Look What Came From
Music ...................................................................... 4
Inventions ............................................................ 6
Holidays ................................................................ 8
Language .............................................................. 10
Places to Visit ...................................................... 11
Art ............................................................................. 13
Food .......................................................................... 15
Customs ................................................................. 17
Clothing .................................................................. 18
Recipe ...................................................................... 19
It is early February and you jostle through the crowd to see the celebrations. Firecrackers explode, traditional music plays, and a procession of people performing the lion dance passes by.
These amazing celebrations originated from one particular place: China. Learning more about this extraordinary civilization is easy - turn the page and immerse yourself in the rich culture of China.
RIGHT: The pipa, a lute-like traditional Chinese instrument
LEFT: A ancient Chinese painting shows Chinese women playing a variety of Chinese instruments
Music was an vital part of ancient Chinese society. In fact, its origins can be traced back 7,000-8,000 years into Chinese history (based on the discovery of an ancient bone flute)!
Nowadays, the traditional instruments and other musical inventions made by the Chinese are still played, but not widely known. Music ranges from that played in the court of the emperors to the folk songs first sang by Chinese peasants.
The Chinese invented a wide variety of instruments. One of the more traditional instruments is the 7-stringed qin, which has produces a delicate and expressive sound. Others among these include the pipa, the sanxian, and the xiao.
One of the most familiar types of Chinese music is Chinese opera, which is over 900 years old! Chinese opera consists of many regional forms -over 300 types, in fact,- the most famous being the Beijing, or Peking opera.
Opera traditionally told stories about moody lovers, ghosts, and famous warriors. Earlier in history, both male and female roles were represented with male actors. Also, this mix of high-pitched song, spoken dialogue, and acrobatics was usually performed with a minimum amount of props and no sets.
In Chinese opera, costumes and makeup are specifically designed to illustrate the personality of the role they are helping play. For instance, the colors yellow and white represent cunningness, while red represents uprightness and loyalty.
ABOVE: A scene from an Chinese opera performance
ABOVE: A costume used in Chinese opera performances
You might say that the ancient Chinese invented everything but the kitchen sink. They invented everything from silk to matches, and many of their inventions are still used today.
One of their most significant advancements was the invention of silk. Silk came from the cocoons of silkworms that were fed leaves from the mulberry tree (silkworms fed on these leaves produced the finest silk). When unraveled and weaved into cloth, the result was a fine, soft cloth. Silk was kept secret from other civilizations and as a result, many people from all around the world were willing to trade for it.
Additionally, other notable inventions included gunpowder, which was used for fireworks and weapons, tea, first drunk in 2,737 B.C, the abacus (a type of calculator) and kites, used by the army to send signals and warnings.
ABOVE: the abacus
LEFT: A painting shows the making of silk
A barrage of modern products was invented long ago- by the ancient Chinese people.
Moving on,iron , as well as steel, were invented by the Chinese. Although other civilizations succeeded in doing this too, the Chinese were able to make these two strong metals when isolated from other people.
Plus, paper was also invented by the Chinese. They came up with the first material that can be considered paper. Later on they printed on this paper using woodblock printing, yet another notable advancement.
Finally, seismographs, used for measuring earthquakes, porcelain (known in Europe as china), stirrups for riding horses, boat rudders for steering ships, and even the first mechanical clock (from the Tang Dynasty) were also inventions.
ABOVE: a porcelain Ming Dynasty jar
LEFT: Page from an ancient Chinese book
Chinese holidays are among the most festive and colorful in the world. From the Dragon Boat Festival to Qing Ming, they are all very fascinating celebrations.
The Spring Festival, which takes place on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually in late January or early February) is the most important Chinese festival. Preparations begin on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month, on which families make sweet laba porridge (a rice porridge with sweet toppings). On the days leading up to the new year, people thoroughly clean their houses, pay off all debts, paste doors with spring couplets, and buy materials such as meats, rice, fruits, candies, and nuts.
On the day of Chinese New Year, family members get back together, wearing red to keep away evil spirits, feasting on seafood, and much more. Usually one of the celebrations is the lion dance, a long-established dance in which dancers perform inside lion costumes while traditional music plays and firecrackers explode. Drums beat as loud as explosions.
Another important holiday is the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. During this time people set off fireworks, admire the full moon, and devour moon cake and various fruits. Traditions differ in other provinces.
Qing Ming, or the Sweeping of the Graves, takes place on April 4th or 5th. On this holiday, families sweep the tombstones of loved ones, replant flowers and burn incense at the graves, place offerings at their ancestor's tombs, and enjoy the spring weather. Foods eaten include sweetened green rice balls (green rice cakes with sweet fillings), peach blossom porridge (porridge made with peach tree petals), crispy cakes, eggs, and Qing Ming snails.
Another festival is the Dragon Boat Festival, which takes place on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month. On this day families hang up calamus and Chinese mugwort, eat zongzi (glutinous rice mixed with various foods wrapped in a lily pad) and salted eggs. They also watch the traditional dragon boat races. All of a family's daughters come home during this festival.
Finally, there is the Lantern Festival, which takes place on the 15th day of the 1st month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Lanterns are displayed, some with riddles written on them, and the lion dance serves as a celebration. The special food eaten during this event is tang yuan, or yuan xiao, rice balls with a sweet filling.
BELOW: tang yuan, or yuan xiao, with a sweet black sesame filling
RIGHT: mooncake, a traditional pastry ate during the Mid-Autumn Festival
RIGHT: a graveyard during Qing Ming
ABOVE: lion dance costumes
LEFT: dragon boat racing during the Dragon Boat Festival
Chinese is the most spoken language in the world as of 2017. Although northern Chinese, otherwise known as Mandarin or Putonghua, is the official language, there are many different dialects of Chinese.
Every region of China has its own version of Chinese. Each version consists of many different local dialects. However, though each version and dialect is pronounced in its own way, all versions of Chinese is penned in a similar way.
Chinese is written in characters (over 50,000!), not an alphabet, unlike English. A character is a symbol that represents a word or a part of a word.
Early Chinese writing was similar to picture writing, however, today Chinese has developed into much more advanced and complicated writing.
BELOW: Chinese calligraphy
ABOVE: the evolution of Chinese pictographic characters
There are many varying Chinese customs. Many of these are associated with gift-giving, some things being considered unlucky.
You should not give scissors, knives, e.t.c. because they represent the severing of a relationship. Another custom is not to give clocks, flowers, or handkerchiefs, for they are associated with funerals and death.
Additionally, 4 of something is considered bad too because in the Chinese language "4" sounds like how the Chinese say "die". In fact, some buildings with multiple levels "do not have" a level 4 listed in directories or as a button!
Holiday customs include eating rice congee (porridge) and mustard greens during Chinese New Year (the Spring Festival) to cleanse the body.
BELOW: stir-fried mustard greens
BELOW: an elevator button manual missing some numbers, including 4
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is the most extensive man-made wall in the world. Stretching more than 5,500 miles across China, this structure is over 2,300 years old. Fantastic views from the wall and just the experience of being on it make a visit to Beijing worth it.
The Terracotta Warriors
China is a bank of attractions just waiting for you to unlock. These are some places you can visit.
Places to Visit
Just one of China's many ancient treasures, the terracotta army in Xi'an is more than 2,000 years old! It consists of towering terracotta soldiers, horses and more. First built to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di in his afterlife, this life-like army is worth a visit.
If you enjoy exploring royal palaces, The Forbidden City is the place to go. The city has been home to 24 emperors and has over 8,000 rooms. It is another place you can visit if you are intrigued by Chinese history.
The Forbidden City
The Yellow Mountains
Yet another place to tour if you enjoy the outdoors, the Yellow Mountains are one of the most beautiful places in China. A hike around these peaks will refresh and amaze you- definitely visit here if you love nature.
The Li River
The Li River in Guilin is the place to be if you enjoy serene, breathtaking locations. You can take a boat down the river and view the mountainous landscape. This river has served as inspiration for many Chinese poets.
Located in Hangzhou, West Lake is another recommended travel destination for outdoors-lovers. Spaced around the lake are historical gardens and pagodas along with beautiful lily pad flowers. The buildings on the lake's shore have traditional and unique designs.
Chinese art is some of the oldest and beautiful in the world, Ranging from fine ceramics to delicate paintings, all of these forms of art are equally captivating.
Early Chinese art was made of jade. Later on, people started applying materials such as bronze, paper, porcelain, and silk. China became known for its fine porcelain and pottery.
One of the most famous forms of Chinese art was ceramics. The Ming Dynasty was well-known for its blue and white vases and jars depicting scenes of nature. These ceramics were porcelain, a Chinese invention otherwise known as china in Europe.
Another type of Chinese art was calligraphy, the art of writing. It was considered a social grace in ancient China. Paper, inkstones ink, and animal hair brushes were used to carefully paint characters.
Chinese painting was often of nature landscapes, scenes from court life, or religious stories. Ancient Chinese often painted on paper and silk with ink. Art sometimes included poetic or philosophical descriptions.
Poetry was another form of art. Evidence of poetry goes back to the Tang Dynasty! These verses described nature.
LEFT: pages from a book of Chinese poetry
LEFT: a Chinese porcelain plate
RIGHT: a Chinese painting with an inscription
RIGHT: brushes used for Chinese calligraphy
You may have heard about the more popular Chinese dishes like dumplings, chow mien, spring rolls, dim sum, or wontons, but there is probably a lot that you don't know!
Styles of Chinese food differ in other regions. Northern Chinese food is salty, simple, and includes fewer vegetables. Wheat is often used. Central Chinese food is spicy and well seasoned, while Southern Chinese food is often sour, with many chilies. In the East, food is sweet and light. On the other hand, Western food is usually grilled, with lamb being the main meat.
Grains make up the greatest portion of the Chinese’s diet. Corn, millet, sorghum, rice, and wheat are all eaten. Different types of vegetables like cabbage and other vegetable made foods like tofu make up the second greatest portion. They are often stir-fried.
RIGHT: a Western Chinese grilled kebob
LEFT: Chinese dim sum
LEFT: stir-fried vegetables
Meats dined on often are pork and various types of poultry that include not only chicken but guinea fowl! Other traditional foods include eggs, fish, fresh fruit, and shellfish.
Breakfast foods are usually foods like rice porridge, stuffed pocket bread, and donut-like pastries.
Common lunchtime foods include but are not limited to crispy egg rolls and plump steamed dumplings.
The main meal consists of vegetables with bits of meat or seafood. Soup, rice, and noodles are also eaten using chopsticks and soup spoons.
People in coastal areas eat seafood such as fish, crab, and shrimp. Spicy foods come from Sichuan and Hunan.
The most traditional Chinese beverage is tea. However, other drinks include soft drinks and beer.
RIGHT: a typical Chinese meal
LEFT: Chinese tea
LEFT: Chinese congee (rice porridge)
From domesticating hemp to the invention of silk, Chinese clothing has developed over the years. Hemp and cotton were first used, followed later by silk.
The ancient Chinese were skilled at weaving, embroidery, and dying clothes. They were also responsible for the invention of silk, a fine cloth produced from the cocoon of the silkworm.
Silk was one of China's greatest secrets. It was used for embroidery and the robes of royalty spun into cloth.
Today, the Chinese wear clothes similar to those of people from the U.S. However, members of certain religious and ethnic groups wear special clothing.
Some types of Chinese clothing that are traditional and are occasionally worn today include han fu (traditional Han clothing) and cheongsam. Ancient examples of clothing can be found in museums around the world.
ABOVE: traditional Chinese clothing
ABOVE: the cheongsam
ABOVE: Chinese embroidered dragons
Three Cup Chicken
Ingredients: (serves 4)
- 6 or 8 pieces sliced ginger (medium thickness)
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 or 2 1/2 inch (2-6 cm) pieces red chili pepper
- 1 medium handful fresh basil
- 16 chicken drumettes
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz.)sesame oil
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz.) soy sauce
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz.) cooking rice wine
- 1 tbsp (3 tsp) sugar (optional)
- a wok, skillet, or dutch oven
- wok turner
- serving plate
1. Heat sesame oil in wok, skillet, or dutch oven. Add ginger and cook for approximately 10 seconds. Add garlic and chili and cook until a fragrance comes out.
2. Add the chicken and saute until slightly browned, then turn over. Cook until both sides are slightly browned.
3. Add cooking wine, soy sauce, and sugar (if using). Cover and simmer. Stir occasionally until the sauce is slightly thickened.
4. Add basil and simmer for 1 minute. Turn on to the serving plate and serve hot or warm.
Using a deep pan such as a dutch oven will prevent hot oil from spraying.
Rolling rivers. Magnificent mountains. Fantastic festivals. Delicious delicacies. These are all amazing aspects of China.
China's history stretches back thousands of years. Ancient Chinese inventions are still used today. Today the rich culture of the Chinese has spread around the world. Now that you've learned about this captivating civilization, would you want to visit China?
Bu Ke Qi
Bu Ka Qi
Field, Catherine. China. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 2000. Print.
(Edmonds, Richard Louis, and Richard J. Smith. "China." World Book Advanced, World Book, 2017, worldbookonline.swb.orc.scoolaid.net/advanced/article?id=ar111400. Accessed 14 Nov. 2017.)
Look What Didn't Come From China
Believe it or not, fortune cookie did not come from China. They were originally a regional Japanese confectionary! Later on, they were used in Chinese restaurants.