An Overview of the Chinese Culture
In the Chinese world, there was no defined universe in the beginning. There was simply a nothingness of formless chaos. The Chinese Culture was unique in not having a legend of myth about a Creator of the universe. This thinking was probably the most authentic line of reasoning, but it was not easy to be understood by commoners, nor was it easy to be employed by rulers.
And so a story was needed. The created story, with elements similar to myths of other ancient cultures, went on that after a period of 18,000 years, these formless chaos began to settled into a cosmic egg-shaped mass. Within the egg-shaped mass, when the opposing principles of Yin and Yang were balanced out, was awakened a God name Pangu ( 盘古 ). He took an axe to split the mass; the lighter elements floated upwards to form the Heaven while the heavier elements settled down to form the Earth. To keep the Heaven and Earth separated, Pangu stood between them for another 18,000 years, pushing the Sky upward with each passing year. A Goddess named Nuwa ( 女娲 ) then appeared to make the first humans from clay.
Huang Yan Descendants
The first ruler known in China was probably the Yellow Emperor ( 黄 ) who reigned along the Yellow River sometime around 2700 BC. He was probably the first Chief of some united tribes. There was no archaeological remains about the Yellow Emperor, however many Chinese practices and knowledge were attributed to him. He was the first to use herbs as medicines to treat ailments. In addition, he had invented the carriage and the compass among many others. The Yellow Mountain ( 黄山 ) in today’s Anhui Province was named after him. Another ruler by the name of Yan ( 炎 ) who was subdued by the Yellow Emperor was also considered by Chinese to be their primordial ancestor. Hence the term ‘Huang Yan Descendants’ ( 黄炎子孙 ) .
|The Yellow Emperor
Bronze Device From Xia Dynasty
About 250 years after the Yellow Emperor, Yao ( 尧 ) became the new ruler of China. He passed the throne to Shun ( 舜 ), who in turned handed over to Yu ( 禹 ). Both Yao and Shun did not choose their sons as successors but instead handed the throne to the most capable man they could find. From Yu onwards, he appointed his own son to take over his throne, thereby founding the first ruling dynasty in China known as Xia ( 夏). This formed the basis of a dynastic system that would served China for the next 4,000 years.
The Xia Dynasty coincided with the beginning of the Bronze Age in China and many of the sophisticated bronze wares and weapons unearthed in China dated back to the Xia Dynasty.
The Xia Dynasty ruled China for more than 400 years before being disposed by Tang ( 汤 ) who went on the established the second dynasty known as the Shang (商) Dynasty. There was indication that commerce was already well developed at that period, hence the name for merchant in Chinese Language is known as 商人 or ‘Man of Shang’ today. In addition, the first Chinese writings records were unearthed from this period. Those writings were inscribed on cattle bones and tortoise shells. More then 4,000 characters were present in the early language. However, it was highly likely that the Chinese scripts were already in existence for thousands of years before Shang, but that those early scipts were mainly inscribed on bamboo and leaves that did not survive the ravages of time.
|The Rites of Zhou
Early Chinese Writings
Basis of Chinese Culture
Approximately 600 years later, Ji Fa ( 姬发 ) founded the Zhou (周) Dynasty. It was in the early Zhou Dynasty that the basis of traditional Chinese Culture that we know of today were set.
A young king, Zhou Gong ( 周公 ), introduced The Rites of Zhou ( 周礼 ). These rules introduced a doctrine of social hierarchy and status distinction among the people. There were proper sets of etiquette expected for the different levels of officials in the kingdom, the different classes of people in the society and the different generations in a family. Ceremonial music and dances for different occasions and for different social classes were specified. The Rites of Zhou subsequently influenced Confucius profoundly and was the foundations of Confucius’s teachings which dominated traditional Chinese thoughts and laid the foundations of the Chinese Culture that we know of today.
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