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China is one of the worlds oldest and most advanced civilizations, therefore, its culture is unique and authentic. Moreover, it is often perceived as exotic and mysterious due to the barriers which were defined historically. In order to comprehend the modern state of affairs within the scope of Chinese culture, it is essential to analyze historical peculiarities which shaped the country of today to a considerable degree.
First of all, it is highly significant to define the concept of culture. According to Williams (1995), its definition lies within three general categories. One of these categories is the ideal in terms of which culture can be perceived as a state or process of human perfection. Moreover, it entirely relies on absolute or universal values. In this context, the analysis of culture is based on the discovery and description of lives and works of people whose values are essentially aligned in order to compose a specific cultural condition. Another category is called the documentary and mainly concerns perceptions, thoughts, imagination which contribute towards the emergence of the overall picture of the cultural environment. The base for analysis is the implementation of a profound criticism. The milieu is examined thoroughly by using methods of comparison or general assessment. Eventually, the last category represents the social definition which implies the description of a specific way of life. It also involves certain behavioral patterns, set of values and moral standards, traditions and |s pertaining to a particular culture. While combining the previous methods of analyses, this one involves a detailed approach towards various aspects of social life which considerably shape the society. On the whole, the entire analysis tends to facilitate the understanding of cultural development within the scope of a certain milieu (Williams, 1995).
In a globalized world, the borders between different countries and diverse cultures are substantially blurred. Consequently, two principal concepts of culture emerge, such as mass culture and so-called high culture (Jameson, 1979). The first one tends to define its object in a detached way from the second one, although there is no substantial evidence for this opposition. Jameson (1979) points out the positions which reduce themselves into the two mirror-images. According to Hall (1981), this distinction derived from the social division into classes which contributed considerably towards peculiarities in cultural relations. Thus, culture reflects the interdependency within the society in terms of domination and subordination, along with implantation, which form an intrinsic feature of cultural relations (Hall, 1981).
While relying on the above mentioned findings, it is essential to revert to the subject of Chinese culture. The country today represents a complex, heterogeneous and dynamic milieu. Due to globalization, various developments in economy, technology and society have become more apparent. This leads to a significant cultural blending on the world level, although China still depends on its traditional values to a considerable degree.
According to Hodge and Louie (2005), Napoleon once called China the sleeping dragon while feeling reverence towards its potential power. It turned out to be a prophetic utterance since nowadays China develops at a significant rate while being a part of the most dynamic region in the contemporary world. The country gradually becomes one of the most indispensable players in the international arena. Therefore, its culture and language have recently appeared in the spotlight which enhances the extraordinary achievements of Chinese culture.
While playing a significant role in global political and economic affairs, China extends its influence on the cultural domain, as well. The most apparent manifestation of this increasing impact is the countrys hosting of the Olympics in 2008. The raise of interest in various cultural artefacts, such as literature, art, music, cinema and other, becomes stronger than ever before (Louie, 2008).
Among the other ancient civilizations, only the Chinese civilization has never encountered cultural discontinuity which contributes towards its uniqueness and authenticity. Chinese culture is based on three pivotal aspects such as environmental, economic and ideological. These aspects derive from the continental culture, agriculture, and Confucianism accordingly (Zhongwen & Qiaosheng, 2011).
China is not a simple, homogeneous nation. Its culture has an introverted quality as well as a strong sense of togetherness. Therefore, it combines both introversion and openness.
According to Zhongwen and Qiaosheng (2011), the Great Wall of China symbolizes the introversion of Chinese culture. Confucianism played a vital role by contributing towards strong features of a closed development. Chinas naturally agricultural economy also favored such state of affairs. This concept of the wall was essential in terms of guaranteeing stability and sustainable development. Meanwhile, the real Great Wall separated China from the outside world. It did not promote the same introverted behavioral pattern inside the country. On the whole, Chinese culture possesses a strong sense of unity. Zhongwen and Qiaosheng (2011) support this notion by enumerating several traditional features pertaining to Chinese culture. These features include compatibility, integrity, reality and ambiguity. Thus, society inside the above mentioned wall has been predominantly secular.
During the last 2000 years, China has been a crucial power, an empire, and this fact has a pervasive effect on its culture (Hodge & Louie, 2005). Nevertheless, it has never been a religious country, since the emperors carried a higher authority than the gods. Moreover, the emperors possessed the right to assess the significance of distinct gods and even rank them respectively. In relation to the conflicts based on religion, there were few due to the fact that China always advocated religious tolerance (Zhongwen & Qiaosheng, 2011).
Chinese culture gradually evolved while adapting to the changes that took place in its society. Each aspect has undergone a dramatic transformation in order to adjust to the modern conditions of a globalized world. Therefore, it is essential to assess various dimensions of culture with the purpose of constructing a congruent image of modern Chinese culture.
Painting and writing are closely interwoven in traditional Chinese culture. Thus, Chinese paintings inevitably incorporate the artists calligraphy as part of the creative process. Furthermore, Chinese culture is strongly visual and semiotically promiscuous (Hodge & Louie, 2005).
The musical system that developed in China is one of the oldest and most highly developed among all known systems. It is crucial to point out that music has always existed within the cultural context. Therefore, it has never remained static since the beginning of the world. Several new genres have emerged under the influence of other cultures. However, the preservation of traditions has also been of paramount significance (Kuiper, 2011).
Nevertheless, the forces of globalization in music and the performing arts in China are expanding at a substantial rate. In some contexts, globalization has the effect of reviving traditions, because people do not want to see their own culture swept away in a tide of globalization. Although one thing appears fairly certain, a revived tradition will be a changed tradition. Therefore, while there is a delicate maintenance and cherished approach, traditions will undoubtedly exist (Louie, 2008).
Another highly significant cultural aspect concerns gender roles within society. Taking into consideration the global womens movement and international feminist thought, it is crucial to analyze the role of gender in modern Chinese culture. According to Louie (2008), gender may be understood as the changing, contingent and asymmetrical constructs of femininity and masculinity that are ascribed to bodies, social and cultural practices and relationships across time.
Over thousands of years, the traditional Chinese society was constituted by an essentially masculine value system. It was based on the rigid hierarchy of authority. Moreover, the male element was dominant. Therefore, the concept of the family was involved into a patriarchal system which was dominated by the older generations while the essential power was invested in the male head of the household. Meanwhile, women had no rights to property or inheritance. In terms of Confucian ethics, the womens subservience to men was perceived as natural and proper. Furthermore, the behavioral pattern of a woman was governed by Three Obediences: a woman had to obey three men in her life: her father as a daughter, her husband as a wife, and her son when widowed (Davis, 2005). Women were not in any way in control of their destiny and were severely oppressed under the social and moral hierarchy of sexual relations in traditional China. A Chinese womans identity was defined in terms of her unquestioning obedience and deference to the authority of her husbands household at marriage and her eternal attachment to it (Leung, 2003).
In the twenty-first century, the role of women has undergone dramatic transformations. However, the acute issue of discrimination is still not solved which is reflected in a biased employment policy. During a hiring process, a considerable preference is given to men rather than women. Moreover, women do not have an equal access to various career-enhancing resources. They receive fewer training and development opportunities, and are denied valuable positions for working overseas that are considered essential to further promotions (Granrose, 2005).
In addition, Chinese feminism faces a problem of limited and limiting perspective on female emancipation. The patriarchal gender system was reigning for centuries within society which makes it difficult for women to oppose the well-established social norms and standards (Leung, 2003).
However, modern Chinese society highly cherishes the traditional values, including harmony in relationships. In order to maintain an absolute harmony, it is highly significant to establish equality between men and women, which will be based on mutual respect and dignity.
From the above mentioned characteristics of Chinese traditional culture, it is apparent that China developed in a unique and intrinsic manner. The Great Wall served not only as a shield from the outside world, it became a symbol of countrys self-centeredness. While it allowed China to prevent crucial meddling into its cultural traditions, it also contributed towards countrys closedness. This avoidance of openness resulted in relative misunderstanding of Chinese culture on the part of the world. Furthermore, it is perceived as substantially exotic and mysterious. However, the Chinese face the difficulties in forming a correct understanding of themselves and the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, Chinese culture has now become more open, viable and inclusive. In terms of globalization, Chinese culture tends to change its pattern entirely. Although it had not faced dramatic transformations within the scope of ethnic and cultural integration, Chinese culture has remained vital due to its gradual and measured implementation of changes in accordance with new realities.
As for now, Chinese culture takes its new shape adjusting to the developments brought by globalization. The greatness of this culture lies within its ability to maintain the precarious balance between innovations and traditions. Their convergence causes a creation of a new cultural perception whereas an entire denial of its roots and history is obviously inadmissible. Therefore, the secret to a sustainable development of Chinese culture lies within its ability to absorb the new but build on the existing one. In this context, Chinese culture significantly excels among other cultures due to its rich heritage and captivating openness.