Around China Free: 2 Must Knows Geography And History

China, officially the People’s Republic of China is a sovereign country located in East Asia. It is the most populous country in the world and has the second-largest continental area in the world and the third or fourth-largest country by total area in the world.

Geography 

China is the second-largest country in the world by land area after Russia, and the third or fourth-largest country by total area, after Russia, Canada, and possibly the United States. China’s total area is often claimed to be about 9,600,000 square kilometers.

China has the longest total land border in the world, with 22,117 km from the mouth of the Yalu River to the Gulf of Tonkin. China shares borders with 14 other countries, holding the number one spot in the world alongside Russia.[85] China covers much of East Asia, bordering Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan[h], Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, and Korea. In addition, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines are also adjacent to China through the sea.

The territory of China lies between latitudes 18° and 54° North, and longitudes 73° and 135° East. China’s landscape varies considerably across its vast territory. In the east, along the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea coasts, there are wide and densely populated alluvial plains, while the vast steppe predominates at the edge of the Inner Mongolian plateau. Hills and low mountain ranges dominate the topography of South China, while the central-eastern region contains the deltas of China’s two largest rivers, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River. Other major rivers are Tay Giang, Hoai Ha, Mekong, Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsangpo) and Amur. In the west, there are great mountain ranges, the most prominent being the Himalayas. In the north, there are arid landscapes, such as the Gobi Desert and the Taklamakan Desert. The highest peak in the world is Mount Everest (8,848m) located on the China-Nepal border. The lowest point of China, and the third-lowest in the world, is the bed of Ai Ding Lake (-154m) in the Turpan Basin.

The dry season and the wet monsoon dominate much of China’s climate, resulting in marked temperature differences between winter and summer. During winter, northerly winds descend from high-latitude regions characterized by cold and dry; During summer, southerly winds from low-latitude coastal areas are characterized by warm and humid. China’s climate varies from region to region due to its highly complex topography. A major environmental problem in China is the continued expansion of deserts, especially the Gobi Desert.

HISTORY

China is one of the earliest cradles of human civilization. The Chinese civilization is also one of the few civilizations, along with ancient Mesopotamia (the Sumerians), India (the Indus Valley Civilization), Maya, and Ancient Egypt (although it may be from the Sumerians), created his own script.

The first dynasty according to Chinese historical documents was the Xia Dynasty; however, there is no archaeological evidence to verify the existence of this dynasty (when China grew economically and politically reformed and had enough human and intellectual resources to pursue more vigorously to prove an ancient history, there are a number of Neolithic sites given as well as some evidence gathered over time, demonstrating national identity, unity, and pride, or in other words is the expression of nationalism and nationalism).

The first dynasty that certainly existed was the Shang, which settled along the Yellow River basin, sometime between the 18th and 12th centuries BC. The Shang Dynasty was taken over by the Zhou Dynasty (12th to 5th centuries BC), which in turn was weakened by the loss of control over smaller territories to the lords; finally, in the Spring and Autumn period, many independent states rose up and fought successively, and only considered the Zhou state as the nominal center of power.

Finally, Qin Shi Huang took over all the countries and declared himself emperor in 221 BC, establishing the Qin Dynasty, a unified Chinese nation in terms of political institutions, writing, and an official language. first in Chinese history. However, this dynasty did not last long because it was too domineering and brutal and carried out “burning books and burying grapes” throughout the country (burning all books and killing Confucianists) in order to prevent further attempts. scrambled for the emperor’s power from its infancy, to monopolize ideology, and to unify the written language for easy administration.

After the collapse of the Qin Dynasty in 207 BC, the Han Dynasty lasted until 220 AD. Then came a period of strife when local leaders arose, calling themselves “Son of Heaven” and declaring that the Mandate of Heaven had changed. In 580, China was reunified under the Sui dynasty. During the Tang and Song dynasties, China entered its heyday.

For a long time, especially between the 7th and 14th centuries, China was one of the most advanced civilizations in the world in terms of technology, literature, and art. The Song Dynasty finally fell to the Mongol invaders in 1279. The Mongol King Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty. Later, a peasant leader, Zhou Yuanzhang, drove out the Mongol government in 1368 and founded the Ming Dynasty, which lasted until 1644. Then the Manchus descended from the northeast to overthrow the Ming and establish it. Qing Dynasty, which lasted until the last emperor Puyi abdicated in 1911.

The characteristics of feudal China were that dynasties often toppled each other in a bloodbath, and the class that gained leadership often had to take special measures to maintain their power and contain the overthrown dynasty. . For example, the Qing (Manchu) dynasty, after taking over China, often applied policies to prevent the Manchus from being mixed into the sea of ​​Han people because of their small population. These measures proved ineffective, however, and the Manchus were ultimately assimilated by Chinese culture.

By the 18th century, China had made significant technological advances over the peoples of Central Asia with whom it had fought for centuries, yet lagged far behind Europe. This shaped the landscape of the 19th century in which China stood on the defensive against European imperialism while displaying imperial expansion against Central Asia.

The main cause of the fall of the Chinese empire, however, was not the influence of Europe and the United States, as Western ethnocentrists believe, but could have been the result of a There were a series of serious internal upheavals, among them the rebellion named Thai Binh Thien Quoc, which lasted from 1851 to 1862.

Although eventually quelled by imperial forces, the civil war was among the bloodiest in human history – at least twenty million people were killed (more than the total number of deaths in World War II). first). Before this civil war, there were also some Muslim uprisings, especially in Central Asia.

After that, a major uprising broke out, although relatively small compared to the bloody Taiping Thien Quoc civil war. This uprising was called the Nghia Hoa Doan uprising with the aim of driving Westerners out of China. Although she agreed and even supported the insurgents, Empress Dowager Cixi helped foreign forces quell the uprising.

In 1912, after a long period of decline, China’s feudal system finally collapsed and Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang established the Republic of China. The three decades that followed were a period of disunity – the period of the Warlords, the Sino-Japanese War, and the Chinese Civil War. The Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 and the Chinese Communist Party took control of mainland China.

The Communist Party of China established a communist state – the People’s Republic of China – which considers itself the successor state of the Republic of China. Meanwhile, the government of the Republic of China led by Chiang Kai-shek withdrew to the island of Taiwan, where it continued to be recognized by the Western bloc and the United Nations as the legitimate government of all of China until the end of the decade. 1970s, after which most countries and the United Nations moved to recognize the People’s Republic of China.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Portugal, respectively, returned two concessions, Hong Kong and Macau on the south coast, to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 and 1999. Today’s context usually refers to the territory of the People’s Republic of China, or “Mainland China”, excluding Hong Kong and Macau.

The People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (from 1949 to the present) do not recognize each other diplomatically, because both sides claim to be the legitimate successor government of the Republic of China (Sun Yat-sen). including the Mainland and Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China repeatedly opposes the independence movement of Taiwan. Controversies mainly revolve around the nature and limitations of the concept of “China”, the possibility of reunification of China, and Taiwan’s political position.

Why the Chinese LOVE Their Money

People around the world, not just the Chinese, love their money. But the Chinese culture has a stronger fixation on money than perhaps other cultures. This belief is so popular that it is stereotyped in modern culture today. Stereotypes like the frugal Asian parents you see on tv are one of them. Some comedians, like Ronny Chieng, also mentioned money-obsessed practices in his comedy show.

Talking about money may come across as being too bold, intrusive, and even disrespectful in some cultures. Talking about money, however, is very normal and common in Chinese culture. The topic is so normal that the top 3 questions you get asked are always “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” and “how much you make”. People asking you these questions are not just families and relatives, but can also be strangers you met on the bus. These questions are often used to determine a person’s reputation and credibility.

Cultural practices done during the Chinese New Year are one of the examples of the money-obsessed things you can notice. The simple greeting of 恭喜发财 (gong xi fa cai) is a must said phrase during Chinese New Year. This phrase literally means “I hope you get rich”. Additionally, there are traditions of giving red envelopes filled with money during Chinese New Year. This is to wish the receiver (most of the time kids) good luck at the beginning of the year.

The Mindset of Happiness: Money CAN Buy You Happiness

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I dare say that in Chinese culture money is very important, closely similar to the phrase “Money is everything”. Countering this is the phrase “money can’t buy happiness”. There are many things money can buy but there are also other things that it can’t. Money surely can’t buy happiness but when asking people who were raised in Chinese culture, they would probably disagree. Their thoughts once hearing the statement “Money can’t buy happiness” is that “No! Money CAN buy you happiness!”. 

Money can buy you a fancy house, a car and provide you with luxury vacations all on your single command. You would be happy when you can own the things you want and do the things you want to do! However, they would probably agree that even with all the money in the world, you can never buy true love. Love is another sensitive topic that we can discuss in another article.

Stability is very important in Chinese culture. Having money can buy you certain forms of happiness though not all forms. One should really be thinking at this point, where does such a mindset come from? 

Centuries-Old Cultural Practice

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It is said that this particular obsession with money could be influenced by centuries-old cultural practices. The Buddhism religion that helped build the society in China taught about the concept of karma. Karma means that whatever you do will come back to you. If you do good things, then good things will come back to you. If you do bad things, then bad things will come back to you. If you are born in a rich family, it’s because you were a good person in your previous life. Your good deed in the previous life has rewarded you with good luck and prosperity in this life with karma. Money is a symbol of luck and fortune in the culture. Money is also one of the rewards of Karma you can get in Chinese culture.

The Taoism belief also contributes to the concept of fortune and money in society. Taoism introduces gods and goddesses that can help you if you pray and worship them in return. One of the most worshipped, however, is possibly the god of wealth or money 财神(chai shen). By praying to the god of wealth, it is believed that you can gain more money or luck for your business.

Another cultural practice that you might find most familiar is perhaps the fish tank. In Feng Shui, the Chinese cultural belief of the flow of energy,  fish, and water symbolizes good fortune, prosperity, and wealth. Thus, putting a fish tank in the living room is believed to bring fortune to your house. Chinese restaurants around the world also often did this practice. You can also call a Feng Shui expert to determine the best flow of energy in your house or establishment. He can help you decide in which room should you put the fish tank. This is so you can retrieve the maximum amount of prosperity by putting the fish tank strategically.

Political History

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Another possibility that affects the importance of money in Chinese culture can also be the political history of China. This factor might just be the most important factor to influence the Chinese view of money. During the reign of general Mao, he enforced cultural reform as a means to eradicate capitalism in China. However, this change in system sent the country to the worst poverty recorded in history. During this period ⅓ of the country’s population went below the poverty line and starvation was everywhere. After the death of general Mao in 1976, Deng Xiaoping rose to replace his position. He made reforms to the economy and made China rise to wealth in one generation. One of the quotes he infamously said was, “To be rich is glorious”.  After China rose from the poverty line, they have continued to be one of the strongest economies we see today.

Imagine that when you are 7 years old, your house was small and food was hard to come by. Fast forward to when you were 17, you moved to live in a mansion and live in luxury. You see your family change for the better and gain the connection between money and happiness. The parents can also see that money has brought them better lives for their children and their needs. The things that they cannot do before, they can do now because they have money. The stability and safety that money provides are strongly ingrained in people’s heads during this time. That’s why many Asian parents encourage their children on certain career paths like doctors and lawyers. This is because these jobs are stable with a great reputation and bring great income in the long term. 

China’s Trade History

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The earliest record of trade in China dates back to the Qin dynasty in 2000 BC. China has been handling trade as a business ever since then and created a monetary system to support it. At this point in time, the rest of the world’s civilization is nowhere near what China was doing. Later they created the silk road during the Han dynasty which brought merchants from all around the world. The creation of the Silk road has made China a center for trade centuries before the existence of modern technology. Paper money was later invented along with a system of depositing. This system was very similar to the modern banking system that we know, minus the machines and internet.

For centuries that Chinese culture has understood the concept of doing business, trading, investing, and saving. Talking about money is as common in daily life now as it was 2000 years ago. 

China Now

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China is now the second country in the world with the most number of billionaires. Their average billionaire’s age is 37, one of the youngest averages in the world. However, with such high pressure and competition to make money, it has become unbearable for some. The cities have more job opportunities to make money compared to the rural area. This has made income disparity a problem in China. To make ends meet, many parents left for the city leaving their children and family behind. They had to leave their children behind as moving the whole family to the city would be too expensive. This led to the common situation for many families to only meet once a year during the Chinese New year. They have gone so far from their home country to make ends meet for their families back home.

Despite the crucial importance of money in society, there have been significant cultural shifts that focus more on finding happiness. Money will still remain a crucial part of the Chinese culture, but the growing importance of happiness might just match that of money. How does your culture view money? Let us know in the comments below!

8 Amazing Chinese Business Cultures Advice To Know

China is now the fastest developing nation and already the second-largest economy in the world (after the US). This growth is creating a ‘rush’ of investment from multiple countries worldwide. As the global economic stage shifts, it’s likely that the Chinese language will play a major role in shaping its future, and the importance of Chinese for business will grow.

You don’t even necessarily need to be proficient in the Chinese language. Only by showing that you’ve been making efforts in learning the Chinese language and understanding Chinese people, you will definitely build up a better company reputation in the Chinese market and achieve a deeper relationship with ideal customers. However, if you put in the time needed to acquire Chinese language proficiency, you will stand out as someone well-positioned to reap benefits that your competition simply can’t have.

Here are some of the benefits of learning Chinese that you can expect to enjoy.

1. Learn Chinese And Know Your Customers Better

Buyers’ behaviour is always a big part of designing products and services for your markets. You need to understand who is your customer and in what scenario they will likely buy your product. To help you know your customers, it will be easier if you know a bit about their languages and culture. Being able to predict Chinese buyers’ behaviour using some key Chinese linguistic phrases is your secret to let you into the Chinese mindset, motivations, cultural traits and behaviours.

Risk avoidance is an example of a cultural trait in China. It is referred to as “Feng Xian Gui Bi” (风险规避), which relates to the level of uncertainty or ambiguity a person will prefer. In China, people tend to have a higher level of risk avoidance, preferring safe options. For example, Chinese people will strongly prefer to buy products and services with a solid money-back guarantee if they are not satisfied with the product. Doing business in China, you need to take risk avoidance into consideration. Additionally, knowing some language and concepts in Chinese can help you accurately frame the perception of how your customers think, feel and behave. This helps you be prudent in evaluating your audience and positioning your product and services.

2. Learn Chinese To Effortlessly Navigate Chinese Social Media

Knowing the systems of the major Chinese social media and payment gateways helps you understand and navigate conversations around the Chinese social media business architecture. 

Did you know that 71% of payments made last year in China were via mobile methods? 

Chinese consumers spent US$5.5 trillion via mobile payment platforms in 2016 (China goes cashless with consumers spending $5.5 trillion via mobile payments). So you can see what is the hottest trend now in China. Just like in Western countries, social media is increasing rapidly in China.

For all the popular social media platforms you can find in the U.S., there is an exact equivalent in China, where social media platforms dominate the whole China market. Chinese consumers use Weibo (微博) instead of Twitter, Wechat (微信) instead of Facebook and WhatsApp, and numerous video platforms like Youku (优酷), iQIYI (爱奇艺), Letv (乐视), PPlive (聚力视频) instead of Youtube.

It is always challenging to study a new group of customers, but if you know their language, you can get customer insights more efficiently than your competitors. Imagine how convenient and effective it would be if you can easily handle these platforms in Chinese!

3. Learn Chinese Language And Cultivate Your Business Acumen

Business nowadays is worldwide business. Meanwhile, in China, the business culture is changing rapidly to adapt to world business. However, there is still a strong grasp on traditional paradigms, for example, the concepts of Communism, hierarchy in relationships, and ‘rules’ or traditions of business. Understanding these concepts in Chinese will not only give you respect as a business person in China but also help you acquire an authentic understanding of the way of business protocols and etiquette in Chinese business culture.

4. Learn Chinese To Acquire The Art Of Developing Successful Business Relationships

In the same way, cooperation between businesses is better understood through unique Chinese concepts that are not easily expressed in English. Believe me, your business partner will be favorably surprised if you say “wo hen gao xing lai dao zhong guo” (I’m glad to come to China) rather than simply say “ni hao” (hello).  Chinese people are open, friendly and intuitive. Your business partner will feel your sincerity in cooperation when they listen to your Chinese because they can see your efforts in understanding their language and culture!

Successful business partnerships are based on mutual understanding forged through both verbal and non-verbal communication protocols. By knowing each other’s language, you will be on a more equal playing field with your prospective business partner. Learning Chinese languages will propel you forwards in your quest to develop your Chinese business acumen, achieve greater impact and lock-in more favorable outcomes in your business negotiations.

Relationship – “GUANXI” (关系)

“Guanxi” (关系) is the word in the Chinese language to describe a relationship. In addition to saying ‘hello’, there are more important and in-depth business linguistic elements and etiquettes affecting the success of your relationship.

As an example, exchanging gifts in China is an important part of business etiquette! In any business visit, both parties are likely to prepare a gift for each other. In particular, where the meeting is between a Chinese business and an international business, Chinese business delegates always like to prepare some gifts with traditional Chinese meaning. And they would also be happy to receive some special gifts from you!

There is so much more to Chinese business protocol and etiquette. 

For example, do you know what is the most appropriate distance between two persons in a business meeting? Do you know that business in China is sometimes conducted during meals? Do you know the character of personal relationships in Chinese businesses? By building your capability in speaking the Chinese language alongside your savviness in Chinese business culture you will definitely put yourself ahead of your competition!

So, start learning the Chinese language in time to wow your new business partner, and develop a better “Guanxi” for your future success!

5. Learn Chinese and Build Empathy to Strengthen your business relationships

Many foreign business owners in China feel frustrated by how businesses are administered in China. For both the foreign company representatives and Chinese business partners, it is easy to find mis-communications and mis-understanding leads to a breakdown of trust in the relationship. One example of a process that can cause frustration is the heavy requirement for paperwork for many business operations.

Administrative Paperwork-XING ZHENG WEN SHU” (行政文书)

The administrative burden of business in China can be high, as an example, “Xu Ke Zheng” (许可证) permits are frequently required. This is part of the comprehensive approach to business by the government in China, although feeling counter-intuitive at first, learning and fostering an appreciation for the way things are done will increase your trust in your Chinese business partners. For example, a foreign company running an event will be given a list of items that may and may not be included in a public address by the permit issuer. These rules should be respected as it is your Chinese event co-organisers who stake their reputation to acquire and vouch for your company permits.

You can see how your command of key aspects of Chinese languages is the secret to your success by improving your understanding of business protocols and building empathy to strengthen your relationships with your Chinese counterparts.

6. Learn Chinese and Expand Your Business Network

There are a lot of Chinese speakers in the world. According to Ethnologue, there are roughly 1.117 billion speakers of Mandarin Chinese, and of those, about 918 million are native speakers. Those stats make Mandarin Chinese the second most spoken language in the world as well as the language with the greatest number of native speakers. While most of these speakers reside in China, Chinese speakers have also formed communities around the globe. These are all potential contacts with whom you can personally do business—if only you can communicate with them.

With Chinese language skills, you will be able to navigate the vast global Chinese linguistic community to meet new business partners, clients, and customers. Learning Chinese for business can teach you how to speak Chinese with confidence in both professional and casual venues, setting both you and your business up with new networking opportunities that others can’t access.

This is not just about language but also about culture. Education in Chinese will allow you to socialize with Chinese speakers in more natural settings and establish cordial relations that can lead to future business proposals and collaborations. It will provide you with cross-cultural competencies that will impress your interlocutors and help you avoid committing a cultural faux pas that you might otherwise be unaware of. You can also demonstrate your seriousness and respect for your commerce by showing your commitment to learning how to communicate with potential business partners in their native tongue. Once you’ve established a solid rapport with a native Chinese speaker, you can benefit from their own business networks, capital, and know-how.

7. Learn Chinese And Adapt to the Global Economy

One of the biggest reasons to learn Chinese is that you will be able to do better business with Chinese firms. It’s not news that China is a major player making waves in the global economy. China’s economy is the second-largest in the world according to nominal GDP, representing about 16.34% of the entire global economy. China was also the only major economy to get through the tumultuous year of 2020 with an actual increase in GDP.

As China’s economy evolves, more opportunities continue to avail themselves to businesspeople looking to grow their businesses. Some highlights from the US-China Business Council’s 2017 report Understanding the US-China Trade Relationship include the following: China’s middle-class consumers are growing at a rapid pace and are expected to reach a population of 160 million by 2025; China has been the third-largest market for US goods and services, purchasing $165 billion of goods and services from the US in 2015; China continues to form an integral piece of the global supply chain and has allowed companies like Apple, GM, and Ford to compete at international levels; Chinese companies are investing more in the US, putting $14.8 billion in the US in 2015. It’s no wonder why working with China looks so attractive.

If you learn Chinese for business, you can apply your language skills to take advantage of China’s central place in the global economy. With your capacity to interface and network with Chinese business people, you can facilitate plugging your business into China’s lucrative industries and markets.

New business connections are invaluable, there are some other perks to knowing Chinese, especially if you’re already doing—or would like to do—business in China.

You can run your business, hold meetings, and attend conferences with Chinese speakers while minimizing the involvement of intermediaries like translators. You can also directly access knowledge and information provided by Chinese language websites, newspapers, TV programs, and books, giving yourself advantageous access to critical resources to plan your next moves. You would also be well-positioned to localize your products, services, and digital content to attract Chinese-speaking consumers and markets.

8. Learn Chinese And Get Your Edge in International Business With Chinese Business Giants

The Chinese language is an important tool for networking and remaining competitive in the global marketplace. For the savvy businessperson who already has some experience with Chinese under their belt, learning Chinese for business is a powerful next step.

Chinese business language can help you specialize your language skills and tailor them to your specific industry.

Focusing your studies specifically on Chinese for business will equip you with the specific cultural and linguistic vocabulary you need to speak intelligently about your business and interests with Chinese speakers. What you choose to do with this opportunity—whether in China or elsewhere around the globe—is ultimately left to you.

Learning Chinese Language and Culture Today!

At the current time and looking ahead, China has opened its giant domestic-facing market to the world and put on the table the best policies it has ever had. This means the time is ripe to kickstart your Chinese language learning and acquire new insights into Chinese markets and consumer behaviours. There is 300 million middle class now in China, and this number is predicted to grow to 500 to 600 million in the next 10 to 15 years (For those of you who are interested, check how Jack Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba Group, explained the China opportunity at Gateway ’17). This is an indication of a huge demand for high-quality goods and services.

To impress your prospective Chinese business partners now is the time to start learning Chinese languages alongside formal business protocols and etiquette! Understand and prepare yourself and your business to enter into China and build your business on the second-largest international stage. To seize this incredible market opportunity in China and stand out among your competitors, you should indulge the perspicacity in you and really start with learning the Chinese language and developing your Chinese business acumen and awareness.

Lock in your lessons with Pandanese to start your journey in the Chinese language and business culture now, or find out more about how to succeed in learning the Chinese language and Chinese business culture with Pandanese!

5 Proven Unique Chinese Business Cultures Need To Know

What Is Business Culture? 

Business culture is related to behaviour, ethics, etiquette, and more. A business culture will encompass the organization’s values, visions, working style, beliefs, and habits. Culture is a key component in business and has an impact on the strategic direction of the business. Culture influences management, decisions, and all business functions from accounting to production. You may now be thinking predominantly about national culture but this is only one aspect, business culture is its own unique dimension that includes getting off on the right foot, meetings, negotiation, formalities, social media use, internships and work placements, and other elements。

How Chinese Business Culture Different From Other Cultures?

Here are the top 5 business culture differences you should know before you do business with the Chinese or run a business in China.

Chinese Business Partners Don’t Like Direct Instructions

People in Chinese culture are not strict when it comes to detail. This can be potentially problematic when instructions need to be followed clearly. Western cultures embrace clear and direct instructions. It requires no memorization, little thinking, and less room for misinterpretation or mistakes.

In China, however, people often take offense to being given instructions and feel micromanaged. It is not uncommon that people will begin working on a project before they understand the details or complexities.

Pushing people to read a workflow or checklist can be difficult. They may take it as a message of unintelligence.

Give Notice When Things Change

It is quite common that a project does not start as you originally planned, since last-minute changes happened. If your Chinese vendor found out about the delay, they would be quite frustrated.

As a western-style businessman, you are used to a fast and dynamic environment. You plan ahead, try to work out the best schedule, and develop a smooth process. But no amount of preparation or experience can mitigate all obstacles. Sometimes unexpected changes arise and the game plan suddenly changes.

However, it seems like a natural part of doing business that you may cause significant stress to your non-western vendors that are not used to a fast-paced work environment. It’s a good idea to warn your Chinese partners (vendors) ahead of time if your project is dynamic or at risk of sudden change.

Lunch Isn’t 30 Minutes

Traditionally, lunch in China is almost as sophisticated as dinner. People have a big meal and it takes time. In the past, people even took naps after their lunch. Schools and businesses typically have a noon break for around 1.5 hours to 2 hours.

This is slowly changing as western lifestyle is influencing Chinese culture. In smaller cities, however, lunch breaks will still take much longer than what we’re accustomed to in North America. This should be considered when recruiting and preparing schedules. If employees are required to work with a shorter lunch break, overtime pay might need to be paid.

Beware Of Political, Legal & Economic Differences

You prepared a carnet to ensure that your computers could be shipped into China without trouble, but as it turned out, a signature was missed on one of the carnet forms when the package left the U.S.

What is the lesson here? The lesson is to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS double-check your paperwork.

Clearing a package through Chinese customs isn’t as simple as it is in Western countries. We consulted a couple of clearance agencies that prepared documents and letters for Customs of China. Unfortunately, all the paperwork in the world couldn’t be released to our computers in time.

This really didn’t surprise me. 

Since China started becoming open to Western countries relatively recently. Although it is a big and actively developing country, it still has unique political and economic systems. Don’t be surprised if what works smoothly in western countries is a bit of a bumpy road in China.

Listen To Your Chinese Business Partners

As one of our business members told us about his experience. That his company didn’t officially start recruiting until they finalized their location and had a starting date. At first, he didn’t understand why, because that’s what they did in Canada after all. Then his Chinese partner explained that there are many fraudulent job postings in China.

The most rampant ones in South China are multi-level marketing scams, which are illegal. Consequently, people are very hesitant when applying for part-time jobs. His Chinese partner mentioned that if they changed the location or time after an initial job post, people would likely suspect it as some illegal group trying to avoid the police. If they were to be flagged, it would be very difficult to clarify and convince participants that this is a legitimate job opportunity.

This is something I never would have thought about and probably not applicable in other countries.

Even though you might not understand their logic at first, be open to your Chinese partner’s advice.

10 Chinese Foods To Take You on a Tour Around China

When we learn about culture, food may not be the first thing that comes to mind. We probably first think of language, tradition, and religion when we hear the word culture. But food has remained an important aspect of culture that withstands the boundaries of language barriers. China is one of the few countries where they have a variety of cultural heritage in different regions. The term “Chinese Food” is sadly a generalization of the existing wonderful variety of cuisine that China has to offer. 

We often think that the best-tasting food comes from expensive ingredients or 5-star rating restaurants but this can never be further from the truth. In the words of Paul Prudhomme, an American Chef, “You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food” indicates that oftentimes the cheapest food found in humble market stalls and family recipes offers the most embodiment of culture into one single plate.

The Region Matters

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China is a huge country and the country is separated from the Qin mountain and the Huai River in the center planes of China. Geographers use the reference 秦岭淮河线 (Qin Lin Huai He Xian) which translates to the Qin mountain Huai River Line. This makes it very hard for the people to travel in between the region of North and South. This separation influences the cultural diversity and the development of cuisine between the North and South.  

The North

The North region loves their flour. I repeat they LOVE their flour. Originally, millet was more of the staple source of grain the people used for food. However, wheat gained mass popularity and became the staple source of food during the fall of the Tang dynasty. This preference led us to the wheat-based dishes the northern Chinese cuisine is famously known for. 

1. Knife Cut Noodles – Biang Biang Noodles

Knife-cut noodles originated from the Shaanxi province in the northwest region of China. They were originally a part of a poor man’s daily meal but now have gained popularity all over the world. The noodles are made of wheat, and instead of hand-pulled they were cut with knives, thus the English name knife-cut noodles. The name Biang Biang however, is what gives it the popularity it has now. The name Biang Biang is a dialect and its written form is not recorded in any Mandarin dictionary. Not only that, the written form of Biang has a whopping 58 strokes, 42 if it’s simplified which then went viral and rose to popularity for the noodles. You can check Wikipedia for the writing form because I can’t even type the characters here. The noodles are known to be wide and long just like a belt. It is later served with hot oil, mixed with chili and spices, giving it a fragrance that makes your mouth water. 

2. Dong Xiang Lamb – Gansu Province

Dong Xiang is a name of a region in the Gansu province in northern China. This region boasts to have the best lamb meat sources in China. If you ever visit the Gansu province, it is highly recommended for you to try their lamb dishes braised, stir fry, or even skewered. 8 months old mutton will be cooked delicately stir-fried as they have the softest texture of meat. The meat of up to 1-year-old lamb will be used in braised dishes and skewers as they maintain their fat and texture in higher heat better.

3. Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup

Beef noodle soup is a staple in several regions in Northern China. The most popular, however, are the Lanzhou Beef Noodle soup. As the name suggests, the dish is best produced in the region of Lan Zhou. The dish is known for its elastic noodles, bone broth and tasty beef pieces served together. There are 5 features of an excellent Lan Zhou beef noodle soup. Those 5 features are clear soup, clean white turnips, brilliant red chili oil, green parsley, and yellow noodles. If one of these features did not exist, consider the dish, not a true Lanzhou beef noodle soup. 

The South 

The Southern Region, when compared to the North, has rice as their favorite food source. The southern preference for rice is similar to the modern meme of “Asians love rice”. The spread of millet and wheat only made their way in the northern region but never really made their way to the south as the region is separated by the Qin mountain and Huai river. The lack of transportation development then made it impossible to bring millet and wheat to the south. Instead of wheat and millet, the south has its own fixation with rice. Rice has been growing in the southern region since 3000 – 4000 years ago. These centuries of rice planting heritage have made rice an important part of the Chinese culture especially in the south. 

4. Rice Noodles

The first rice noodle is said to first originate in Guangzhou. Rice noodles still remain popular today. During the Qin Dynasty, an invasion from the North to the South started. The North people enjoy eating noodles made of wheat flour. However, when they invaded the south, wheat was scarce and there was only rice in the southern region because the southern people loved rice. This led to the northern people creating noodles from the rice in the south during their time of the invasion. Rice noodles still remain popular today. One of the most popular dishes of rice noodles would be the fried rice noodles. This is a Cantonese dish that signifies a Cantonese chef’s true skill. Because you would have to make all the ingredients cooked equally while still managing that the noodles do not stick to the wok or burn. 

5. Char Siu

Char siu originated from the Guangdong region in the south of China. Char siu is a dish although the name was given to the method of how the dish was made. Char siu is a Cantonese dialect and the word can be literally translated to “fork roast”, in Mandarin reading it is read as cha shao (叉烧). Although there are no specifications of which meat should be used, pork loin and pork belly remain some of the more popular cuts to be used when making char siu. 

Common and Popular Dishes all over China

Despite most dishes being divided based on their regions, many of these dishes gain popularity throughout the country. Here is a list of dishes that have made their way far and wide from their origin to the rest of the country and even internationally. 

6. Dumplings

Dumplings are popular everywhere in China. The creation of dumplings also differs from region to region. Take for example the infamous xiao long bao (小笼包). They originated from the Jiangxi province. The skin is made out of wheat flour, with broth and pork filling inside. Xiao long refers to the name of the bamboo basket to which they are steamed, whereas the bao refers to the buns. There are several ways to make this dish depending on where you are visiting. In the south, the dough of the skin is unleavened, thus they are thin and translucent with pork and soup fillings inside of them. If you go further to the northern regions, they are made with leavened though, thicker and usually bigger, sometimes twice the size of that made in the south. 

7. Dim Sum

Dim Sum is a Cantonese word where it can be translated as “to touch the heart”. Dim sum is strongly associated with “Yum Cha” or the practice of drinking tea accompanied by several small portioned snacks. This practice originated in the Guangzhou region and became popular in the 10th century when the region had an increasing number of tourists and travelers visiting the area. The Hong Kong dim sum style is now the most popular and well-known around the world thanks to their carts that circle the restaurant floors and offer guests to choose their dishes of choice from the carts. This tradition still lives on today and is an especially popular choice for family brunch. 

8. Hot Pot

Hot pot originated in Mongolia 800-900 years ago. Ingredients for hot pot then only include mutton and horse meat as they are the most staple ingredients available in the region. However, as they make their way to popularity across China, each region put their own signature twist to this ancient dish. The most famous is probably the Szechuan style. Hot pot is Huo Guo in Mandarin, but the Szechuan style was so popular because Szechuan peppercorn and other chilis are put in the broth giving the broth ma and la very fitting for Huo Guo (火锅) in the sense of “fire pot” instead of hot pot.

9. Buns

Buns are one of the most common dishes in China but are most popular in central China. The central region of China was said to be one of the earliest regions to use steam in cooking. Thus spreading the popularity of steamed buns across the northern regions of China and later to the whole country. Buns in mandarin are called bao () and are often equalized with the bread in the west and have different recipes and serving styles depending on the region. In the north, the buns are made from the north using millet flour or wheat flour.  In the south, rice flour is used instead of millet flour or wheat flour. This gives the buns created by the southern region, softer and gluten-free. The buns created from steaming are often called mantou (馒头). When the steamed buns are given filling “sweet or savory” then they are called “baozi” (包子). 

However, steamed buns are not the most classic way to enjoy buns in Chinese cuisine. The most classic way to enjoy buns is to bake them and eat them with marinated meat. Baked buns with marinated meat are popular throughout China but especially in the region of Xi An. This dish where the buns are baked instead of steamed and served with meat is named Gua Bao (挂包). Gua bao is now the most classic way to enjoy buns throughout China and pop culture around the world.

10. Pork Belly

Pork belly is a staple cut of meat in Chinese cuisine. You might recognize crispy pork also known as Shao Rou (烧肉). This style of pork belly cooking used a charcoal furnace and the meat seasoned with spices, vinegar, and salt. The most popular however is the red braised pork belly of Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉). The dish has several variations like the Dong Po pork from Hangzhou. But the most famous version of the red pork belly is the Hunan version where it was dubbed to be general Mao’s favorite dish. This later gave the dish a new nickname, Mao’s style braised pork (毛氏红烧肉).

What to eat next?

China serves many variations in its cultural heritage and practice. Their food dates back centuries old and has included many traditions, practices, and history in the way they are served, ingredients, and cooking methods. Let us know which dish made it to your next list of must eat!

Everything To Know About Learning Chinese Hanzi Characters

As one of the most important parts of Chinese culture, today, I want to give a general introduction about Hanzi (Chinese Characters) as well as how to learn Hanzi effectively. 

What is Hanzi?

Chinese characters, also known as Hanzi (漢字) are one of the earliest forms of written language in the world, dating back approximately five thousand years ago. Nearly one-fourth of the world’s population still uses Chinese characters today. As an art form, Chinese calligraphy remains an integral aspect of Chinese culture.

There are 47,035 Chinese characters in the Kangxi Dictionary (康熙字典), the standard national dictionary developed during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the precise quantity of Chinese characters is a mystery because numerous and rare variants have accumulated throughout history. Studies from China have shown that 90% of Chinese newspapers and magazines tend to use 3,500 basic characters.

Short overview of Hanzi history and evolution

Hanzi is similar to other ancient languages, starting from drawing natural figures to record what people see and experience in important rituals, which have evolved over thousands of years and finally become what it looks like right now. However, not all of the previous scripts of Hanzi have disappeared. You can still see them being used on different occasions, especially in learning calligraphy. 

The main forms are summarized as follow: Oracle Bone Inscriptions (Jia Gu Wen 甲骨文), Bronze Inscriptions, (Jin Wen 金文), Small Seal Characters (Xiao Zhuan 小篆), Official Script (Li Shu 隸書), Regular Script (Kai Shu 楷書), Cursive Writing or Grass Stroke Characters (Cao Shu 草書), and Freehand Cursive (Xing Shu 行書).

Let’s see an example of the word “Bird” (niao 鸟):

Oracle Bone Inscriptions refers to the writings inscribed on the carapaces of tortoises and mammals during the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 B.C.). This is the earliest form of Chinese characters. Because Oracle Bone inscriptions mainly recorded the art of divination, this script is also called bu ci (卜辭), divination writings. Over one thousand of the over four thousand characters inscribed on excavated oracle bones have been deciphered.File:鳥-oracle.svg - 维基词典,自由的多语言词典
Bronze Inscriptions are the characters inscribed on bronze objects, such as ritual wine vessels, made during the Shang (1600 – 1046 B.C.) and Zhou (1046 – 256 B.C.) dynasties. Over two thousand of the nearly four thousand collected single characters from these bronze objects are now recorded.天天快报
Small Seal Characters refer to the written language popular during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.). In the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), different scripts were in use in different parts of the Chinese empire. Following the conquest and unification of the country, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty simplified and unified the written language. This unification of the written language during the Qin Dynasty significantly influenced the eventual standardization of the Chinese characters.飞字篆书_万图壁纸网
Official Script is the formal written language of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.). Over time, curved and broken strokes gradually increased, becoming distinct characteristics of this style. Official Script symbolizes a turning point in the evolutionary history of Chinese characters, after which Chinese characters transitioned into a modern stage of development.鸟字隶书写法_鸟隶书怎么写好看_鸟书法图片_词典网
Regular Script first appeared at the end of the Han Dynasty. But it was not until the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.) that Regular Script rose to dominant status. During that period, the Regular Script continued evolving stylistically, reaching full maturity in the early Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). Since that time, although developments in the art of calligraphy and character simplification still lay ahead, there have been no more major stages of evolution for the mainstream script.
鸟的楷书_万图壁纸网
Cursive Writing first appeared at the beginning of the Han Dynasty. The earliest cursive writings were variants of the rapid, freestyle form of the Official Script. Cursive Writing is not in general use, being a purely artistic, calligraphic style. This form can be cursive to the point where individual strokes are no longer differentiable, and characters are illegible to the untrained eye. Cursive Writing remains highly revered for the beauty and freedom it embodies.鸟字草书写法_鸟草书怎么写好看_鸟书法图片_词典网
Freehand Cursive (or semi-cursive writing) appeared and became popular during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280 A.D.) and the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.). Because this style is not as abbreviated as Cursive Writing, most people who can read Regular Script can read semi-cursive. Some of the best examples of semi-cursive are found in the work of Wang Xizhi (321-379 A.D.), the most famous calligrapher in Chinese history, from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (316-420 A.D.).鸟”字的行书书法_鸟的行书书法字帖_名家书法欣赏
Simplified Chinese characters ( Jianti Zi, 简体字) are standardized Chinese characters used in Mainland China. The government of the People’s Republic of China began promoting this form for printing use in the 1950s ’60s in an attempt to increase literacy. Simplified characters are the official form of the People’s Republic of China and in Singapore; traditional Chinese characters are still used in Hong Kong, Macau, and the Republic of China (Taiwan). Since 1954, over 2,200 Chinese characters have been simplified.鸟字的意思- 汉语字典- 千篇国学

When do we need to use hanzi?

For thousands of years, learning Chinese Hanzi was the only way to learn the Chinese language. Chinese characters carry traditional Chinese philosophy. It will help you understand Chinese manners, social taboos, and implied information when communicating with Chinese.

How to learn hanzi effectively?

Hanzi is deeply linked to Chinese culture. Generally speaking, there are two ways to learn Chinese. The traditional way is more suitable for high-level learners, and the modern way is easier for beginners to start with. So, I recommend high-level learner may change their learning method and try the traditional way. The modern method is to learn pinyin first before you learn Hanzi. It is more commonly used in systematic learning in modern Chinese education, and it is helpful to pronounce standard Chinese, to correct your accent.

Traditional method

Traditionally, we focus on understanding the meaning of the word by memorizing the origin of the characters and how Hanzi was formed. By doing so, you will have a more profound and deeper understanding of Hanzi. And such way of understanding Hanzi was first classified by the Chinese linguist Xu Shen (許慎), whose etymological dictionary Shuowen Jiezi (說文解字) divides the script into six categories, or liushu ( 六書): pictographic characters, (xiangxing zi 象形字), self-explanatory characters (zhishi zi 指示字), associative compounds (huiyi zi 會意字), pictophonetic characters (xingsheng zi 形聲字), mutually explanatory characters (zhuanzhu zi 轉注字), and phonetic loan characters (jiajie zi 假借字). The first four categories refer to ways of composing Chinese characters and the last two categories to ways of using characters.

It is a popular myth that Chinese writing is pictographic, or that each Chinese character represents a picture. Some Chinese characters evolved from pictures, many of which are the earliest characters found on oracle bones, but such pictographic characters comprise only a small proportion (about 4%) of characters. The vast majority are pictophonetic characters consisting of a “radical,” indicating the meaning and a phonetic component for the original sound.

For example:好(Hǎo) is an associative compound, it combined with a woman and a child (here means boy), as the picture below: A woman holding a newborn in her arms, symbolizing goodness and happiness.

https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/international-affairs/year-of-china/sites/brown.edu.about.administration.international-affairs.year-of-china/files/images/good_table_clean.preview.png

Since it is too difficult to start with, if you want to quickly be able to greet in Chinese or only apply it when you travel to China, I highly recommend beginners to study in modern method.

Modern method

The modern method to learn Hanzi is through Hanyu Pinyin. Hanyu Pinyin often abbreviated as pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan and Singapore. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin is used to spell Chinese in languages written with the Latin alphabet and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

The pinyin system was developed in the 1950s by a group of Chinese linguists including Zhou Youguang, and was based on earlier forms of romanizations of Chinese.

The word Hànyǔ (汉语) means ‘the spoken language of the Han people, while Pīnyīn (拼音) literally means ‘spelled sounds’.

Pinyin includes three parts: 24 vowels, 23 initial consonants, and 4 tones.

Learn Chinese Online via Skype through One-to-One Chinese Lessons

(The first column is initial consonants, and the second column is vowels)

Pinyin vowels are pronounced in a similar way to vowels in Romance languages. Initial consonants are different, only some of them are similar to English alphabet pronunciation, rests have a unique sound, it is better to learn and practice them with websites or apps with sound effects. It even helps more when you repeat the sound you can see a picture that sound stands for.

The pronunciation and spelling of Chinese words are generally given in terms of initials and finals, which represent the segmental phonemic portion of the language instead of letter by letter. Initials are initial consonants, while finals are all possible combinations of the medial (semivowels coming before the vowel), a nucleus vowel, and coda (final vowel or consonant)

How to get started with learning Hanzi?

For beginners, it is always better to have a systematic learning process. That is why I introduce Pandanese. It has a highly advanced neuroscience-based SRS algorithm that prompts you to review radicals, characters, and vocabulary at specific times to maximize retention. It can help you to learn Hanzi in a more effective, fun way and cut down on wasting time.

What are the top 20 most common Hanzi characters?

Since there are so many hanzi characters and I don’t want to completely overwhelm you, so here are the first 20 from the list of most common Chinese characters to get you started. I’ve provided definitions for each character, as well as example terms that are commonly used with explanations.

  1. 的 – de of / ~’s

你的 (nǐ de)your

我的 (wǒ de) my / mine

别的 (bié de) else / other

  1. 一 – yī (is an ideograph character, meaning that it is an abstract idea of the number 1.)

一个 (yī gè) a /an

一些 (yī xiē) some / a few

一种 (yī zhǒng) a kind of

  1. 是 – shì (is / are / am / yes / to be’)

不是 (bú shì) no

但是 (dàn shì) but / however

还是 (hái shì) or

  1. 不 – bù(no; not)

不同 (bù tóng) different

不是 (bú shì) not / no

不要 (bù yào) don’t want

  1. 了 – le (past tense marker/ completed action marker)

到了 (dào le) to arrive

为了 (wèi le) in order to

  1. 在 – zài ((located) at / (to be) in / to exist / in the middle of doing sth)

现在 (xiàn zài) now

正在 (zhèng zài) in the process of

放在 (fàng zài) place in / on

  1. 人 – rén (people/ person)

女人 (nǚ rén) woman

男人 (nán rén) man

老人 (lǎo rén) old man

  1. 有 – yǒu (to have / there is / there are / to exist / to be)

没有 (méi yǒu) don’t have

还有 (hái yǒu) still

只有 (zhǐ yǒu) only

  1. 我 – wǒ (I/ me/myself/our)

我们 (wǒ men) us

我校 (wǒ xiào) our school

  1. 他 – tā (he/ him)

他们 (tā men) they/them

其他 (qí tā) other

  1. 这 – zhè (this)

这个 (zhè ge) this one

这样 (zhè yàng) this kind of

这些 (zhè xiē) these

这么 (zhè me) so much

  1. 那 nà (that)

那个 (nà ge) that one

那样 (nà yàng) that kind of

那些 (nà xiē) those

那么 (nà me) so much

  1. 大 – dà (big/large/great/huge)

大城市 (dà chéngshì) big city

大哥 (dàgē) oldest brother

大丰收 (dà fēngshōu) great havest

  1. 中 – zhōng (china / chinese / within / among / in / middle / center)

中国 (zhōng guó) China

其中 (qí zhōng) among

中心 (zhōng xīn) centre

  1. 小 – xiǎo (little/small/young/tiny)

小姑娘 (xiǎo gūniáng) little girl

小学 (xiǎoxué) primary school

  1. 来 – lái (to come / to arrive / to come round / ever since / next)

出来 (chū lái) to come out

过来 (guò lái) to come over

后来 (hòu lái) afterwards

  1. 去 – qù (go/leave/apart from/past)

出去 (chūqù) go out

过去 (guòqù) go there/past

去哪了 (qù nǎle) where have you been to?

  1. 上 – shàng (on top / upon / above / upper / previous)

上海 (shàng hǎi) Shanghai

身上 (shēn shàng) on the body

上去 (shàng qù) to go up

  1. 国 – guó (country  / nation / state)

中国 (zhōng guó) China

美国 (měi guó) America

国家 (guó jiā) country / nation

  1. 看 – kàn (look/watch/see)

看书kànshū

看电视kàn diànshì

看着点kàn zhuó diǎn

Learning Mandarin: A Hard Must Thing To Do

Today, Chinese Mandarin is spoken by 15 percent of the world population. That is 1.3 billion people worldwide! So if you have 6 friends, know that 1 person in your friend group should speak Mandarin. Although spoken widely, it is undoubtedly one of the hardest languages to learn. The characters, the grammar, and the pronunciations are some of the most difficult aspects to learn. This is because Mandarin is completely different from English,  with different alphabets, grammar structure, and pronunciation. But are these really the only things that make Mandarin hard to learn? 

1. Hanzi

gray concrete wall
Photo by Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

The thing with the mandarin languages is the use of Hanzi, or simply known as the Chinese characters. They do not use Latin alphabets like English or many other languages, which makes it hard. There are 50,000 recorded Hanzi characters in the Mandarin language. However, only 20,000 out of the 50,00 characters recorded are still used on a  daily basis. Each character has different meanings and is read differently. A character is a combination of several strokes. You would have to remember all those lines, woosh, and slashes that made up the 50,000 characters that existed today. If you want to master Hanzi fast, you might want to consider learning them now 🙂

2. Tones and Pronunciation

photo of woman wearing striped dress
Photo by Andre Moura on Pexels.com

Photo by Andre Moura on Pexels.com

Writing and reading Chinese using Hanzi is one aspect of the language. But speaking it is a whole different spectrum you have to get to. Chinese is a tonal language. This means that all the words are differentiated by the pitch of the sound they make and their pronunciation. Two words can be read the same way but have different tones, which gives them different meanings. Give an example of shu (book) and shu (tree). If you get the tones wrong, people would understand the other meaning instead of the one that you meant. 

There are also challenges in pronunciation. The Mandarin language is a “monosyllabic” language. Each word only has one syllable to its pronunciation. Getting your pronunciation correct and accurate will need a lot of practice. For instance, beginner learners may find the pronunciation for “b” and “p” or “ch” and “zh” similar. Many beginner learners think that these words “sound the same” when in actuality they do not. Pronouncing them correctly just needs extra attention and practice. You need to put the effort into shaping your tongue and the shape of your mouth to get the correct sound. A hard challenge indeed.

3. Dialects and variations

signages reflectimg on glass
Photo by Nicolas Donation Pexels.com

If you think that being able to speak and read Mandarin can get you everywhere in China, chances are, not really. This is because Mandarin Chinese has dialects and variations! These variations of the language and dialects vary from region to region and have a lot of differences as well as similarities. 

If you visit the Southern parts of the Chinese regions like Hong Kong, you will find that most of their populations do not speak Mandarin Chinese but Cantonese. Cantonese is not considered a dialect but more of a separate language as they are another linguistic form of Mandarin that was developed separately after the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 AD. They have 9 tones instead of the normal 5 tones in the Mandarin language. Additionally, they have different consonants, such as “l”, and different word endings, such as “k”. Cantonese still use the simplified characters of the Hanzi although there are some applications of the traditional mandarin characters in their writing systems. 

A common dialect that is still spoken today includes Hokkien which you can find spoken in mostly easter regions of China like Pu Jian. Hokkien sounds more similar to Cantonese but has 6 tones instead of 9. Their writing is more similar to Mandarin Chinese although they have incorporations of the traditional Chinese characters.

Variation of the Mandarin language, not only include the way they are pronounced but also the way they are written. The most popularly known variations of writing Mandarin are the traditional Chinese characters. Although the traditional characters are older and more complicated, some of these characters are still used in Cantonese and Hokkien as mentioned previously. Traditional Chinese characters are widely used in the region of Taiwan. Taiwanese people still speak Mandarin Chinese but write with traditional characters which makes it, of course, a lot harder than it already is.

4. Practice hours to mastery

analog clock sketch in black surface
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Learning Mandarin takes time. Learning it takes A LOT of time. One of the most time-consuming parts of learning the language starts with the Hanzi characters. Earliest records of Hanzi date back to the bronze age. Currently, there are 50,000 Hanzi characters on record with 20,000 used daily.  To read these characters, you have to learn them ONE BY ONE. You can’t expect yourself to automatically guess the reading of the characters. When learning how to read the Hanzi, you might find yourself learning simple Hanzi characters. Another method to learn the Hanzi characters is to learn starting with the radicals and their meanings. Learning the Hanzi in this way will create a great base to essentially create a guessing sense to know the meaning and or reading of the character. It is said that you need 2000 hours of practice to master the language. So getting you to the level of comfort for Mandarin will take 1000 hours. If you practice for one hour every day, that will take you 3 years to get comfortable with Mandarin and 6 years to master the language! Talk about investing time in learning.

Why Must I Learn Mandarin? Is It even Worth It?

monopoly car piece
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

After all the difficulties that come with learning one language, you might be re-thinking your decision of NOT learning the language. But why is it a hard must thing? Must we really go through all the struggle and spend A LOT of time? Well, truth be told, learning ANY language takes time, dedication, and skill. Mandarin just takes more time and more skill but does not mean it cannot pay you back as learning other languages in the future. Consider it a must, because learning Mandarin has just as much worth as learning English. 

Making Friends

Although main speakers of Mandarin Chinese reside in China, being able to speak the language will help you spread your network, make friends and possibly open up new opportunities in the future. There are 40 million Mandarin speakers that live outside of China. One of them, or more, could just be your friend! Why miss an opportunity to make friends with someone who could be just as cool and awesome as you?

Business

If you are in business, chances are, you might have some connection to China later in the future. 13 percent of the world’s export and trade is led by China in 2020. Chinese businessmen are more likely to accept business deals when they know that someone on the other side speaks Chinese and understands the culture. This strong preference can be seen in the movie Crazy Rich Asian when Aunty Eleanour mentioned the term “Ka Ki Lang ”, meaning “our own kind”. This preference goes way beyond marriage partners with deep roots even in Chinese business culture today.

Travel

If you ever consider traveling to China, then why not learn Mandarin? China is also rich in culture with a vast number of unique traditions waiting to be discovered. Learning mandarin can give you a whole different experience. While learning Chinese, you will slowly learn their culture too. Learning a people’s culture will always give you an upper hand when you travel. You will know where to ask, what to do and what to look for. Essentially, you can get an authentic unique experience of culture and traditions without getting confused.

So, why not start learning Mandarin? Who knows what opportunities lie in the future for you!

500 Chinese Hanzi Characters Are Enough To Speak Like Natives?

In recent years, as China’s international influence continues to increase, the Chinese language is getting more and more popular around the world. Dignitaries around the world love to speak Chinese, business elites are keen to learn Chinese, and more schools include Chinese as the language test subject for graduation exams. Times magazine said: “If you want to be one step ahead of others, learn Chinese!”. However, for those whose mother tongue is Latin, learning English might be a piece of cake while learning Chinese is another story.

The important questions to ask about learning Chinese characters

So, the questions are: 

  1. How many Chinese hanzi characters do you need to know to achieve fluency in the language? 
  2. Will you be able to have a fluent conversation with the vocabulary of 500 Chinese characters?

In fact, this is a very interesting topic. Because, while there are so many topics about how many English words to learn to have fluent English communication, there is little discussion on the general guideline to learn Chinese. Let’s find out how many Chinese characters do you have to learn to be able to communicate with a native Chinese person and in Chinese naturally. 

Chinese learners’ experiences 

First, let’s take a look at some learners’ experiences

Once an American computer engineer was sent to China as a technical consultant. He was very interested in Chinese on the first day he arrived in China. Although he could not understand a word, he was very eager to learn. In his spare time, he learned it with his friends. Starting from the simplest pronunciation and handwriting. In three months, he studied about 500 Chinese characters, all of which were daily expressions. According to him, it was enough to greet people in Chinese, but if he started to have a small chat, he found out that he would not be able to understand even a joke.

A British girl also shared her experience. She said that Chinese was just too difficult to learn. She really admired the Chinese people who can learn such a complicated language. Someone told her that after learning words, Chinese people also have to learn classical Chinese or 文言文(wényánwén). She experienced so many difficulties in learning Chinese, such as the same characters having different pronunciations; the meanings expressed in different occasions are different. She has lived in China for 3 years and learned about 1,000 Chinese characters. Now she can only have a small chat in Chinese. But she can’t understand Chinese idioms and proverbs at all. So, it is hard to have a meaningful and smooth conversation. It is still difficult for her to pronounce and write Chinese characters. From her experience, it seems difficult to learn Chinese without systematic learning.

Another Korean said that although South Korea and China are neighbors, the cultural gap is quite large. The profoundness of Chinese hanzi characters cannot be learned in a short time. He said that he has lived in China for 20 years and has known more than 5,000 Chinese characters. Now he can communicate with Chinese people normally, as well as making jokes and even quoting famous sayings and so on. He confidently said that even the Chinese can’t tell that he is a Korean, unless he speaks Korean.

The answer seems clear that if you only learn 500 hanzi characters, it is obviously impossible to have a normal conversation in Chinese. Additionally, since the majority of Chinese will have an accent when they speak, it is even harder for you to understand fully. , Chinese primary school students generally need to learn 2000-2500 Chinese characters and adults’ basic vocabulary is about 3000-5000 Chinese characters.

Therefore, 500 Chinese characters that we can learn is considered a small amount. Also, based on the data above, it just seems like a “mission impossible” to learn Chinese since you have to study all of the characters.

However, let’s get real!

Whether you’re studying Chinese by yourself or in a classroom environment, you’re bound to encounter written Chinese as part of your curriculum. “How Many Chinese Characters Do I Need to Know?” is an important question to consider as a smart learner, no matter what your goals are!

So, in this post, you get to know how learning Chinese characters helps improve your language skill as a whole rather than just word recognition. Then, I will show you how many characters (as well as words) you should aim for to achieve basic, proficient, or fluent knowledge of Chinese.

It is important to remember that learning Chinese characters is not just about writing and reading. It can actually help you memorize new words and understand the language as a whole in a more meaningful way. Here are two big reasons why.

Characters help you identify the meanings of words

I discovered that this is especially useful when you’re still sharpening your tone-hearing skills.

I once bought a fridge for my apartment from a local seller. After buying it, the seller insisted (so I thought) that we needed to catch a train to get it to our apartment. As you can imagine, I respectfully disagree.

It turns out she said 货车 (huò chē) meaning flatbed or delivery truck, and not 火车 (huǒ chē) meaning train. The character 货 (huò) refers to deliveries. If I’d known the characters, I’d have had a better chance of distinguishing between those words.

Characters can also help avoid tone errors that often cause confusion and embarrassment

When I bragged about my first visit to Sichuan, the hometown of Panda, I talked about my experience with my friend whose nickname is Panda. I told him that I was so lucky to have the chance to touch the pandas and brush them. However, the whole time  I was saying xiōngmáo (胸毛, “chest hair”) instead of xióngmāo (熊猫, “panda”) which made my friend laughed so hard. Because to her, it seemed like the whole time, I was saying I was so happy with touching the panda’s chest hair and brushing it. I was so embarrassed and wished I knew the characters better so that I would avoid such funny moments.

Characters also help you remember words based on their components

You can make stories or jokes from them to create mnemonic devices.

For example, a classmate of mine once had a discussion about how 家 (jiā), a character meaning “home,” since the character is made up of a pig or 豕 (shǐ) under a roof or 宀 (mián). It shows that in ancient times, productivity was low, people normally raise pigs at home. So, a room with a pig became the symbol of home. That little insight made the word and its characters much more memorable.

Speaking of making them more memorable, calligraphy also happens to be an excellent study method for remembering characters. It’s especially helpful for visual learners and anyone who remembers better by doing.

By learning how to write characters artistically, you’ll gain a better sense of structure and stroke order. Once you get a feel of that flow, writing characters will become second nature to you. You’ll be improving your writing skills and memory retention for characters.

Plus, writing and reading this style of Chinese cursive writing will also help you later down the line when you’re trying to decipher any handwritten text.

Let’s not forget that practicing calligraphy is also an opportunity to connect with Chinese culture. Chinese calligraphy is a highly esteemed form of art in China, therefore a great way to show some cultural appreciation.

Chinese characters and Chinese words 

Before asking “How many Chinese characters do I need to know?” You might want to know the answer to “How many Chinese characters are there?”. The honest answer is a lot. There are roughly 50,000 characters in the standard national Chinese dictionary. Plus, new ones are still being created—you may find them online rather than in the dictionary.

Is there a Chinese alphabet?

Now that you know how many characters are out there, you might be wondering if there’s an alphabet system in place, and how many letters there are. The truth is that there is no Chinese alphabet.

There are some who refer to the pinyin system as the Chinese alphabet, but that’s inaccurate. Yes, pinyin uses the Latin alphabet to show how you’d pronounce Chinese characters, but that is the only use of pinyin letters and it cannot be used for creating words. It sounds confusing, just know that unlike the letters of Western alphabets, Chinese languages don’t rely on pinyin letters to formulate characters and words.

Chinese characters vs. Chinese words

To complicate things, Chinese characters can represent standalone words. They can also represent components for creating other words, ideas and concepts. 女() or female and 马() or horse are perfect examples of characters that are standalone words, as well as components for building other characters. When putting them together, they generate a new word mother or 妈()。

That means the combinations of characters like those from all kinds of words, which is great news for Chinese learners. Basically, a handful of Chinese characters can be combined and reorganized to express a wide variety of ideas—you don’t need to learn a new Chinese character for every new object or action that you encounter. Chinese is in a way very similar to English, simply combining verb and noun characters, you will have an action word. If you combine two noun characters, you will make a word.

For example, I list 8 characters that are each equivalent to a single English word:

  • (chī) — eat
  • (shān) — mountain
  • (hǎo) — good, well
  • (huǒ) — fire
  • (shàng) — up, on and good
  • (xià) — down, under and bad
  • (tóu) — head
  • (chē) — car

Now let’s do a quick exercise. By combining these characters, how would you say the following words?

  • Volcano
  • Wildfire
  • Mountain top
  • Go up the mountain
  • On the mountain
  • Come down the mountain
  • Under the mountain
  • Delicious
  • Good appetite
  • Train
  • The front of a car
  • The first car
  • Get on (as in getting on a bus)
  • In the car
  • Get off (as in getting off of a bus)
  • Under a car

Here are the answers:

  • 火山 (huǒ shān) — literally “fire mountain”
  • 山火 (shān huǒ) — literally “mountain fire”
  • 山头 (shān tóu) — literally “mountain head”
  • 上山 (shàng shān) — literally “up mountain”
  • 山上 (shān shàng) — literally “on mountain”
  • 下山 (xià shān) — literally “down mountain”
  • 山下 (shān xià) — literally “under mountain”
  • 好吃 (hǎo chī) — literally “good eat”
  • 吃好 (chī hǎo) — literally “eat well”
  • 火车 (huǒ chē) — literally “fire car,” referring to the wood and carbon fires that would power old-style trains
  • 车头 (chē tóu) — literally “car head”
  • 头车 (tóu chē) — literally “head car”
  • 上车 (shàng chē) — literally “up car,” describing your action getting onto or into a vehicle
  • 车上 (chē shàng) — literally “on car,” describing a position is on or in a vehicle
  • 下车 (xià chē) — literally “down car,” describing your action when getting out of a vehicle
  • 车下 (chē xià) — literally “down car,” describing a position is under a vehicle

Answers to the main questions

You can be fluent in English even if you don’t come close to knowing all of the 171,476 words in the Oxford Dictionary. Chinese isn’t any different in this respect. As you just learned, characters are both standalone words or components of other words and ideas. So, there are actually two questions that need an answer here:

  • How many characters do I need to know to have a fluent conversation?
  • How many words do I need to know to have a natural conversation?

As mentioned at the beginning, the average Chinese person needs to know around 3,000-5000 characters. Those characters represent a basic education level that can help you communicate in day-to-day life.

The word count is where your Chinese fluency goals come into play. Because Chinese fluency is generally measured by character count, it’s assumed that you’d be able to put those characters into words the way we did with the exercise above.

Conclusion

If you really want a character count, shoot for around 2,000 characters.

Base your character studies off of what you actually read, whether online, in a newspaper or whatever other media outside of a textbook is available to you. In other words, make sure you’re learning relevant Chinese characters.

With those 2,000 characters, you should be able to learn around 3,500 to 4,000 words. Just remember that fluently speaking those characters and words doesn’t completely depend on knowing how to read or write them.

Understanding Chinese Culture – The Top 12 Most Unique Cultural Facts

Each country has its own unique culture, and so is China. Let’s learn about Chinese culture together to see how their culture is different from our own!

Chinese culture is a broad concept with vast knowledge. It includes all the material and spiritual values ​​created and preserved by the Chinese people in more than 5,000-years of their history. To fully understand Chinese culture requires intensive study. However, with internet development and the worldwide representation of Chinese culture in contemporary media, it is easier for people to have a basic understanding of this topic. Additionally, people are increasingly more curious about Chinese unique cultural facts. 

China is known as the largest country and has the second-largest population in the world. In this densely populated country, there are many great people who have contributed tremendously to the country’s cultural heritage. Besides, there are also the world’s wonders and famous landscapes. We also have to mention the long-standing and rich culture of China in global world history. A culture is known as the God of Tradition. Although it has gone through many ups and downs in history, Chinese culture is still handed down to this day.

When it comes to a long-standing culture, it is certainly impossible to not mention the 12 unique quintessence of China of all times. Let’s find out these special features with Pandanese!

Peking Opera

Peking opera has been associated with Chinese culture for 5,000 years. Peking opera is the convergence of cultural quintessence and historical wisdom. It can also be said that this is the foundation, the root of Chinese culture. Some cultural experts consider this as the source and factor of philosophical development.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Next is the success of long-standing Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is very different from Western in a way that it does not focus on science and pills. Instead, it concentrates on balance, harmony, and energy. Since ancient times, Chinese Traditional Medicine has been incorporating a range of health and healing practices, folk beliefs, literary theory and Confucian philosophy, herbal remedies, food, diet, exercise, medical specializations, and schools of thought.

Traditional Costume – Hanfu 

Next is the traditional costume of the Han ethnic group – the largest ethnic group in China. Hanfu is known for its shimmering, detailed outfits, beautiful and eye-catching color combinations. All Han costumes originated from a very long time ago, from the time of  Shang dynasty (1600–1000 BC). 

Silk

Mainland China is the place where the earliest silk production was discovered in the world. Since then, silk in this country has continued to be well mentioned in the world. From quality to color, Chinese silk is extremely attractive and in high demand. Chinese silk products can satisfy the most demanding customers in the world. The wife of Emperor Xuanyuan was Lui To, who was credited with inventing silk in China. It was thanks to this achievement that she was given the name “Humanity female ancestor”.

Tea processing techniques

Growing, drying, and making tea processes all originated in China and have grown in popularity all over the world. The tea ceremony is the art of enjoying tea known to people with high taste and fond of Asian cultures. Tea was discovered in ancient China 7000 years ago, from the Shennong era. Since ancient times, China has developed tea leaves, which are used to make medicine, in addition to drinking tea. 

Porcelain crafting technology

The homeland of porcelain is China. That’s why the name of the country in English is “China” and the word “China” itself also means porcelain. Not only that but China’s special porcelain-making techniques were also developed and spread all over the world. This success brought great contributions to Chinese culture. From this invention, China is also known as “the country of porcelain”.

Calligraphy

Next is the art of Calligraphy which has been the famous Chinese art known through the ages. And so on, through each era calligraphy is developed more perfectly and constantly growing stronger. Calligraphy is a combination of visual art and interpretation of literary meaning. Calligraphy as a type of expression has been widely practiced in China and generally held in high esteem across East Asia. Back in the time, Calligraphy was considered as one of the four most-pursued skills and hobbies of ancient Chinese literati, along with playing stringed musical instruments. 

Ancient Chinese Painting

Besides calligraphy, China is also known for the art of ancient Chinese paintings. This is a long-standing traditional art form of the Han ethnic group. The main difference is that ancient Chinese paintings are used with brushes. The brush will only be dotted with water ink to be able to draw on silk and paper products. This type of painting is known as “Chinese painting”, or people still consider it as “National Painting”. In most ancient Chinese paintings, poems are often drawn on the paintings to add extra elegance and meaning. 

Martial Arts

China is known as the cradle of martial arts. From real-life to movies, all exude the beauty and characteristics of Chinese culture. Blockbuster movies such as Ip Man and Wing Chun bring Chinese martial arts one step closer to a wide audience. Additionally, a great number of famous martial arts such as Shaolin Temple, Tai Chi Quan, Wing Chun Quan, Depending on the Rights also put Chinese Martial Arts on the cultural world map. 

Acupuncture

A study that has brought a contribution to the whole of mankind in medicine is acupuncture, A key component of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture is a medical legacy of the Han people. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body and is most commonly used to treat pain. Acupuncture is deemed as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force which is known as chi or qi (chee) and believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in the body, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

Chopsticks and Chinese Cuisine

Chinese cuisine and dishes are extremely diverse in tastes and presentation. Especially, on holidays and festivals, the dishes are well prepared and fully presented. These dishes vary from recipes to processing methods such as fried, steamed, boiled, braised or fried. During the Lunar New Year, people often eat dumplings and whole pepper cakes (hujiao bings). Each festival will have different types of cakes showing different traditions.

7 Reasons Mandarin Is the Most Useful Language for the Future

The days of localized business are long gone with the increases in globalization and technology. Today’s economy has become a global village where multi-national corporations are more common than ever before.

With the constant growth in international business, the importance of communicating on a worldwide scale continues to grow.

For centuries the three dominant languages of the economic world have been English, Mandarin, and Russian, but which one will play a primary role in the future of economics?

While many languages will forever hold a great deal of importance on a global scale, today, we will examine why Mandarin is among the languages primed for a prominent role in the future of communication.

Growth in China’s Economy

The more languages you know, the easier it is for you to live and work in different countries. With China becoming an economic superpower and the most populous country globally, learning Mandarin will be immensely helpful for anyone who wants to get ahead in their career or business ventures.

With China’s rapidly expanding science and technology sectors, the country’s influence will continue to grow. Mandarin has a wide-reaching cultural significance and will be consistently recognized as one of the most prestigious languages in the world.

China’s importance on international trade cannot be understated. It was responsible for over ten percent of all global exports last year, with numbers projected to increase.

Over 1.5 billion People Speak Mandarin

If you learn to speak Mandarin, you will gain access to communicating with an additional 1.5 billion people.

An estimated 92% of the Chinese population speak Mandarin. It’s also one of six official languages in Singapore, as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong.

If you can actually read Hanzi and understand radicals, then traveling to these countries will be drastically easier.

China Has Created Its Own Technology

If you have been paying attention to the news lately, you know that China has been feuding with the United States over various tech products.

A prominent example is the Chinese tech giant Huawei.

China Huawei is a direct competitor to Apple and is blacklisted from the United States.

For decades, China has attempted to use its own technology instead of relying on other countries.

Learning Mandarin May Make You Smarter

Learning a second or third language may make you smarter.

A study done in New Zealand found that bilingual children’s brains are more developed than monolinguals, and they have a greater capacity for cognitive control.

It is also worth noting that the benefits of learning a second language extend beyond just increased intelligence as it can increase empathy levels and improve your memory.

Knowing Mandarin Will Strengthen Job Applications

It is increasingly difficult to stand out on job applications in 2021. Everyone seems to have attended college, and skills that were once in high demand are no longer as essential.

Knowing Mandarin will provide you with an edge over other candidates and give you the potential to be hired for a position that otherwise might not have been available to you.

If you want your resume to stand out, learn Mandarin!

Few Mandarin Speakers Know English

For the amount of business conducted between China and English-speaking countries, the number of people who speak Mandarin and English is surprisingly low.

In China, although English is taught in schools, it is estimated that less than 1% of the population is fluent.

Most people who speak English cannot read or write in Mandarin because it is a tonal language and Western languages cannot pronounce many sounds.

Combining these two languages is a skill that a small percentage of the world has and can provide you with many advantages throughout life.

China Is Rich in Culture and History

China is one of the most ancient civilizations that still exists today. As the birthplace of many different religions, languages, and philosophies (to name a few), it is home to some of the world’s oldest continuous traditions.

The Chinese culture has had an immensely significant impact on western civilization, from Buddhism to Taoism and more.

The culture and history of China are something that many westerners struggle to understand. Learning a language such as Mandarin can unlock your insight into one of the most fascinating cultures the world has to offer.

Start Learning Mandarin Today

Learning Mandarin isn’t as difficult as you may think! Many Chinese learners are pleasantly surprised with how quickly they can understand Hanzi (Chinese characters) and radicals from using online learning software such as Pandanese.

If you are interested in learning Chinese, check out Pandanese today.

Pandanese provides a fully online educational platform that is fun and engaging and makes learning Mandarin very achievable. Through Q cards, quizzes, and various lesson types, Pandanese simplifies Mandarin and helps expedite the learning process.

To receive some helpful tips and tricks to assist you on your journey to master Mandarin, join the Pandanese mailing list today.