westerners. Please understand that it is a sign of respect and not that they dont want to engage with you.

The official language of China is Mandarin. It is a tonal language and poses major challenges for the western ear. Here is a link to learn a few Chinese words and greetings:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m1LWu81kWqE

Please ask your student for assistance. They will enjoy helping you and it is a great way to spend time together and have a few laughs.

How Great it is...

The Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, took over two thousand years to build and is the only man-made structure built on earth that is visible from space. It was originally built to protect the Chinese Empire from intruders, to act as a border and to control immigration and emigration. The wall stretches over 21, 196 km but not all of it is accessible to the public. If you ever have the chance to visit China, and what a better excuse than to go and visit your student upon their return, be sure to check out this wonder.


If you ever visit China...

Beijing and The Great Wall is something you do not want to miss. Beijing, as the capital city of China, offers the international, multicultural, lively, fast-pace and energetic aspect of a modern city, as well as old school tiny windy alleys known as “Hutong’r”, traditional style housing “Siheyuan” hidden in the busy city. It is also worthwhile to check out the Forbidden City which is where the emperors lived in the old times, visit the Summer Palace in an early morning watching beautiful lotus flowers blossom all over the water pond, climbing up the Great Wall on a sunny day and overlooking all the mountains around it (about 2 hours outside of Beijing), watching a Beijing Opera while sipping some “Kungfu” tea and snacking on some “tea treats”, etc.

The Terracotta Warriors and Xi’an city is also worth a visit. Xi’an used to be “Beijing” for many dynasties in the history. There are a lot of hidden historical spots in Xi’an city such as the Da’yan Pagoda (Buddhism), Da Ci’en temple (Buddhism), the Great Musque of Xi’an (Chinese Muslim Hui – different from Uyghur Muslim), etc. The Terracotta Warriors does not need a lot of introduction here, but this documentary gives a great presentation on this world wonder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaiPtZrtuJA

If you are interested in exploring somewhere less travelled, southwest China provinces such as Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, Gansu, etc. can provide you some of the best adventures you can ever dream of. Hiking along Tiger Leaping Gorge, visiting Panda conservation centre, climbing up the 4th girl mountain, checking out Shunan bamboo sea, appreciating the Jiuzhai Valley National Park, walking through beautiful monasteries and Tangka painting in Rebgong and Se da, riding camels across a desert, etc.

China is lucky to have such diversity and variety. No matter where your host student comes from, you will be happy to visit her/his hometown and have yourself amazed and inspired.

Food

Food is very important in Chinese culture. An interesting fact: Chinese people usually greet each other by asking, ‘have you eaten yet?’. This alone shows how central food really is to Chinese people. Culturally, it is believed that food can bring closeness and harmony to all types of relationships, whether it be family or friendships. This belief is dependent on ingredients and also varies with each and every province. However, in general, when you visit someone in China and want to bring something, you can always bring fruits, because fruits are always welcome for every family. This also means, lots of Chinese people, especially female, eat more than one piece of fruit on a daily basis. This can be a good topic to chat with your host student of you would like to learn more about it.

You may have heard of the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ dichotomy. Yin is the “female” energy and yang is the “male” energy within the universe and when the two are in balance, a harmonious state exists. If they are out of balance, conflict will result. Yin and Yang concept is also applied to food, spices and herbs. Therefore, there are “hot” foods such as ginger, lamb, beef, white part of green onion, etc., there are “cold” foods such as most green leafy vegetables, seaweed, papaya, etc., there are also “cool” foods and “warm” foods. If your diet of out of balance, you will likely to feel discomfort, and if you do not correct the imbalance, you can get ill. Please follow these links for more reading on this subject:
http://www.lotusrootacupuncture.com/nutritition.html

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/food_property_food_tcm.html

Learn to use chopsticks!

Food is very important in Chinese culture. An interesting fact: it is common to greet someone in China by saying, have you eaten yet?. This alone proves how central food really is to the Chinese. Culturally, it is believed that food can bring closeness and harmony to all types of relationships, whether it be family or friendships. This belief is dependent on ingredients and also varies with each and every province. You may have heard of the yin and yang dichotomy, this also applies to food. Yin is the negative and yang is the positive energy within the universe and when both are in balance, a harmonious state can exist. If they are out of balance, conflict will result. The yin and yang concept is also applied to food, spices and herbs. For more information, please refer to further reading at the bottom the page.

Politics

China is ruled by the Communist Party of China and is one of worlds few remaining one-party communist states. Although the Chinese government closely scrutinizes and restricts the internet, reporting in the media, and people’s reproductive and other rights, the level of public support for the government is among the highest in the world. In order to under the success of a one party system in a country with such a large population, one must consider the role of Confucianism within Chinese society. Confucianism is a philosophical system which is based on humanism, which is easily understood by an expression most all of us are familiar with, Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, believed that each individual has a designated role within society and each role would ultimately benefit the greater good. The collective is of greater value than the individual, which is the exact opposite of western philosophy.

China is a country that will always be in the limelight of the global community. Whether it is 'yin’ or 'yang’ attention, it will continue to entice the world with it’s rich culture and history, and what the future will bring to both China and the rest of the world.

Please take into account that the information is a very basic introduction and by no means stereotyping all Chinese students you may meet!

The place to start is the Guide to Hosting Chinese Students attachment below.

For further reading:

  • ITIM International’s Geert Hofstede “Cultural Dimensions"http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_china.shtml
  • “Red China Blues” by Jan Wong, Anchor Books
  • “The Chinese Thought of It: Amazing Inventions and Innovations” by Ting-xing Ye, Annick Press

Chinese food and the concept of yin and yang:

http://eap.einaudi.cornell.edu/node/9614

Host_Tips_Chinese.pdf (162 KB) Jennifer Wilson, 2013-04-17 00:03