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Is Chinese culture currently undergoing a renaissance?



Jamie Cawley, LIved in China 2012-2018, now Hong Kong

When I arrived in China, six years ago, it seemed to me there was a clear divide:

everything modern was western

everything Chinese was old (or a copy of old things)

This is still overwhelmingly true: As an exercise I asked my design students to give me any ideas for what a Chinese car would look like - that is an identifiably Chinese car as opposed to a copy of existing western-derived model styles and they really came up with nothing: no idea how to start thinking about this concept. Not interested either.

Embarrassingly, I have seen some western designers make a perfectly decent job of such an exercise with Chinese-style office furniture.

However, before I left Beijing I started to see a few glimmerings at 798 (and what a great place that is!) of original Chinese modern design which was very exciting.

My perception of TV, music and movies is as above as well, still copying western genres with the exception of those inspired by ancient Chinese legends - even the ‘kung-fu’ is a western idea of China (from the original TV series and HK Bruce Lee movies) copied back. Maybe someone will correct this but I do not accept that the huge number of period soaps with wicked Japanese are any kind of distinctively Chinese culture.

I am told that the position in fashion is better, with much more Chinese+modern input but do not personally follow this area.

At the moment the students I deal with remain just uninterested in the idea of developing a modern Chinese culture - being able to get up there with western ideas is what they want, so I think it may be a while before momentum develops behind Chinese culture.

I would love to be wrong, Paul, but so far my attempts to observe and promote a contemporary Chinese culture have largely failed. I hope your question with throw up some counter examples.












Joseph Holleman, CEO of Magister Technologies Inc., Author of "The Prosperity Clock" book series.

I would suggest that China is not undergoing a renaissance but is just now starting one.

In fact, Donald Trump may have inadvertently been a catalyst for this by galvanizing the Chinese people to see that their own culture of thousands of years, their own collective creativity, their own innovativeness (at least at this point in time) is just as good, if not better than what there is in the West and it is time to stop wanting to emulate Western ideals, economic policies, and politics.

Not to imply that those sentiments did not already exist, just that now with Trump threatening them with a trade war, threatening major Chinese companies, etc., that now the entire population is thinking it is time to become completely independent of the West and go their own way.

The long term cyclical work I have done for my books suggests that the Eastern world often lags one cyclical stage behind the West, at least until that part of the world emerges as the dominant region.

So now you have a period where the US just recently exited its own renaissance period and has entered into its next cyclical stage which is a “secondary crisis” period where established institutions tend to be torn down and experience a period of “disintegration”. This will likely be the opening that the East, primarily China, needs to emerge as the dominant economic power in the world in the upcoming decades.

In the East, however, because of this cyclical lag, we should see China and the rest of the East now beginning its own 40 to 50 year Renaissance period while the West struggles with a period of internal crisis.








Godfree Roberts, Ed.D. Education & Geopolitics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1973)

Don’t confuse two very different things, culture and cultural artifacts.

We typically call cultural artifacts ‘art,’ like music and painting, poetry and furniture and architecture. Their form is influenced by the culture that produces them (German classical music is bombastic and martial, for example) but there is no strict 1:1 coherence between a culture and its artifacts. As cultures grow more prosperous they tend to produce more and better-quality artifacts, as you see during China’s Song and France’s Enlightenment periods.

A culture, on the other hand, is the pre-solved environment in which a society lives and needs no artifacts to survive. Being nomadic, Australia’s Aborigines had few artifacts but nevertheless sustained a sophisticated psychic culture for a thousand years. The Chinese people went through a hellish century that destroyed many of their artifacts but their culture was untouched.

One reason China’s culture remained untouched is that it is so old. It was designed 2500 years ago and first implemented 2100 years ago and has been constantly refined ever since. The current dynasty is still rebuilding it (on the same foundations) after the century of humiliation and, in the process, is refining it even more by, for example, making corruption impossible and insisting that Confucian ren, compassion, means that ‘no one is poor and everyone receives an education, has paid employment, more than enough food and clothing, access to medical services, old-age support, a home and a comfortable life’. Confucius would be extremely pleased at those refinements and they’re signs that China’s culture is currently undergoing a renaissance.






Callan Chua, Been Learning how to make it in China for the past 10 years.

This answer took me awhile to put together. To actually see if there is a cultural renaissance going on, there is a need to identify trends from previously to now. I also need to define Chinese culture which is really hard as the term culture itself is so broad base.

These are important when defining culture as it means that the Chinese culture, from a conservative outlook of technology during the Qing Dynasty, has underwent major changes to one that is very open to new technology. It would not be silly if we predict that in the future, the term “Very Chinese”, can be used to describe the characteristic of willingness to try new technologies. Somewhere along the lines of very Japanese when it comes to politeness or very European for socialist ideas. I think it’s very possible for future Chinese culture to be understood in that manner.

If we also take food as culture, Chinese food has mainly remained the same in essence and the changes is mostly only in presentation. Surprisingly, I don’t see a lot of cultural change to chinese food. I was expecting more from the chinese in terms of changes to the taste or methods of cooking which would mean a fundamental change in food culture. Or maybe I have not eaten enough yet? I think a better explanation would be that the food renaissance has always been going on or might already be over for the chinese, the variety of real chinese food in China is proof of my conculsion.

So yes, I think Chinese culture is largely going through a period of renaissance, but it’s awareness and recognition is still rather domesticated within the borders. It will spread internationally once it reaches critical mass…and the Chinese with a very big domestic market has a lot of mass.





Traditional Chinese Caligraphy


Traditional Chinese Dance


Modern Chinese Dance


Traditional Chinese Instruments


Modern Chinese Instrument? (Yes I’m told it is, despite it looking like a dish rack)


Modern Chinese Art


Modern Chinese荣华彩票下载 Furniture


Traditional Chinese Fashion


Modern Chinese Fashion



Alec Cawley

I think it is too early to say yet - China is still to busy gobbling up Western developments and has not yet had time to digest them, let alone synthesize them into something new and distinctive.

But I think it will take some time after it appears before such a renaissance is recognized. Precisely because it will be distinctive, it will be dismissed for quite a while as an aberration. For example, from what I hear, Chines Internet culture is developing significantly differently from both Western and other Asian Internet cultures. I expect to see some original ideas coming out of this, though what they might be I cannot guess.

But it will only be when the active generation is one that has already absorbed the shock of the current influx of western derived ideas in childhood. Maybe today’s schoolchildren





Randall Burns, Graduate Certificate Software Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University (2006)

China has been able to turn around a major economic decline and is well on its way to assuming again the traditional role China had in the world economy.

That does not constitute a cultural step forward. It is healing a deep wound.

I think it will be another generation before the Chinese lea-ship is secure enough to loosen controls enough that we’ll see Chinese culture moving in some new directions again.





Yu Cheng, lived in China (1988-2012)

The economy is certainly rising. Industries are performing reasonably well. But I am not so sure about any cultural renaissance.

I am not really sure what renaissance means actually, because the concept is fundamentally European.

In the Chinese context, a lot of traditions have been carried on by modern people even though Chinese have gong through the dark time in the Cultural Revolution. The Spring Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and many traditional festivals are celebrated as usual. There is no recent changes. People still follow many local customs in wedding ceremonies and funerals. It’s also common to follow some western practices.

So, I think the Chinese way of life is somewhere in between of the west and the east, right now. I didn’t see any ancient cultures coming back, except those that are always there.

A lot of new cultural practices and phenomenons are emerging though, mostly driven by the Internet generation and the young people. They are open to all kinds of American, Japanese, Korean, Chinese cultures and so on. They are also creating their own authentic Chinese cultures, the 21st century version.

For example, you will see Chinese teenagers dressing in some Marvel T-shirt discussing Korean TV shows on their way to schools for their lectures in traditional Chinese musical instruments like Erhu or the Chinese painting.

Try this Chinese song, created by a young Chinese folk singer and musician Zhao Lei. It recently go viral across the Internet and the entire country.

I think China is simply embracing the modern world while carrying many of its ancient legacies that still suit the modern life. For the sake of renaissance, China is indeed picking up its lost position in the global stage, since China used to be a cultural hub for many different civilizations. With the economy developing, we will see more international cultural activities in China, although the country overall is still considered to be conservative.









 译文来源:三泰虎 http://www.santaihu.com/49791.html 译者:Joyceliu


Wenjie Piao

I don’t know if I see any renaissance. Or there needs to be one.

Firstly I don’t know if bunch of people dressing in ancient clothes is ‘renaissance’. As shallow as I am, the clothes seemed to me the last to represent our culture, being one that almost focused on the spiritual world of a man.

Secondly, I think the minute we yell save the traditional culture of China, we lose them for good. The very word traditional chills me, cutting ourselves from all things representing the old times, traditional, modern, that’s the very thing against historical materialism.

Thirdly, I think we think too much of ourselves. A thousand year old culture is not subjected for us to destroy or revive. You can embrace it, or not, it’s just there for you to dig, but don’t think anyone can make a dent on it, we are not that great, I certainly am not.

You know what I would define as a renaissance? An era, I won’t even aim for Tang. In the meantime, we can produce 5 painters on ink and wash paintings who would be remembered in history, and we can stop going to a zither concert like going to the zoo but start to really appreciate it, and produce one, just one, philosopher who can ‘guide’ our spirit for another 2500 years.







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