China is a country with vast territory, large population and colorful culture, so there are numerous tidbits in all work of life.
1. Cultural relic tidbits
The Lingqu Canal
The foreign tourists always wonder where the people in the ancient time spent so much time and labor on digging such a 34 km long canal. The reason is the emperor Qinshihuang (about 2200 years ago) wanted to facilitate the communication of the north and south China as well as to make the union of China possible.
It turned out that he made it. When the Lingqu Canal between the Pearl River and the Yangtze River has been dug, he unified China for the first time around 2200 years ago. Doubtless, Lingqu Canal is of great significance as the Great Wall.
So, there is a common saying goes: In the north there is a Great Wall while in the south the Lingqu Canal. As the oldest canal in the world, Lingqu Canal is deemed as significant as the Great Wall in the historical study.
2. The educational cultural tidbits
Before the invention of the Arabic numerals, it's a common and funny scene that the shopkeepers and street vendors in China all were good at using the abacus. Nowadays, though the calculator and computer prevail over the world, the abacus is still widely used in China and the abacus courses are offered in the primary school.
Invented by the Chinese around 14th Century based on the counting rods, the abacus with a Chinese name-- suan pan which means calculation plate, can be used to ADD, SUBTRACT, MULTIPLY, and DIVIDE as well as work with sophisticated mathematical problems such as fractions and square root. The Chinese invented a counting law of abacus to make it easy to master the abacus.The abacus is treated as the "first computer", for the early electronic computers were invented basing on the mathematic model of abacus.
The Chinese idiom
You may find it confusing or amazing that Chinese people often use only four words to tell a very long story or explain a rather complex thing. Actually they are applying the Chinese idioms.
The Chinese idioms are the essential part of the Chinese, which are often formed by three, four, five or seven words at most. Usually, the idiom is a kind of figure of speech that has the same function as the allusion but much shorter than allusion, moreover, they both originate from the famous story happened in the ancient time. Therefore, if a foreigner can master one idiom every day, he or she must be a good master of Chinese culture.
The Chinese name
By contrast with the name of the American and some of the westerner, the name of Chinese on the one hand is shorter, which generally consists of only two parts—the family name and the given name; on the other hand, Chinese name begins with the family name so when you make greet to Chinese knowing this would help.
There are totally 503 family names in China. Like in many countries, the married women in China are named after their husband.
The fortune teller
On the sidewalk beneath the trees, you may see several people seating there with some fortune-telling instruments before him or her. Some of them are practicing physiognomy, some palmistry and the other divination. Actually, they are all making live by practicing fortune telling Their skills of forecasting are from the I Ching—the Book of Change, which is one of the famous Five Classic. You can try, but never believe in all what he tells you.
In addition to those practicing in the street, most of fortune tellers practice in the rural areas to help people choose the best date for wedding or moving in the new house, choose the best location to bury one's ancestors etc.
3. The customs cultural tidbits
The marriage tidbits
Traditionally, Chinese people, once get married, are never allowed to divorce unless one of the couples dies, so marriage for the Chinese is the most important and solemn event.
Marriage, became a custom in Warring States period (402-221 B.C.), varies from region to region. In some regions, the bride and her families must cry on the wedding day; in some, bride’s head should be cover with a square red scarf, in some, the bride should go back to her parents’ three days after marriage; in other, the people are not allow to get married to the people with the same last name.
Traditionally, to make the wedding more joyful, the people always go to tease the newly-wed couple at the wedding night by playing different tricks on them.
The funeral tidbits
Apart from wedding, funeral has been being considered as an important rite. Funerals in different places have various rules or customs, especially in ethnic areas. Meanwhile, many rules are still the same in most parts of China.
The deceased is dressed grave clothes and the direct relative should put on mourning apparel of white color. Burial is the first choice in rural and ethnic areas, while in urban, cemeteries are popular because the land is finite. Besides, there are some rarely seen burials in the ethnic minority regions. Celestial burial (disposal of a body by exposing it to birds of grey) is popular in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Cliff Coffin (hang the coffin on the 20-50 meter high steep cliff, with some supporting timber piles below) is popular in rural area of Yunnan province along the Yangtze River coast.
In rural areas, people determine a good location for graves based on philosophy of Fengshui. They believe that a good location for the deceased could have a positive influence on the fortune of their family and offspring.
You may notice that Chinese people are "fond of" setting off the firecrackers when they are celebrating the festivals and wedding or holding the funeral rite. Do not be annoyed, this is just a kind of custom.
The same as the people in some countries setting off the fireworks, Chinese people set off the firecrackers on the festivals and wedding day in order to make more happiness for the festive atmosphere, because the firecrackers are made of red paper. While on the funeral day, people set off the firecrackers not to make fun, but to scare the ghosts and evils away.
The lucky money
Traditionally, on the Spring Festival adults give the lucky money to the kids just like on the Christmas the adults give the kids gifts.
It is said that long ago there was a kind of evil that came to disturb the kids at mid-night, therefore the adults gave their children the square money to suppress that evil not to let it come again. It develops into a custom. Nowadays, people rag the paper money in a small red paper bag, which is called Hong Bao, as the lucky money. Hong Bao, apart from being given to the kids as lucky money, Chinese people always present the newly-wed couple with Hong Bao.
The house decoration tidbits
When making travel in the countryside in China, tourists may be interested in and feel confused about the decorations in the local houses, such as paper cutting and Chinese knot. Actually, the stuffs that are used as decorations have special meanings.
The Chinese knot
In the ancient China, people used the knot as a sign to remind them of what they should do. After the invention of the characters, the knot lost its function, while people found that a string with a lot of knots like a work of art, so they use the knots as decorations.
Nowadays, people regard the Chinese knot as a symbol of union and fortune. What’s more, the Chinese like the color red that means joyful and lucky, so most of the Chinese knots are red.
If people present you with a red Chinese knot, accept it happily, because it is the best wishes.
It is a common scene that there are two paintings putting up almost all the entrance gate in the all villages and some in the town.
The paintings are the door-god indeed, who looks like the general in the ancient time. The door-god is the supernatural being of the Taoism, who can protect the house from being attacked by the evils. So, on the Spring Festival people will put up the door-god on the entrance gate.
The antithetical couplets
On the Spring Festival and on the wedding days you may see the Chinese people putting up the antithetical couplets on the wall of the entrance gates, and wondering what they do it for. Actually, they do it not just for joy but for fortune.
The custom of putting up antithetical couplets dates back to 1000 years ago. People put up the antithetical couplets to wish a good luck for New Year or for the newly-wed couple, and add joy to the festive atmosphere.
In Yunnan Bulang ethnic regions, people have to dye their tooth black when get adult, because unlike most people they consider the black tooth beautiful.
In Yunnan Bai ethnic regions, on the wedding day, the bridegroom has to carry the bride on his shoulders, if they get to the crossroads on their way home.
In Gansu Bonan ethnic regions, women have to wear the veil on their faces when go out, because they consider that if their faces are seen by men, bad luck will fall on them.
In Guangdong regions, people eat the fish uncooked or the meat uncooked, for the Guangdong people are all gastronomes. It is therefore a joke that they eat all the things flying on the sky except the plane, all the things with legs except the table.
In the streets, you may feel surprised when seeing the youth dyeing his or her hair yellow, blue, white, red or colorful. Don't be surprised, they are just following the fashion as the Hippie did in the 1960s, except that they never wear the flares instead they wear the slims.