In order to acquire the Chinese cultural tradition, it is important you understand the underlying philosophy.
With a history of more than 5000 years, the Chinese culture has been characterised by thirteen dynasties, further split up into 25 official dynasties. The HAN dynasty is the most important one. The HAN race is mixed with people from all over China by means of cultural contacts and marrying-off. This dynasty was characterised by a strong historic continuity and cultural tradition.
In the third and ninth century this dynasty evolved in the metaphysical school and saw the appearance of Buddhism.
The best know movements are the Confucianism, Buddhism, Tibetan and neo-Confucianism. The Chinese philosophy emphasises ‘Tien-Tao’ (the way of heaven) and ‘Yan-Tao’ (the way of man). Heaven is more than just ‘nature’, it is the source of all life and human values.
Heaven also refers to the ‘universe’, an organism possessing a creative life force. The creation of life is not merely a mechanical, psychological process, but a spiritually purposeful procedure.
This implies mankind is the result of heaven ceaselessly creating new beings, possessing ever more wisdom. Based on the wisdom and virtue provided by heaven, mankind creates a highly sophisticated and refined culture and thus, cultural values.
New life and new values are constantly introduced into the human society and the universe, the first of which is called the ‘birth of new life’. The second is called ‘playing his own nature’. This combination is called ‘the unity of heaven and mankind’.
This philosophy was mainly used by the Confucians, but also by Buddhists and Taoists. However, while Confucianism mainly stressed the ‘ethics’, Taoists and Buddhists attached more importance to ‘artistic values’ and ‘religion’ respectively.
The concept of ‘unity between heaven en mankind’ results from the Chinese ideology of ‘being happy with his destiny in life, controlled by heaven’. This implies a perpetual aspect in the natural world, making you enjoy the wealth of feelings in the world of ethics.
You can work harder with a peaceful mind and you are less distracted by external circumstances. This is important because man’s work is heaven’s work and should therefore strive towards charity, human structure in society, human behaviour (politeness) and ceremony.
The morally just is called 'beneficent'. It is a property inherent to mankind, but the richer, the better. ‘Love before everything’ is called ‘beneficence”.'Ceremony' demands rational assumptions, reserve and self-control. This preserves the ethics of society and encourages people to live together harmoniously and to develop this.
‘Beneficence’ and ‘ceremony’ are inseparable and complementary. They are part of human nature and bring virtues such as kinship respect for others and brotherly obligations with sisters and brothers, loyalty and empathy for others and acting in faith.
The Chinese society stresses the virtue of ‘kinship piety’. These family ethics result from a clan-oriented society, but these are universal ethics as well!
Individual human life cannot be separated from the macro-level life of the universe. Respect and love for life is therefore the main reason of life. ‘Kinship piety’ towards the parents and ‘loving kindness’ towards children are vital to enrich the life experience of the past towards the present and the future by forming an uninterrupted life stream and by expressing the creative continuity of the universe.
The traditional concepts of honouring heaven, sacrificing to the ancestors and kinship piety to the parents are a means of expressing respect and gratefulness for life and culture.
They still find a fair place in our modern society, constituting a solid foundation for the pathway to modernisation