Page 4 of 7
2. Culture has many styles: Ruling, the Ruled, Regional, Sub-cultures, etc.
While the terms Ruling class and the Ruled sound so Marxist, they do explain the reality of Chinese history. For thousands of years, governments controlled production and commerce. The ruling class includes the governmental officials, Gentry class and government related business people. Most Chinese literature reflects the ruling class's culture and value because they had the education, time and financial means to engage in intellectual activities. This literature is meaningful in understanding the culture of the ruled in a sense that they do lead the trend in lifestyles. Tea, silk, clothing, drama, names, etc. all started as upper-class habits. Look at the Chinese traditional dress: It was for women who did not have to work. But all poor families prepare one for their daughters. Before 1949, many countryside girls had no formal names but it was seldom the case for women from ruling class families.
The best example to explain regional culture is the difference between Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Beijing is very political and people on the street think they represent China. Shanghai is very materialistic and they think they are the leaders in style and way of living for the whole country. Guangzhou people are very realistic. They do have many dreams and what they could get today is more important. Even the food is different. Beijing food contains more wheat, the dishes are more salty and plentiful. Shanghai food contains more rice, the dishes are sweeter and smaller. Guangdong people eat everything edible on this planet. So, American people are not the only ones who get upset when they see all these animals in cages in Guangzhou!
With regard to sub-culture, the most mentioned example is the culture of the young generation. There have been a lot of discussions recently in China about the definition of Generation. Biological generation is still deemed as every 25 years. Culturally, many scholars label 1949-1979 as one generation, 1980 to 1989 another generation. After that, it is about five years to have another different culture, in terms of fashion, spending habits, music, attitude towards government, career, etc.
Women's issues are another example for sub-culture study. The feminist movement in this country was from grass roots so American women have a stronger sense of self. In China, women's rights were given to women in 1949 as part of the communist ideology. Without a profound educational campaign from women themselves, Chinese women, while they enjoy many rights such as education, voting, working, inheritance, etc., are still deep in many traditional ways of thinking. They work twice as hard at work and home. They do not complain. One example, China has a different retirement age for men and women. I do not hear any complaints about it. I find it interesting to read the hiring ads on the Chinese newspapers. Plenty of them ask for males only. Of the ones for females, it always says: above college education, 16 to 25 years old, good looking. No women are upset about this. Instead, more college students choose to do plastic surgery! Another example, Chinese women always want to produce boys more than their husbands want to because for thousand of years, women's status at home or society depended more on having a son.