"China, situated in the eastern part of Eurasia, is the third largest and most populous country in the world. This multi-ethnic country, with Beijing as its capital, is home to more than 56 nationalities. During thousands of years of feudal ruling, Chinese people have created a brilliant science and art culture, like the Four Great Inventions, poetry, paintings and Chinese calligraphy. A great amount of cultural relics, such as the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Warriors, have become the treasures of the nation and wonders of the world. What are you waiting for? Discover China!"
Did you know...
That China disposes of 45 billion chopsticks per year?
That the national sport of China is table tennis?
That every five days, a new skyscraper is built in China?
That China has the most megacities in the world, namely 4 megacities with over 10 million people?
If you go on exchange with YFU, you’ll be placed in host families, as they are important carriers of China’s culture. What people think, how they behave, and even their language are passed on through the family from the wider cultural context. This context embraces the culture that you live in and your ancestors’ cultures.
One of the best ways to learn a new culture is by living in host families. However, it might not be that easy to interact with family members and integrate into the family. When you just start a new life in a new family, you will notice that there are many differences between living in a Chinese family and your natural family.
School Every exchange student will follow courses in senior high schools. Chinese students prepare for higher education by spending three years in senior high school. Normally, students’ school day lasts for about nine hours.
School starts in the morning, and after school, there’s homework to do. School life is kind of tough in China, as a lot of students use their time to prepare for entrance exams for higher education. Exchange students, however, are held to lower standards but must always try to do their best. That also includes following the school’s rules. These can be very strict on school attendance, hair style, jewelry, dress and behavior.
Do you love shopping? Then you’re in the right place! There’s a Chinese term to describe streets filled with shopping women and men, and this is especially used during the holidays: ren shan ren hai. Literally, this means ‘people mountain people sea’. Another common social activity in China is singing karaoke, while ping-pong and badminton are considered to be two of the top sports in China. Plenty of beautiful parks set up free table tennis and while this is played more casually, badminton is often practiced on a more professional level. A good number of parks host free badminton courts.
Chinese kung fu, also known as wushu, is probably one of the earliest and longest lasting sports (dates back to primeval society) which utilizes both physical strength and brain. The theory of kung fu is based upon classical Chinese philosophy. Over its long history it has developed as a unique combination of exercise, practical self-defense, self-discipline, and art. You can also practice Taijiquan (more commonly known as Tai chi in China. Tai chi is a Taoist internal martial art with slow movements that make you very relaxed. Try one of these sports when on exchange in China!
Even though you will spend a lot of time in school or in host family events, you will also have time during the weekends and holidays to discover this beautiful country! Eat delicious Chinese food in the cities’ street markets, hike the Great Wall, discover fascinating Buddhist grottoes, try Kung Fu and lose track of time in green bamboo forests!
Top 10 things to do
1. Visit the Great Wall
2. Try some delicious Chinese tea while enjoying music or time with friends
3. Be amazed by the Terracotta Army in Xi’an
4. Let the Li River in Guilin inspire you as it is surrounded by farmers’ villages, steep cliffs and bamboo woods
5. Give Chinese Kung Fu a try
6. Hike the Yellow Mountains in Huangshan
7. Get together with your host family during a typical New Year’s Eve Celebration
8. See some fluffy giant pandas up close in Chengdu
9. Go see ‘The Bund’, which is one of the most amazing architectural symbols in Shanghai
10. Overlook Hong Kong at night for a stunning scenery; the best spot to do this is Victoria Peak
Even though Chinese food is popular throughout the world, most people wouldn’t know what the Chinese eat for breakfast. In fact, they have a very different approach to breakfast than in Western countries, such as Europe. For the Chinese people, breakfast must be hot and easy to prepare, as they never skip it. Next to that, they don’t drink coffee or tea in the morning. Preferably, they buy breakfast at food vendors on the street. Some examples are dumplings, doughnuts and buns. They often have a cup of soy milk with their breakfast, too. Lunchtime in China is mostly quite rushed and the menu is normally simple: rice or noodles, along with some meat and vegetables but not much more. Most people just eat in the canteens of their school, order some take out, or bring their own lunchbox. The most important meal for the Chinese is dinner, and as this is a time to come together to enjoy conversations with the family, the dinner meals are usually very hearty. Dishes can include several kinds of meat and vegetables, soup, and rice.
Chinese tea culture
Tea is deeply woven into the history and culture of China. The beverage is considered one of the seven necessities of Chinese life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar. In most countries tea is just taken as a beverage to quench thirst. In China there are countless traditions that involve tea. Tea quality is judged by color, fragrance and flavor, the water quality and even the tea set it is served in. While drinking tea attention is paid to the environment, atmosphere, music, infusing techniques and interpersonal relationships.
About two-thirds of China consists of mountain areas that can run from east to west and from northeast to southwest. Some of these are so high that they reach the beautiful sky, while others are lower with charming sceneries.
China has numerous rivers and lakes, over 5000 rivers actually. The Yangtze, for example, is the longest river in China and Asia, and is the third-longest in the world. These lakes provide China with precious resources, including aquatic products, petroleum, natural gas, mines, and renewable sources like tide power.
Because China is a very large country, its climate differs from region to region. While the summers in the northeast, for example, are mainly hot and dry, the winters are immensely cold there. The northern and central parts of China, however, are characterized by regular periods of rain along with warm summers and chilly winters. In southeastern China, rainfalls occur frequently and winters are cool, while summers are semi-tropical.
Do you know what these words mean: 学校 (Xuéxiào), 朋友 (Péngyǒu), 家庭 (Jiātíng), 海关 (Hǎiguān), 哥哥 (Gēgē), 妹妹(Mèimei), 交换 (Jiāohuàn)? Start learning some Chinese!
The official language of China is Mandarin, and as Chinese is one of the six official languages used by the United Nations, Chinese has now earned greater status in the rest of the world. Mandarin is based on the Beijing dialect and other dialects spoken in the northern areas of China. Throughout the world, Mandarin is spoken by one fifth of the whole population. English, however, is also a required course in China’s education and is really popular. Nowadays, many Chinese people can speak basic English, although that’s more common in larger cities than in the smaller towns.
The history of the Chinese character goes more than 3000 years back. In total, there are 80000 Chinese words that originate from ancient times, but only about 3000 words are used daily to express 99% of the information in written form. Nowadays, the character knows two types: traditional and simplified. While the former is often used in the Taiwan Province, Hong Kong, and Macau, the latter style is mostly used in mainland China, and Singapore.
With a vast territory and a huge population, China has many different complex dialects. Varying between several areas, these dialects are divided into official and non-official ones. The official dialects generally refer to the northern dialects, while the non-official dialects are often spoken in the south-eastern part of the country. When you’re going on exchange with YFU to China, some language lessons to prepare are recommended. It’s important to keep in mind that the least you speak in your native language, the fastest you will learn a new one, including Chinese. Embrace the opportunity of starting a new life in a new country with a whole new language to discover!
Movies and music
Besides the more traditional types of music, Chinese teenagers also listen to the mainstream music culture. Today, only Beijing and Shanghai really incorporate rock music, so the genre in general has a limited influence over the rest of the Chinese society. Sometimes, Wuhan and Sichuan are thought of being parts of the rock music culture, too. Even though rock has been present in China for decades, it was only really placed on the international map thanks to The Rolling Stones’ performance with Cui Jian in 2003.
Music of the Han Culture
About 92% of the Chinese population consists of people from the Han ethnic group. Most of their music is heterophonic music, in which several versions of a melodic line are played. Next to dance, music, and opera, percussion is present, too. The genre of Han Folk Music has similarities to the Chinese language, like the particular use of tones. Because of that, instruments become very important in the Han music culture. Feelings in this music genre are expressed by slow tempos to connect the audience to these feelings.
For over centuries, Chinese opera has been a great form of entertainment, starting with the Nanxi of Song Dynasty up until the Beijing opera of today. Generally, the music is rough with high-pitched vocals that are accompanied by percussion, and several kinds of string instruments, such as suona and jinghu. Additional types of opera are ritual masked opera, puppet opera, clapper opera, Cantonese opera, Pinju and Sichuan opera.
In China, several events, such as the Snow Mountain Music Festival in the Yunnan Province in 2002, or the yearly Midi Modern Music Festival in Beijing, were able to attract more than ten thousands visitors. The Western media used the term ‘Chinese Woodstock’ to refer to these events. Another great music festival that is held annually, is the Beijing Pop Festival in China’s Chaoyang Park. As this was the first international music festival that got permission from the Ministry of Culture of China, this was a Chinese pioneer music event. With 30000 people attending, the Beijing Pop Festival is one of Asia’s largest music festivals.
Next to music festivals, film festivals are also popular in China. A couple of festivals to check out include the Beijing International Film Festival, the BigScreen Festival, or the China International New Media Short Film Festival. Check out this website to see Chinese movies most appreciated by viewers.