About Chinese Culture
China is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Historical achievements of Ancient China include papermaking and printing, the compass, gunpowder, and the Great Wall of China. Representing 20% of the world’s population, China is the most populous country in the world.
The first Emperor of China of the Qin Dynasty was responsible for standardizing the Chinese language. Modern China speaks over 400 dialects including Mandarin (also known as Putonghua) and Cantonese. Regardless of dialect, its written form remains the same. With over 45,000 Chinese “characters”, full literacy in the language requires knowledge of at least 3,000 characters. As multiple tones are used in the spoken language, some words may be interpreted as unlucky, such as the character for the number four, when pronounced, sounds similar to death.
The spiritual beliefs of Chinese people evolved from a combination of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, ancestral worship, and superstition. Good fortune and auspicious thought are interweaved into Chinese culture, with the Han Dynasty playing a pivotal role in creating a lasting cultural identity. For example, the number nine, bamboo, cranes, and ginseng all represent longevity; vases, paper door decorations, Chinese dragons and lions, and the colors red and yellow symbolize luck; and the number eight, fish, tangerines, the color green, and the beckoning cat at business entrances identify with wealth. The double happiness characters also feature prominently in Chinese culture, with the phoenix, chestnuts, and lotus, as symbols of this.
Balance and symmetry also plays an important role, specifically in Chinese architecture, based upon the principles of Yin-Yang and Feng Shui, which literally means “wind-water”. The position of a structure, object, or color can determine the flow of positive and negative energy. For example, curved roofs, the colors and tiers of the eaves, and roof top decorations are believed to help ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune and luck.
With a civilization that boasts over 4,000 continuous years, Chinese culture is complex, rich, vibrant, and has withstood the test of time, as seen in its people today
You can see upcoming cultural events in the Chinese Cultural Events Calendar.
Chicago is home to one of the largest Chinatowns in North America. This bustling community within minutes of downtown Chicago now boasts the unique character of most of the provinces, regions, and countries influenced of Chinese around the world by China and Chinese culture. Chicago’s Chinatown is a portal to culture, language, customs, and lifestyle of many of the provinces, regions, and countries influenced by China and Chinese culture, reflects all that Chinese culture has to offer. Originally settled by Italian and Croatian immigrants, Chinatown is home to one of the largest is one of the largest in North America.
Originally located about 2 miles further north near the Loop, Chinatown moved to its present location in 1911. Originally settled by Italian and Croatian immigrants, the present Chinatown shows how the architecture gave way to some Chinese influences, but still there is a European and neighborhood ambiance if you were to stroll down the side streets.
Chicago’s importance as the railroad hub of the nation defined Chinatown’s landscape. It was originally bounded on three sides by railroad tracks and yards, creating a Chinatown version of the “Loop”. The large Sante Fe yard on the north end has given way to Chinatown Square, an exciting venue of eclectic restaurants, shops, and stores.The south end is bounded by the Stevenson Expressway I55. These boundaries surrounding Chinatown separate the traditional commercial district from the newer developments extending in all directions around.
Chinatown will be an adventure for the senses. Immerse yourself in the sights of Chinese art and architecture. Relish in the lively banter over a thrilling game of Chinese Chess in Sun Yat Sen Park. Sit amid the riverfront tranquility of Ping Tom Park, watching Chicago’s skyline melt with its industrial past and present. Root for your favorite dragon boat as racers plow through the Chicago River. Enjoy the adventure of learning about everyday life in Chinatown. Listen to the evocative melodies of Cantonese opera while strolling down side streets. Thrill to the experience of any of the great Chinese cuisines from around the world. It’s here in Chinatown!