Generational Traditions in China

Tradition, this word means something different to everyone, but the same general traditions are upheld in a culture. To us in the UK, tradition could be the local parade, Christmas celebrations or even as close knit as family traditions that have been happening for generations. Traditions stretch across a culture, and as they are intimately linked to each other. Tradition affects culture, and as new generations pick up traditions things change. Some traditions being forgotten or changed into something different.

This blog post will look into the traditions of China, and how some of the generations celebrate tradition, change or have even stopped them all together. When deciding on what aspect of life I wanted to focus on for this report most of the generational differences would of been seen as bad, or sad. I wanted to show a nicer side to the generational differences, where tradition is upheld and still seen with respect.

Chinese new year is the first tradition that comes to mind when thinking about China,  as a child I thought it was odd as it did not happen on the same day as our own new year. The Chinese new year is never on a set date but between the 21st January and the 20th February this is due to the Chinese running on a lunar calendar rather than a fixed one like the west.

In China the tradition of new year is celebrated with the exchange of money in red envelopes, exchanging gifts with the family, firework displays and much more. This tradition has been happening in China for generations, a time to gather with the family. Generations have celebrated the new year in different ways, as each generation is raised it seems that the customs of a Chinese new year are dwindling. Not that far in the past Chinese new year was hugely celebrated, the older generations in China would still remember them to this day, grand fireworks displays, 15 days of celebration to bring in the new year. During new years lantern processions would take place in the streets, as people welcome another year. The modern Chinese new year consists of a 7 day holiday from work, of which all socializing is mainly done through the internet or use of mobile phones and even ordering in food from a restaurant instead of cooking themselves. The family still gathers though and younger people travel in from there place of work to spend this special time with family.

The Chinese new year festivity’s have changed through generational jumps, still being revered by the elderly but the younger generation not embracing all of the older customs, not enough time, having a work place to go back to. This generational gap of technology and longer working days/working away from home shortens the festivity’s and some of the older customs. Here we see things such as the lantern processions dying, cooking the day before new year is also a dying tradition, as there is more money it is easier and more relaxing to let a restaurant cater for the big day. This being said the Chinese new year is still celebrated and embraced by all generations even if the tradition is slowly getting smaller in size.

Traditional Chinese medicine is also a generational tradition, the Chinese believe in their medicine and the role it plays. To the west this could be seen as alternative  medicine but in China it is used in some of the health care delivered. As generations pass the knowledge and willingness to use traditional medicine changes, the practice is still in use and taught. A survey was carried out by the Prince of Wales hospital in Hong Kong on the attitude of 91 students who study medicine towards traditional Chinese medicine. The survey showed that 40% were positive, 59% neutral and only 1% was negative. This shows that the youth of china are picking up the tradition from the older generation, where the use of traditional medicine may be changing in china, the generational gap is a lot smaller than to be expected.

China, known for many traditions, has born 1 tradition that won the west over, took over the big screen and bought about a new era of movie hero’s.  Kung Fu has been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years, but as the modern era approaches China this may be a tradition that is due to die off or fade into the background. While watching a documentary for a previous report i made note of the attitude of a kung fu master and his students. The film crew focused on his top student, along with his attitude towards learning kung fu, the message was clear; he did not want to learn kung fu, he would rather go to the city, get a job and lead a rich life in the new China. The master was also interviewed about this, and he seemed sad that the art was dying out, but wishes his student a good life, as long as the master had passed on the lessons he only hoped they would be continued as such a tradition had been alive for so long. This shows a decline in the quest for knowledge, rather the yearning for a life outside of the school where a job can be gained. This is kind of sad in a way, the traditions of old masters may be dying out, people who put their  lives into the advancement of kung fu and only wish to pass on this knowledge. Who knows we may see a day that kung fu is only taught the way it is here, in weekly lessons or even just become a memory.

There is a lot to talk about on this subject of tradition, as China is rich in its cultural heritage but i hope i have portrayed some of the better sides to the generations as traditions are passed on, old customs live on in the hope that people remember where they came from and more importantly why the customs exist in the first place. Things change as time goes by, each generation will drop parts of traditions due to time or even not believing in them anymore.

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Gaming made in China

Made in China, a very familiar trademark we all know that brings thoughts of cheap toys, easily breakable, but do we all hate it? Are standards really that bad in China? As we move further into the digital age electronics have seen a huge decrease in price. Granted this drop in price is affected by new technologies coming out but outsourcing the construction of these electrical goods cuts the price of manufacture. For this investigation research into electronic products was undertaken.  China has a lot of labour to offer the world and the electronic market place is making the most out of dedicated workers to supply the western world with inexpensive luxuries.

Electronics populate a person’s home, they are what wake us up in the morning, allow us to catch up on world news and aids humanity in academic progress. In the factory city EUPA in china thousands of electrical household goods are made per day from iron’s to grills, all components are also made on site which is testament to china’s ability to manufacture on a grand scale.

With progress and education the electronic marketplace also aims at relaxation and gaming devices. The question then is how many people know where their electronics are made, and if they care at all about the ‘made in china’ tag.

Narrowing down electronic produce I decided to look into the gaming industry, as a computer gamer myself it had never occurred to me the benefits china’s manufacturing power has bought to the industry which in turn benefits me. To begin I decided to look at the three big companies in the gaming industry, these being Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft; turns out that all three of these companies manufacture their consoles in china. Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox 360 are completely manufactured in china but Sony only 60% of their consoles are made there (the other 40% made in Japan).

Asking other gamers about their views towards this information it seemed like there was not much worry about the circumstances the consoles are made under but more of a celebrated side where the companies are able to create more of the products therefore creating cheaper consoles and expanding a fan base.  “As long as I have a warranty where it is created doesn’t bother me” this quote sums up the attitude most of the gamers that I interviewed on the subject. It seems that nowadays the Chinese manufacturing process is more reliable than it once was, so preconceptions about the quality are generally all wrong. Another preconception about items being ‘made in china’ is that the company is making a lot more money from the business, but a little research into the gaming industry shows this is not always true. Example being the Xbox 360, a little research into how much this console cost on release was $399 but the cost to actually create the unit was $470. The same can be seen for the PlayStation 3, the companies are not even scraping a profit even though they have china build the produce for them.

When talking to the gamers about this information it was clear they thanked the gaming companies for outsourcing, I was surprised as this was the opposite of what was to be expected but getting cheap luxuries, and for gamers this being a hobby item. “Who knows what the price would be without china” This quote made me think, it’s not only the price of labour, but it is also the amount of workers, so without china not only would the components and creation cost more but less would be made forcing the companies to up the price more due to supply and demand, even with china creating the Wii we saw 2 years of people struggling to buy 1 new unit off of the shelves, Could this industry even survive without china?

Another popular topic when it comes to electronics and china is Foxconn, being in the news lately about how Apple outsource there, but it is not only Apple that use Foxconn, Intel use them, Nintendo use them, Acer, Dell and a lot of other computing companies, parts are made here, the Sony PSP is created in the same factory complex as the iPhone.

The concept of Foxconn did not faze the people I was interviewing, they saw it no different as people who were dedicated to their job enough to live nearby. “At least someone somewhere is getting out of poverty and working for their money”. Personally I think the public opinion, or at least that of the gaming community does not think less of china because it manufactures everything, more so that people are able to get a job and the country were able to get out of poverty.

A lot of misconceptions about china exist in the world, ‘bad quality’ ‘falls apart’ ‘not worth it’ ‘cheap’. After interviews it seems these old conceptions are fading out, people are seeing how china are growing into a super power and accept to get to that stage money will need to flow into the country as it once did with our own country.

The China Wide Web

Designing for the Chinese when it comes to websites is not as easy as converting the information into the Chinese language, there are many barriers to be considered. Here some light will be shed onto the Chinese web design world, the focus and reasoning behind website creation along with understanding parts that westerners would see as bad practice, or horrible design.

Chinese web design will not work for the western world, why? Culture, the Chinese web could be seen as a reflection of Chinese culture. The way people interact with each other and information to honour that is held in high regard to the local people, this along with other barriers creates more personalized web interactions.

Censorship, a driving force in the China wide web, could be seen as a hindrance and a blessing to the web design world, where websites are banned a new website can be created purely for the Chinese people, centred on their own preferences. “It limits your freedom, but meanwhile, it has a positive effect on UI design and content presentation. There is less room for gimmicks. It forces you to concentrate on useful content and how to present your content.” – Whitecrow Zhu

Before getting deeper into the cultural aspects of China it would be good to see an example of a popular Chinese website:

Sina could be seen as a copy of Yahoo as we know it, providing news, mail, blog platform, instant messaging, communities etc. At first glance of this site, most western users would leave; the website is cluttered and full of images and text, general ‘bad design’.

Many websites in china follow this style, and are popular and well used, why you may ask yourself, well this could be because of cultural influences and web design practice that is used in china.

The above website example is based on a design principle called “Designing for clicks” this form of creating websites is placing as much recent information on the front page as possible allowing the user to interact with what they find interesting, also allowing people to see an over view of everything at once.

The concept of ‘Face’ plays a role here, this could be likened to what we know as honour, and you can gain it or lose it. This cultural aspect affects the design of websites, having a website trenched in text and links is showing people what your site has to offer, nothing is hidden from the user, this leads to trust of the site, unlike western counter parts where the user is lead down a path to where the designer wants them to go, this could be seen as dis-honest to the average Chinese user.

Other cultural influences on designing for clicks can also be understood when seeing how the Chinese interact with information, at school there is more focus on memorizing facts, rather than understanding the information they are being given. The idea that later in life this information can be understood and put to use when it is needed this is reflected in how websites are read. Upon logging onto a site information can be digested then the user can go deeper into the site at their leisure.

In the same way the western world would shun Chinese web design the same could be said the other way around,  upon logging onto a minimalist website Chinese people are more likely to leave thinking there is nothing of interest, so would  Chinese web design ever be seen in the western world?

An opinion here would be no, simply because Chinese web design focus’s a lot on the Chinese people, traditions, celebrations and festive past times. Colour use holds different meanings to them as it would to us. Acceptance of cultural differences is as positive as it has been in the past, diversity is the spice of life as we like to say, Chinese culture has a lot to offer us, including new ways to create the web, but understanding the way Chinese people use the internet can help us branch out into their culture and vice versa.

Made In China: China in the Digital Media

China’s portrayal to the western world is seen mainly through the news, film and documentaries. These are all digital and accessible from around the world and are a perfect place to understand a western viewpoint about China and how it is portrayed.

Over the recent years the main discussion involving China focus’s on the growth of the country that is soon to be the next super power in the world. American news has mixed opinions on China being bought into the new world, mainly the questions; is China a threat? Or is China’s growth something to be welcomed?
Here China is being seen as a worry to a current super power even though it has been stated that China wants to have a peaceful rise into power. This kind of fear mongering by the news gives the general public of America a negative feeling about China.
Anoither main story that has always piqued interest in the news about China involves the censorship that is imposed on the internet usage, this is also known as ‘The great firewall of China’. Blocking information that the Chinese government does not want their citizens to be exposed to. Censorship like this could be seen as oppressing human rights, this coupled with the 1 child rule imposed on the country puts China in a bad light to the western world.
This portrayal of China shows oppressed people, having rights taken away. The one child rule also shows signs of the removal of human rights, even though rights get taken away the Chinese population still hold their country highly and go by the rules. Enforcements like this haven’t been seen in the west until recently with proposed bills that threaten to follow in China’s footsteps (Bills such as SOPA/PIPA & ACTA).

Documentaries mainly portray China’s history and China as a whole. The history of china reflects where the country has come from and focuses on the great achievements the Chinese people have accomplished.
When portraying China the documentaries tend to show the honour the Chinese have for their country and the vast expansion that is happening along with the modern take over of traditional values and ways of life.
Modernism versus tradition is a reoccurring dilemma when China is portrayed, becoming modern a lot of traditions must be lost, for example ancient crafting techniques are slowly dwindling along with martial arts as students of the crafts want to join the modern world and not live in the past of China. Traditional Chinese people fear for their way of life, hoping their family traditions do not die out.

The majority of films either released from China or created and based in China by the western world focus towards the rich history of china with a lot of fantasy swordplay and martial arts involved, the films set in the past are generally around the time that china was unified, either just before or just after.
The films also tap into fantasy and the legends of china, some famous examples would be crouching tiger hidden dragon, also forbidden kingdom which hints on the tales of monkey.
Kung fu is a reoccurring concept in film about China, since Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and other great martial artists have been involved in the film industry it even started a trend where actors had to know what they were doing rather than bringing in someone who can do it for them. Another trend this bought in was the learning of martial arts by the general public.
In cinema china can be seen as the front of human progression, throughout history china has been at the forefront of technology and a hub of intelligence that the rest of the world followed behind.

Working to achieve a common goal is a known aspect of the Chinese, and the honour to serve their country that is rarely seen else where in the world where people have become used to easy living.
Known as honourable people, the Chinese are working as one towards a better China. The drive that built the great wall can still be seen among the inhabitants today with their drive towards becoming the next super power and breaking into a new world.