Social Customs And Traditions In China
Customs And Traditions, Books On Customs
Chinese Family Customs
During the long course of historical development, China's different people have
developed individual customs regarding food, clothing and housing, in response to their
own particular environments, social conditions and level of economic development.
Generally, the Han people take rice and noodles as their
staple diet, love to eat vegetables, beans, meat, fish and eggs, and pay particular
attention to cooking techniques. Mongolians often eat beef and mutton, and drink tea with
Tibetans take tsampa (roasted barley flour) as their staple food, and drink buttered tea,
and highland barley wine, but Tibetan herdmen mainly eat beef and mutton.
The Uygurs, Kazaks, and Ozbeks enjoy roast mutton kebabs,
unleavened bread and rice. Koreans like sticky rice cakes, cold noodles and kimchi (spicy,
pickled vegetables). The Ling, Ji, Dai, Blang and Hani all chew betel nuts.
The typical costume of Manchu women used to be the qipao (a close fitting dress with high
neck and slit skirt). Mongolians wear their traditional robes and riding boots.
Tibetans love to wear Tibetan robes, waistbands and
boots. Koreans are known for their boat shaped shoes. Uygurs wear diamond-shaped
embroidered skullcaps. Yi, Mao and Yao women wear pleated shirts and are often bedecked
with gold or silver ornaments.
Courtyard-type dwellings were traditionally the rule in
Han areas. Most minority herdsmen living in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu
live in yurts. The Dais, Zhuangs and Bouyeis in southern China often live in ganlan
(multiple storied houses raised on stilts).
In China, birthdays are not commonly celebrated, although
city dwellers do so more frequently than their country cousins, and children and old
people more than you and middle-aged people. No special ceremony is occasioned by a
birthday. Many people like to eat "longevity noodles," symbols of long life
inspired by the noodle's shape.
According to the Marriage Law, a man may legally marry at age 22 and a woman at 20, by
acquiring a marriage license issued by a marriage registration office, thus a wedding
ceremony is not a necessary legal procedure for marriage registration, but only a way for
relatives and friends to congratulate the bride and groom. The newlyweds will offer
"wedding candies" to their colleagues and friends. In return, their colleagues
and friends will present the newlyweds with gifts.
Funeral ceremonies in China are very simple. Usually, a memorial meeting is held to pay
last respects to the deceased and allow the living to express their grief. Cremation is
the rule in cities, and interment in rural areas. White is the traditional color of
mourning, but city people nowadays usually wear black gauze armbands to show their
Society Celebrations in
Legal holidays in China are New Year (January 1st), a national one-day holiday; Spring
Festival (New Year by the lunar calendar), a national three-day holiday; International
Working Women's Day (March 8th); Tree Planting Day (March 12th); International Labor Day
(May 1st), a national one-day holiday; Chinese Youth Festival (May 4th); International
Children's Day (June 1st); Anniversary of the Founding of the Chinese People's Liberation
Army (PLA) (August 1st); Teacher's Day (September 10th); and National Day (October 1st), a
national two-day holiday.
China's major traditional festivals include the Spring Day Festival, the Lantern Festival,
Pure Brightness Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Double
Ninth Festival. Ethnic minorities have also retained their own traditional festivals,
including the Water Sprinkling Festival of the Dai people, the Nadam Fair of the Mongolian
people, the Torch Festival of the Yi people, the Danu (Never Forget the Past) Festival of
the Yao people, the Third Month Fair of the Bai people, the Antiphonal Singing Day of the
Zhuang people, the Tibetan New Year and Onghor (Expecting a Good Harvest) Festival of the
Tibetan people, and the Jumping Flower Festival of the Miao people.
SPRING FESTIVAL OF CHINA
Each year, when winter is at its end and spring around the corner, people throughout China
enthusiastically celebrate the first traditional holiday of the year, the Spring Festival.
In the past, when the Chinese people used the lunar calendar, the Spring Festival was
known as the "New Year." It falls on the first day of the first lunar month, the
beginning of a new year. After the Revolution of 1911, China adopted the Gregorian
To distinguish the lunar New Year from the New Year by the Gregorian calendar, the lunar
New Year was called the Spring Festival (which generally falls between the last 10-day
period of January and mid-February). The evening before the Spring Festival, the lunar New
Year's Eve, is an important time for family reunions. The whole family gets together for a
sumptuous dinner, followed by an evening of pleasant talk or games. Some families stay up
all night, "seeing the year out." The next morning, people pay New Year calls on
relatives and friends, wishing each other good luck. During the Spring Festival, various
traditional recreation activities are enjoyed in many parts of China, notably lion dances,
dragon lantern dances, land-boat rowing and stilt-walking.
LANTERN FESTIVAL OF CHINA
The Lantern Festival falls on the15th day of the first lunar month, the night of the first
full moon after the Spring Festival. Traditionally, people eat sweet dumplings during this
festival. Sweet dumplings, round balls of glutinous rice flour with sugar filling,
symbolize reunion. During the festival people display multicolored lanterns on the street
and courtyards, and stroll around admiring them at night, hence the name "Lantern
PURE BRIGHTNESS DAY IN CHINA
Pure Brightness Day falls around April 5th every year. Traditionally, this is an occasion
for people to offer sacrifices to their ancestors. In recent years, many people have also
been going to the tombs of the revolutionary martyrs to pay their respects. At this time
of year the weather has begun to turn warm, and the earth is once again covered with
green. People live to go to the outskirts of cities to walk on the grass, fly kites and
appreciate the beauty of spring. That is why Pure Brightness Day is sometimes also called
"Walking amid Greenery Day."
DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL IN CHINA
It is generally believed that this festival originated to honor the memory of the
patriotic poet Qu Yuan, who lived in the State of Chu during the Warring States Period. In
despair at not being able to halt the decline of his country, he drowned himself in the
Miluo River in modern Hunan Province on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month after the
capital of Chu fell to the State of Qin. Legend has it that after Qu Yuan's death people
living on the banks of the river went out in their boats to try to find the corpse.
Every year thereafter, on this day people would row their boats out onto their local
river, throwing sections of bamboo filled with rice into the water as an offering to him.
Today, the memory of Qu Yuan lives on, zongzi remains the traditional food and dragon-boat
races are held.
MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL IN CHINA
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eight lunar month, which comes right
in the middle of autumn, hence its name. In ancient times, people would offer elaborate
cakes as sacrifices to the Moon Goddess on this day. After the ceremony, the family would
enjoy sitting together to eat the pastries.
The festival came to symbolize family reunion, and the custom has been passed down to
today. On this mid-autumn night the full moon is especially bright.
THE DOUBLE NINTH FESTIVAL IN CHINA
This festival falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. According to Chinese
tradition, the ninth day is an auspicious day; and the ninth day of the ninth lunar month
is the most auspicious day. On this day, the Chinese people customarily ascend a hill, eat
cakes, drink wine and admire chrysanthemums. Since the lake 1980s, the Double Ninth
Festival has become a festival for old people.