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Welcome Traditional China? February 27, 2007

Posted by koda7 in China.

I realize that most posts on this site relate to Business and Politics but as I am a homegrown anthropologist I’ll be taking a differrent spin on the East. Please be patient with me as I’m an anecdotal poster.  Japan and its cultural innovation tomorrow!

Welcome traditional China


About two years ago I played badminton at a university. When waiting for a court I liked to discuss with my fellow players about culture, business and school. I always found a strange situation arising: whenever the conversation turn to spirituality and philosophy my Chinese friends had very little or nothing to say. I always assumed that they didn’t understand my English.


One day after one of my unsuccessful attempts to discussing religion and philosophy, a good friend of mine, Sharon (understand that’s her English name, I can’t properly pronounce her Chinese name), she turned to me and said, “Kids from China don’t understand that.” I probed further, and she explained that there was a spiritual vacuum in China. People cared about success and money to the point where spiritual culture was not really practiced or learnt.


I’ve often thought of China as a human machine that manufactures and reproduces worldly innovation. I haven’t seen anything original come from China in my lifetime. That is not to say that there has been none merely that it seemed not to be an important aspect to the Chinese social structure.



So when China began “opening up” to the western world I thought there would be a 2nd cultural revolution. Now I think I realize why there won’t be. Historically, China has been the tortoise not the hare, to borrow and western parable. China has slowly climbed to the front of the economic and political stage; where as the US has made a relatively quick jump to power. All this to say China is not a machine any more. The individual appears to be resurfacing.

I came across an article recently that brought me to think about this. In an article entitled “The return of Confucius” (Spectrum – Standard Weekend – China’s Business Newspaper, February 24, ), there appears to be a thirst; a very real and powerful thirst for identity in China; a spiritual identity which is truly Chinese. The world can not, in this modern age, survive with a China as it currently exists. The cultural vacuum that is China will never be satisfied with Western culture. A nation can not adopt a culture or a way of life from another and survive.


The article speaks of a strange phenomenon that occurred with the presentation of a female academic’s understanding of Confucius’ teaching. This academic/author Yu Dan is breaking records both in personal appearances at book signings and lectures, and in books sales. In fact her book What I Have Learnt From The Analects has sold over 3 million copies in China. She has become celebrity re-interpreting Confucius’ teachings in a modern tone and the thirst for it seems real, even fanatical.


During the Chinese cultural revolution much of the Confucian teachings were abandoned and disregarded; primarily being viewed as soft. Now that China is placed front and centre is it time for its rebirth?


Confucius’ teachings revolve around rules of behaviour and high ethics. While China excels in rules of behaviour, the nation on whole would benefit greatly from Confucius’ ethical teachings. Many western societies often mistaken one of Confucius’ teachings with their own “Golden Rule”. It was Confucius who said, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”. If China feeds itself of its own rich tradition and heritage the world will benefit. Western culture may only create more consumers in China but Chinese culture has the potential to create more ethical humans.




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