Buddhism was introduced to China from India approximately in the first century A.D., becoming increasingly popular after the fourth century. Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism as it is sometimes called, is found primarily in Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Now China has more than 13,000 Buddhist temples, with about 200,000 monks and nuns.
Facts and Statistics
Location: Eastern Asia bordering Afghanistan 76 km, Bhutan 470 km, Burma 2,185 km, India 3,380 km, Kazakhstan 1,533 km, North Korea 1,416 km, Kyrgyzstan 858 km, Laos 423 km, Mongolia 4,677 km, Nepal 1,236 km, Pakistan 523 km, Russia (northeast) 3,605 km, Russia (northwest) 40 km, Tajikistan 414 km, Vietnam 1,281 km
Climate: extremely diverse; tropical in south to subarctic in north
Population: 1,298,847,624 (July 2004 est.)
Ethnic Make-up: Han Chinese 91.9%, Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Manchu, Mongol, Buyi, Korean, and other nationalities 8.1%
Religions: Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Muslim 1%-2%, Christian 3%-4%
Government: Communist state
The Chinese Language
Chinese is a family of closely-related but mutually unintelligible languages. These languages are known variously as fangyán (regional languages), dialects of Chinese or varieties of Chinese. In all over 1.2 billion people speak one or more varieties of Chinese.
All varieties of Chinese belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages and each one has its own dialects and sub-dialects, which are more or less mutually intelligible.
Chinese Society & Culture
The Importance of "Face"
- The concept of ‘face’ roughly translates as ‘honour’, ‘good reputation’ or ‘respect’.
- There are four types of ‘face’:
1) Diu-mian-zi: this is when one’s actions or deeds have been exposed to people.
2) Gei-mian-zi: involves the giving of face to others through showing respect.
3) Liu-mian-zi: this is developed by avoiding mistakes and showing wisdom in action.
4) Jiang-mian-zi: this is when face is increased through others, i.e. someone complementing you to an associate.
- It is critical you avoid losing face or causing the loss of face at all times.
Confucianism is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relationship. The basic tenets are based upon five different relationships:
- Ruler and subject
- Husband and wife
- Parents and children
- Brothers and sisters
- Friend and friend
Confucianism stresses duty, sincerity, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority. Through maintaing harmonious relations as individuals, society itself becomes stable.
Collectivism vs. Individualism
- In general, the Chinese are a collective society with a need for group affiliation, whether to their family, school, work group, or country.
- In order to maintain a sense of harmony, they will act with decorum at all times and will not do anything to cause someone else public embarrassment.
- They are willing to subjugate their own feelings for the good of the group.
- This is often observed by the use of silence in very structured meetings. If someone disagrees with what another person says, rather than disagree publicly, the person will remain quiet. This gives face to the other person, while speaking up would make both parties lose face.
- The Chinese’ Non-verbal communication speaks volumes.
- Since the Chinese strive for harmony and are group dependent, they rely on facial expression, tone of voice and posture to tell them what someone feels.
- Frowning while someone is speaking is interpreted as a sign of disagreement. Therefore, most Chinese maintain an impassive expression when speaking.
- It is considered disrespectful to stare into another person's eyes. In crowded situations the Chinese avoid eye contact to give themselves privacy.
Chinese Etiquette and Customs
- Greetings are formal and the oldest person is always greeted first.
- Handshakes are the most common form of greeting with foreigners.
- Many Chinese will look towards the ground when greeting someone.
- Address the person by an honorific title and their surname. If they want to move to a first-name basis, they will advise you which name to use.
- The Chinese have a terrific sense of humour. They can laugh at themselves most readily if they have a comfortable relationship with the other person. Be ready to laugh at yourself given the proper circumstances.
Gift Giving Etiquette
- In general, gifts are given at Chinese New Year, weddings, births and more recently (because of marketing), birthdays.
- The Chinese like food and a nice food basket will make a great gift.
- Do not give scissors, knives or other cutting utensils as they indicate the severing of the relationship.
- Do not give clocks, handkerchiefs or straw sandals as they are associated with funerals and death.
- Do not give flowers, as many Chinese associate these with funerals.
- Do not wrap gifts in white, blue or black paper.
- Four is an unlucky number so do not give four of anything. Eight is the luckiest number, so giving eight of something brings luck to the recipient.
- Always present gifts with two hands.
- Gifts are not opened when received.
- Gifts may be refused three times before they are accepted.
- The Chinese prefer to entertain in public places rather than in their homes, especially when entertaining foreigners.
- If you are invited to their house, consider it a great honour. If you must turn down such an honour, it is considered polite to explain the conflict in your schedule so that your actions are not taken as a slight.
- Arrive on time.
- Remove your shoes before entering the house.
- Bring a small gift to the hostess.
- Eat well to demonstrate that you are enjoying the food!
- Learn to use chopsticks.
- Wait to be told where to sit. The guest of honour will be given a seat facing the door.
- The host begins eating first.
- You should try everything that is offered to you.
- Never eat the last piece from the serving tray.
- Be observant to other peoples' needs.
- Chopsticks should be returned to the chopstick rest after every few bites and when you drink or stop to speak.
- The host offers the first toast.
- Do not put bones in your bowl. Place them on the table or in a special bowl for that purpose.
- Hold the rice bowl close to your mouth while eating.
- Do not be offended if a Chinese person makes slurping or belching sounds; it merely indicates that they are enjoying their food.
- There are no strict rules about finishing all the food in your bowl.
Tipping Etiquette: Tipping is becoming more commonplace, especially with younger workers although older workers still consider it an insult. Leaving a few coins is usually sufficient.