About Rebecca

I am a 2nd year Graphic Design student at Duncan of Jordanstone college of art Dundee.

‘Liang Ru Wei Chu’

Differences in generations-Money and possessions

Over the last one hundred years there and been change on a mass scale in China. How has it effected the different generations of a family? Have priorities changed? Has the value of money changed and has the possessions they valued changed?

I conducted an interview to try and answer some of these questions. The girl I interviewed was in her twenties; her parents fifty plus and her grandparents in there eighties.

I firstly asked about the value of money across the generations and how it differed. She said that the stability of China has changed over the years and this has effected how the people value their money. When talking about her Grandparents she said they came from a different world to her. China was very poor and they valued everything. They would save every penny and not purchase anything. She said her parent’s generation, now being in there 40s and 50s, purchases began to change as China was growing they started to be able to enjoy life more. They spent some money on digital products but tended to invest in stocks and property and gold.  Whereas her generation like to purchase and the most expensive objects she has owned have been ‘ cell phones, laptops and digital cameras.’

She said because China has always been quite unstable due to it growth the currency is also quite unstable. The way of using money in China has changed. She said in China amongst the older generations credit cards are un-popular. She says the older generations won’t use credit cards because they are unstable and they don’t like the idea of using ‘future money’ and hate the idea of being in debt. She says this is changing now and most young people own a credit card because they love to purchase. There are still differences in her grandparents and parents generation. She said her Grandparents put all their money in the bank and love the feeling of seeing their money grow. She said for them it its kind of like OCD the happiness they seem to get from watching their money grow. Compare this to her parent’s generation who like to feel stable so invest the money in different things and spread it around. She also mentioned that to feel secure most people in their fifties own more than one property around the country maybe three or four.

There is a word in Chinese ‘Liang Ru wei chu’ that illustrates her parents and grandparents view on money it means, roughly, purchase depends on income. Meaning previous generations wouldn’t spend money they didn’t have. This has changed for her generation who feel more secure and stable. However there are still differences in her generation between urban and rural. She says that in the rural areas they have the same kind of mind-set as her grandparents and save every penny. I think this would be again to do with feeling unstable as there is a big divide between the rich and poor in China and people can still just be told to leave there homes.

The interview naturally took a side-track from my topic of money and possessions and moved into marriage and opportunity. She told me through the generations success has different properties. For the older generation who were subject to wars a poor economy for them to be successful was just to stay alive and be secure so generally they’d be married by twenty have kids and follow those steps. Whereas for her parents generation, during Chinas growth, they started to come away from the traditional steps and wanted to find a chance and grab it. It was still frowned upon for that generation not to be married by twenty five and traditions still came through. She said for her she might be expected to be married by about thirty but it wasn’t seen as that important it was more important for her generation to be seen as an individual character following her own path. They strive to be unique maybe this is by studying higher education or studying abroad. The idea of standing out from the crowd has become ever more important.

This interview uncovered a lot of interesting results and because it has changed so quickly the differences between the generations is very clear. However I don’t think it’s that different from this country and differences in generations and traditions tend to fade through the generations the only difference with China is that it has happened over a shorter period of time due to its rapid growth.Alot of globalisation seems to be occuring in China and I think this has a big influence on the differences between generations.

The interview also highlighted the divide between China, between the rich and the poor, at the moment. This is something that seems to constantly appear in research into China that half the country have become rich quick whereas the other half are still in the same position and very poor.

Public awareness of the production process

Chinese factories and labor are seen as such a taboo in the British media with large companies being outed for using them. Are there two sides to these stories? Many Chinese see these factories as a way out of poverty and although most British shoppers is that this form of labor is wrong and would perhaps shop else where if they knew the shops they were buying from were using Chinese factories they would perhaps choose not to shop there.

The gap between the rich and poor people in China is still increasing even with the government’s initiatives to try and prevent this. Rural children and young adults are very ambitious there is a big cultural difference between China and the UK for many young Chinese family is very important to them and they want to support them and make them proud. They see the factories as a way of doing this; many of them are provided with an education. The income they gain from working in these factories keeps them out of poverty.

Obviously there are problems with some factories. The working conditions, the hours, child labor and the factories are never portrayed in a positive light. Every country that has become wealthy has had a period of laboring. An example in Britain is the coalmines and jute mills. So China is in a sense having its industrial revolution. As wages increase and people become wealthier and more prosperous in the country it is evolving into an ideas country and the laboring moves to a country wit cheaper labor, currently Vietnam.

Many shoppers are unaware of where the products they buy come from unless it is written on the label. Products made in Britain tend to be more expensive due to labor costs and people expect a better wage and also handmade products are considered good quality. Although when comparing the differences in wage between a British worker and Chinese worker may be vast there are also big differences in living costs and the price of food and where someone living in China could live comfortably off a certain wage someone trying to live on the same wage in the UK would struggle. So this is a consideration to make when thinking about these factories, but as things become more expensive expected wages will also rise.

Competition between big companies means they are striving to keep costs down. This is the main reason they use foreign factories with cheap labor costs. Many shoppers when asked saw big factories as a negative thing especially for the workers. They also mentioned that they generally didn’t know where what they were buying came from they also said when asked that when shopping the main thing they look at is the price. So to compete on the market companies must try to keep their costs low.

The convenience of buying in this country means people have become complacent. The journey the product has undertaken is not thought about. People care mainly about the price of the product. When asked whether they would buy a western product or a Chinese one they said the price would be the deciding factor. This may have been because most of the people interviewed in Dundee center were students who are low on disposable income. Although they did also comment that if something was of a higher quality they would consider paying more for it.

This raises questions about these big companies and whether new smaller, local businesses can set themselves up in the current market. With modern companies using cheap labor and creating production on a massive scale to provide these cheap products the market ask for is the more personal business losing out even if it is a better designed product?  Chinese factories provide opportunities to the people of China as an initial way out of poverty but are also in a way preventing growth of local business in other countries and preventing creative alternatives.

Companies are very wary of telling their customer where their products come from because it’s a taboo after big media cases such as Nike. Awareness of where something comes from should be more widely known around point of sale of the item or in the market place. This will take away the hidden elements of the production process so people know exactly what they are buying and whether it is the best option for them.

Innovations of Graphic design in China

    Printmaking and papermaking innovations that influenced the development of graphic design

China innovated the key features of graphic design, printmaking and papermaking. Both of these inventions were essential to the development of graphic design. Without them the development of the written word would not of developed from writing on stone and other materials, which don’t have the same qualities as paper, and the development of print and moveable type meant that the mass production of written communication such as books and propaganda could happen creating vital elements in the history of graphic design.

In AD 105 the invention of paper was cited and reported to the Chinese emperor by an official of the imperial court, Ts’ai Lun. However recent archeology discovers show the invention of paper in China to be around 200 years earlier during the reign of Emperor Wu. Whether Ts’ai Lun invented paper is for debate but how developed it as a material revolutionized China. The main development was using a smooth material in the mold covering this meant the mold could immediately quickening production. Other developments included adding yellow dye that acted as an insect repellant and using starch as a sizing material creating a stronger material overall.

Printing in China was developed long before it was developed in Europe some of the earliest examples of woodblock printing text, images and pattern originated in China early 220 A.D. These surviving woodblock printed fragments are of silk printed with flowers in three colours from the Hans Dynasty and in the mid seventh century the earliest example of woodblock printing on paper was also discovered in China.

China was ahead of Europe in developing printing and colour printing by hundreds of years. They also developed the first moveable type. Bi Sheng developed moveable type in China in 1040 using porcelain. He used clay type but this broke easily, but Wang Zhen later carved a more durable type out of wood in 1298. He developed a complicated system using revolving tables and number association with written Chinese characters making the process of typesetting and printing more efficient. Woodblock printing remained the main method in use in China for a long time due to the hundreds of Chinese characters. Copper moveable type was developed in China in the twelfth century and was used on a large-scale to produce printed money in the Northern song dynasty.

In 868 the Diamond sutra was the first completed printed book and printing on paper had taken off. A skilled printer could print up to 2,000 double-page sheets per day and by the tenth century 400,000 copies of some sutras and pictures were printed. In the British library amongst the Dunhuang manuscripts the Chinese version of the Diamond Sutra and it is the earliest version of a dated printed book. By the beginning of the eleventh century moveable type was being used to produce longer scrolls and books making books widely available in the Song Dynasty.

The earliest dated printed book

Printing spread of China and Japan countries that used Chinese logograms and developed for other scripts into Vietnam and Turpan. But it didn’t reach the Islamic world.

Moveable type eventually made it from China to Europe and in 1450 Johannes Gutenberg developed the Gutenberg press and introduced what was seen as the first system of moveable type in Europe. He was the first to create type pieces from alloy lead and steal the same materials that are still used today. Aldus Manutius developed his book structure and this became the foundation for western publications. This era of graphic design is known as Humanist or old style.

Gutenberg bible

These innovations relate directly to what I study as a Graphic design student from editorial and typography work to large-scale imagery and photography. If this wasn’t developed communication on a large-scale would not be possible and it all developed out of China and has created the modern design industry.

The experience of visiting China

Chinas image abroad.

China is said to be the worlds up and coming super power but as western tourists is all we are told about China country true? To help answer this question I have been conducting interviews with people who are not native to China but have been there as tourists. They have seen both sides and had many quite differing opinions.

When conducting my interviews I realised most people had either a very positive view or a very negative view of the country. I feel this maybe was to due with outside circumstances however. For example one person I interviewed visits China for work and connections with the universities where as another was just in China for a few days.

Weather people where prepared for it or not China seems to be a culture shock. A common thing that was mentioned was the rich to poor divide. People were not prepared for it. In China 1% of the population own 99% of the wealth. For example one person I interviewed is living in China working as a creative manager His example was:
‘In my workplace, there are around 250 staff. Only around 2 or 3 of these staff earn more than £1000 a month, with the rest earning significantly less. Everywhere you go, you see beggars and very poor looking people. You also meet very rich people who throw their money around without thinking twice. What I have noticed is that there is no middle ground, people are either rich or poor.’

The conclusion from my interviews on this topic seems to be that China’s portrayed to be very technology forward and lot wealthier than it seems whilst there. The difference between the Chinese people is not shown to the rest of the world and the poverty shocks people.

Many people weren’t prepared for the language barrier China has. As English speakers we are very complacent in thinking everyone will speak a little English. From my interviews although China maybe appears through the media to be going through globalization when visiting there it seems people are still surprised to see a European. The Chinese have different mannerism as well and people didn’t expect this. It is very foreign compared to visiting other countries. People have been brought up differently and behave differently to how we would in the West. People spit on buses and ‘kamikaze’ across roads. I was told a story by one of the interviewees that a tour guide told them he had never left Beijing and never would. All his money went to his family and for a wedding. He was shocked that two girls were traveling across the world and had funded it themselves. This culture shock is not something people realised about China before they were there. It not something that is shown or made obvious to the rest of the world but perhaps this is something that should be expected? And it is no different from the rest of the world. One interviewee said ‘ There may be a lot hidden from western media but our county hides a lot too.’

Politically the West portrays China very negatively with a lack of freedom of speech and no voting system but from the people I interviewed a different story comes out. Having spoken to Chinese people they are very positive about the government, which is there by consent.

‘I spoke to a local about the birds nest that had just been built for the Olympics he as extremely positive even though he had made it clear the governments controversial spending meant a lot of poor Chinese had no way out of deprivation.’

China shows itself to the world as being united politically and it seems to be. As long as the country is growing the Chinese people are positive and support the government. It was also said that the government is bigger part of people’s lives. The party is involved in the universities and is always around. Some people were surprised at how capitalist China was as it is always said to be communist and is associated with communism.

So given what I learnt and heard does China sell it self to tourists. Does this affect it trying to show itself as a modern country? Perhaps China is trying to hard to be modern. The vast division between the rich and poor means it isn’t the modern country it tries to make itself appear to be. The impression that concludes is that the amount of money spent in making China look superficially modern, that could be spent on its poverty, is perhaps the reason it appears not to be modern when there. They seem to put a lot of money into looking good, photo shopping pictures, rather than dealing with the countries underlying issues that seem to be more urgently needing addressed.