From your study of European culture, what do you conclude are the most significant similarities and differences between European/Western and Chinese culture?
Word “culture” encompassed a great deal. Perhaps it is acceptable to compare Chinese and European culture from analysis of similarities and differences in customs, aesthetic achievements and value
system of the society.
Practice of eating, drinking, social manners, sport habits…form the customs of an ethnic community.
As we can see, there are vast differences between Chinese and Western customs.
Many of the most evident of these are connected to eating habit. Apart from different table wares and the way meals are served, there are some other things may deserved to notice. For instance, it is quite common that in China people like to hosting guests or say pay the meal for friends while “Go Dutch”
is extensively accepted and welcomed in Europe; in China leftover food shows that the host is generous and enthusiastic in front of guests; in the West, however, a party or banquet is more for the atmosphere than for food itself (But this does not mean that Chinese people have a tradition of wasting food). Since Chinese culture values interrelationship and is characterized by other-orientation, Chinese tend to do as much as possible for people they care. In the view of Chinese people, picking food for guests shows one’s great concern but this may leave the western people
puzzled and confused – in 1972, Prime Minster Zhou’s action (picking food items from the dishes
and put them onto Nixon’s plate with his own chopsticks) made Nixon puzzled, surprised and unhappy, with his brows deeply furrowed.
Another noticeable difference can be seen in the way gifts are exchanged. Chinese like to open the gift until the giver has left. Westerners, on the other hand, usually open the gift and admire it in the presence of the guest. The former care much about the quality and quantity of the present because to some extent they are likely to show their privilege and advantage. On the contrary, the latter concern more about the packaging and where and how the giver presents the gift.
Western people love adventure and exploration and in no place and at no time do they strongly emphasize individual Freedom and Democracy. In contrast, the Chinese focus more on collective gain instead of individual gain by making the right decisions, and believe in adopting a middle way to avoid extremism. People in China own a tradition in Filial Piety, especially in respecting parents while people in West pay more attention on individual development. Just like the Chinese believe in virtues and Westerners embrace value ethics.
Custom differences in sports, travelling, and gathering and so on also reflect culture differences. But in the present world, as the result of Globalization and frequent Trade and Communication, mutual permeation and reference between eastern and western culture tend to be more and more obvious and they are likely to be a great drive to the human modernization.
It is through the arts that different nations and ethnic groups usually express their identity. Developed from diverse natural condition, agriculture and manufacturing technique, therefore, art achievements in China and Europe are by no means the same. Here we mainly talk about the west. In the history of Europe, the Greeks achieved supreme achievements in all fields of human endeavor, and the spirit of innovation brought the flourish the arts. The Greeks put into works of art the stuff that they worshipped, the scientific rules they discovered and the miracles and stories they believed. Famous temples like the Parthenon and the Acropolis are the finest monument of Greek architecture and sculpture, which has been attractive for people from all over the world. Gods were the earliest material for the Greek sculptures. They had experienced from a period of being mostly stiff and lifeless wood carvings to an era when the beauty of human bodies and mythological figures are well-observed and brought out, for example the Discus Thrower and Venus de Milo.
In literature, the Romans borrowed from the Greek works and made their specific literature in Latin. The great commander as Julius Caesar was, he used powerful words to record what he had seen and done in the various military events. Some of those are still remembered by us, such as: Veni, vidi, vici.
(I came, I saw, I conquered.) Also the greatest of Latin poets, Virgil, wrote the epic Aeneid which
tells the story of Tory. Besides the profound, powerful and beautiful Latin works, the well-preserved aqueduct Pont du Gard, the enormous amphitheatre Colosseum, Constantine the Great and She-wolf
the sculpture which had the distinct feature of glorifying the rule of the emperors, had proved the high development of Rome’s aesthetic achievements.
Roman art was also one of the many sources helped to form the style of the Middle Ages, known as Romanesque and Gothic. The former is characterized by massiveness, solidity and monumentality with an overall blocky appearance. Gothic cathedrals, with higher altitude and more beautiful stained glass windows, was the outgrowth of the Romanesque. Surely both of the above two styles reflected the development of an ordered feudal society.
However, the following Renaissance art broke away from the domination of the Church – themes of
paintings changed from focusing on the stories of the Bible to an appreciation of all aspects of nature and man. Artists also introduced in their works scientific theories of anatomy and perspective. Last
Supper, drown by Leonardo da Vinci, won its world fame by the effective use of contrast between light and d arkness, and so did Mona Lisa. A towering figure, Michelangelo Buonarroti, made his
sculpture works like David, Sistine Chapel, and Mores and so on to free himself from the tradition of decoration and documentary realism. Painter Raphael was best known for his Madonnas and School
What coincided with the Age of Reason was a period called neo-classicism. During this time, the most desirable qualities of the artists’ works are harmony, balance and restraint, such as Mozart’s
In the movement of Romanticism, leading writers William Blake, John Keats, Sir Walter Scott, Byron and Shelley laid emphasis on inspiration and individual values. It was in their works that man’s eager search for individual freedom, pure sentiments and ideal beauty was well-expressed. In
the same time, Arties gave up the religious and mythological motifs and focused instead on historical and contemporary literary themes and figures. Landscape painting was as well praised highly. John Constable, the foremost landscape painter, guided the way for realism and impressionism. Meanwhile, musical romantics stressed the importance of imagination and love of nature with freer forms.
In the east of the world, China has achieved absolutely different art works over the centuries. Classical Chinese Literature, Jade Articles, Bronze Products, Pottery, Porcelain Ware, Chinese Architecture and traditional Chinese Calligraphy and Painting made up Chinese Art. It is certain that we almost cannot find out any similar article in comparing aesthetic achievements of the east and west. Whereas we see both China and Europe have put out invaluable art merit, which was varied in different period of their history.
Above all, Culture’s most important meaning lies in coherent set of values, which underline a people’s entire way of life and reach deep into the human psyche. In this aspect, still, we would see rather more differences between Chinese and Western culture.
As we learn, European culture consists of many elements which have gone through changes over the centuries. What we have mentioned before is only the iceberg. Yet there are two elements which are considered to make great impact on Western Values – the Greco-Roman element and the
Judeo-Christian element. In contrast, Chinese Value usually involves Confucianism (advocating the rule of rites); Taoism (upholding nature, tranquility, non-action); Legalism (encouraging the rule of law and opposing the rule of rites) and Buddhism.
The fundamental question is about Human Nature. In west, people believe human nature is a mixture of good and evil. Early in the story of the Bible, human nature was defined to be basically evil. God throws Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden because they sneakily ate the apple from the “Tree
of the Knowledge”. So man had to pay the debt to God incurred by his sin. And not until the Renaissance did humanism become the core value to reject of the medieval way of thinking. However, some of the good and positive ideas of the Christianity were allowed to preserve today, such as obedience, chastity and stability. Additionally the distrust of human nature can be seen in American political Institution with their Checks and Balances, well known as the “Separation of
Powers”. As a result, God survived; some of the revolutionary spirit still remained: the optimism, the th18-century belief in the fixability of almost anything, the conviction of the possibility of change. Accepting the education of Confucius, human nature in China is basically good. As Chinese people said, children are believed to be pure and innocent but may become corrupt as they grow or have more contact with society. Thus the direction of moral change is more likely to be from good to evil, rather than from bad to good as it is in the west. Nevertheless, two cultures of people share a belief in Education Effect that education helps people in moral building and knowledge development. Then when we talk about Social Relationship, one pay easily come out words like Freedom,
Independence, Democracy and Individual Rights, to describe western society. It is true. In culture with individualist values very person is regarded as autonomous and separate. In other words, each man should be treated as an individual first and secondarily as a member of a group. Because an individual’s position in life is considered to be the result of one’s own efforts and capability. While
China gets a culture of Collectivism, combined with Hierarchy. A good example is that in 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, an interviewed Chinese sportswoman who won a gold medal was criticized by some of her fellows that she should first thank her motherland rather than her parents.
Besides, activity in western people’s eyes is “what they are doing”, as opposed to the idea that “who
they are playing” in China. Chinese are more like to review the past while people in the west prefer to look forward. Americans hold the point that they have the power to control nature, but in China relationship between human and nature is harmony.
……Word “culture” encompassed a great deal.
Both the East and West have made their own contributions to human civilization as a whole. Traditional Chinese culture and modern Western culture were originally independent from each other. Both had rich and diverse connotations in lifestyle and cultures. When the two clashed, the question was whether the cardinal principle it to be applied in such a way as to make use of the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses of one or the other.