Rich and diverse, the Chinese language was established as an official language of the United Nations in 1946. With thousands and thousands of years of written history, and with a population that tends to honor tradition, but also embraces many parts of Western popular culture, China boasts a vast and varied geographic expanse, and a culture that intrigues many.
At YOKO we are continuously fascinated for the uniqueness and richness of the different languages around the world. Coinciding with the UN Chinese Language Day, observed annually on the 20th of April, today we are coming up with three new facts about Chinese culture to pay tribute, once again, to their traditions as an invaluable asset to our world.
More than a pair of chopsticks
Who else loves Chinese food? From hot pots to dumplings, Chinese food is one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world. You will rarely a Chinese person using a knife or fork when eating… people use kuaizi, that is, chopsticks instead! Interestingly enough, as chopsticks can’t cut meat, Chinese food is prepared very soft or bite-sized. It is believed the first chopsticks were developed over 5,000 years ago in China. They are round on the eating end which symbolizes heaven, and the other end is square which symbolizes earth. This is because maintaining an adequate food supply is the greatest concern between heaven and earth. They have become more than a kind of tableware and have fostered a set of etiquette and customs of their own… 45 billion pairs of chopsticks are used in China annually!
Respect for the elders
In Chinese culture, elders are viewed as a source of wisdom and spirituality, and they are respected to the extent that questioning their authority is considered offensive: younger people are expected to defer to older people, let them speak first, sit down after them and not contradict them. On the other hand, in traditional Chinese houses altars are made for deceased elders to honor and remember them. Even after departing from the world they are supposed to be the guiding forces in spirit. Additionally, respect for elders is best expressed during the "elder’s first" rite, the central ritual of the Chinese New Year, in which family members kneel and bow on the ground to everyone older than them: first grandparents, then parents, siblings and relatives, even elderly neighbors.
Table tennis as a national matter
Table tennis, also known as ping pong, has been considered as the national sport of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese table tennis team have not only dominated the podium of the Olympic Games since table tennis became an official Olympic medal sport at Seoul 1988, but also reigned supreme at the World Championships and World Cups — Chinese ping pong players are big celebrities! Tables can even be found in train stations and next to offices and rural fields, with people playing the game when ever they take a break or need to kill some time. Interestingly enough, Ping pong is not a Chinese word. It is a term coined by the game company Parker Brothers, which owns the rights to the name, and it does not originates from China either, but fromGreat Britain.
Happy UN Chinese Language Day from YOKO!