Is the Chinese culture today closer to American culture or Ancient Chinese culture?



Bowen Fu

Things in many remote villages will differ from them in metropolises such as Shanghai.

 Traditional values still survive in those villages.





Leung Kwan Pang, 23 years in Nanjing, 12 years in HK

American culture of course. Let me explain:


You get up from a western style bed, in a western style room, in a concrete building. You brush your teeth with tooth brush, look into the glass mirror, wash your face in a basin with running water.


You grab food from the fridge, looking into TV when eating your breakfast. Before you go out, you put on suit or jeans. You drive or take bus or subway to work. WORKING! Either in a factory or in an office, using machines or computers...


All the things I described above are million miles from the ancient life.

You may say it's not American, it's modern! Yup, that's exactly my point. We living in a modern world. The ways of modern life in different part of the world are more similar when comparing with their ancestors.



To answer Joe's comment: "Culture is more about behaviours, beliefs and values." I agree. But when we exam these aspects, we would find the modern Chinese may share more with Americans than with their ancestors. If a time traveling alien visits earth every 500 years, he need to try much harder to differentiate the behavioral nuance between Chinese and Americans, but easily separates them from the ancient Chinese.


For beliefs and values, the conclusions are the same. I wouldn't argue this base on the studies and things only exist on paper, since the sociologists and anthropologists are trying hard to distinguish cultures rather than doing the opposite. Let's have a look at the outcome of ideas, beliefs and values:


Both of the two modern culture emphasis on commercial activities, in contrast to the agricultural focused ancient china. Both have a modern go nment, with different interpretations of "democracy", but a long way from the ancient absolute monarchy. I know you would argue the truthfulness of China's ruling style, but to our alien friend, that won't be important enough to prevent them putting the two modern nations into the same category.


To apply this onto other areas of culture, such as music, art, literature, architecture, and political, social, economical structures, the similarities are way more obvious for me to describe in details.


Culture, as the term to aggregate the aspects in the way of life, naturally unites modern Chinese and Americans together.



Cedric Chiu, Radar Engineer working on Weapons

Definitely not Ancient Chinese Culture.



The number 1 big rule of Chinese Culture is strict family order, the Son/Daughter will obey the father’s every word, the wife is obedient to the husband, and expected to live with the husband’s parents and be like a daughter to them. And the parent will decide the child’s marriage.

So, the nuclear family structure of today (with a quiet frequent divorce rate), is similar to the USA, and NOT Ancient Chinese.





The Ancient Chinese are farmers, their whole family/extended family all work and plan around the crops. There are no holidays, but work.

Today most of the Chinese work environment closely follows what the West had setup after the industrial revolution, in a business or industrial setting. They face what a regular USA people will face (traffic to work, be a boss or be ordered by a boss and a work schedule)




3.Dress and Style.

Ancient Chinese believes that cutting hair is a sin, because hair is part of the body, and they don’t cut a part of body (but they also argue that in order to work, one need to cut the finger nails, interesting contradictions). Ancient Chinese also have a really stick rules of clothing (like it need to open in a certain way, and some color are banned). Chines personal Hair Style and Clothes are perhaps the most different than the Ancient Chinese (and most western man basically kept the same hair style of Ancient Rome.. Short Crew Cut)



4.Law, Government and Society

Closely follow the west (Russia).. have a system of Parliament and Courts. Nothing like Ancient China.




Movies, TV, Sport Games…. all Western inventions.

So… what is “culture”? is Family+Work+Dress+Society+Entertianment Not a representation of a culture? I will say these are the major building blocks of a culture.




And if these building block are similar to the West, and very different than Ancient China, than I don’t see how “Culturally” Chinese are more similar to ancient China, rather than closer to the west..


 译文来源:三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/49433.html  译者:Joyceliu


Stephen Thompson, Lived in China for 10 years, speak and write Chinese

I would say closer to the American culture on the whole.


Of course, it depends on what you mean by Ancient Chinese culture. There were many ancient Chinese cultures. What period are you referring to? Culture in the Tang dynasty was different to the Song, women did not bind their feet and they used to ride horses in the Tang dynasty. But I guess you mean earlier that that. Warring states? Zhou? Xia? The further back you go, the less we know about what the culture was like, but we can be sure that as you go back in time the culture gets more distant and distinct from modern China. Despite important differences, in both countries people live similar lives, eating the same food, doing the same jobs, and having the same rights, at least on paper.


Nevertheless there are continuities between Ancient and modern Chinese culture - I am thinking of the Qin here. The Qin introduced brutal punishments and censorship and were obsessed with unifying, centralising and standardising. We can still see the same obsessions in China today, and it is very un-American. At night, the only non-castrated man in the Forbidden City was the Emperor.


But China has become a more humane culture. Human rights are not as strong as in the US but they are much better than they were in the Qin. Punishments for crimes are now similar in China and the US. In both countries, women have the same legal status as men - although there is more patriarchy/ chauvinism in China.


Polygamy is now illegal but tolerated in both China and the US. Foot binding and castration have been banned. In Ancient China polygamy was the norm, just as monogamy is in the US.



Vietnhi Phuvan,

Much closer to American culture.


Best evidence is that Chinese students regularly do well in American schools, and that brave, adventurous young Americans go to China, earn a living working there and pick up Mandarin within two years. Management consulting firms like McKinsey lose to hire these young Americans and can't get enough of them.


China interacts with the world economy and we are their leading trade partner. They understand our needs,our priorities and how we do business very well. They are probably better at making sure that they speak standard English than we are good at making sure that we speak Mandarin.


On the other side of the coin, Americans are more likely to be exposed to Chinese food than Chinese are likely to be exposed to American food. And of course, more than a few Americans have been exposed to the various forms of Kungfu. And an increasing number of American kids are learning how to speak Mandarin.


And not least, Chinese families are much smaller - one to two kids – and modern Chinese women have rights that are much closer to those of American women than they are to the traditional rights of Chinese women.



Peter Moore, Space-race, Hot-dogs, Motown, Star Wars...I know US culture.

What I love about so many of these answers is how shitty they think American culture is. The knowing statements about the supremecy of the individual, the disregard for family or tradition or society in general. It’s quite the caricature.


A question like this is fun, however, because it is impossible to prove. I can always argue that your definition of “closer” or “culture” is incorrect. And then there’s the diversity within America and China. Finally, there’s the lack of direct experience with Ancient China (you’re mostly reading accounts of the well educated or very wealthy).


So, I’m not going to try to convince you of a greater closeness one way or the other. I will point out some similarities between American and modern Chinese culture.


There’s a belief that your child’s life should be different and better than yours, and a willingness to cart them around to tuition (China) or sports (America) to help make this happen.


There’s a belief that through hard work and merit, the best can rise to the top, but an underlying suspicion that the system may be rigged against you, and it will come down to connections.


New things are exciting and worth trying. Things you were doing only a few years before are out of date. Entire new cities popping up is a normal thing.


Likewise, new foods are fun and exciting. It can be a good time to try something new. But let’s be honest…our usual food is still the best


We are willing to move away from our families for opportunity, but at least once a year we’ll pack everything up and make a ridiculously long journey to be with family…then it’s back to work.


Sure, some of us will travel overseas, but there is so much to see in our home country.


When large groups of us are together, other cultures will complain about the loud noise and brashness, but we’ll hardly notice, because we’re laughing and eating and drinking.


Unless we are “playing”, because we play to win. You need a mixture of skill and luck to win…but luck favors the ready. Only a sucker plays to lose. Only an idiot slavishly follows the rules…there’s almost certainly a loophole that can be exploited.



Jarome Matthew, Over 5 years operating company in Beijing, China, married a Chinese woman

Chinese culture today is not anything like American culture, but it is also not really like ancient Chinese culture either. I believe Chinese culture today is a culture of communism. This is because communism wipes out traditional beliefs and ideas, cultural thinking, and creative pursuits.


However, China is, becoming much more spiritual, adopting ideas from cultures internationally, and carving its own new path. As a result, Chinese culture today is something nobody can really clearly define, including Chinese people and the go nment. It is evolving on a daily basis, after all, it is a developing country, changing all the time.



Nordan Obrecht, former French Studies lecturer

It really depends of the period of History, but I’d say Shang dynasty China and modern China and the US are probably almost equidistant cultures.


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