Chinese Culture in Singapore

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1.0Introduction

There have been many attempts to define culture, but never have there been one that has been able to encompass every aspect of what it really means. Culture is part of our lives. Knowingly or unknowingly, we grow up within a particular culture, and tend to follow its rules and regulations without questioning its validity. An analogy of culture would be that if people are clay, then culture would be the mould that shape us to what we are today.

There are many different types of cultures in the world. Within a country itself, there might be a distinctive culture, like those typical of a German or Japanese. Beyond nationality, people can be further classified into their dialect groups, religion, and many other categories. Therefore the various classification of culture itself may seem endless.

The purpose of this report is to identify the Chinese culture in Singapore, particularly aspects that are important for foreign businesses.

2.0The background of Chinese in Singapore

The traditional Chinese society basically evolved from Confucian teachings:

If you want to rule the state, first put your house in order; if you want to put your house in order, first cultivate yourself morally; If you want to cultivate yourself morally, first put your heart right; To put your heart right, you must be sincere.

From these teachings, it is predictable that Chinese centered their activities around themselves. Generally, they are individualistic and usually carried out their business as sole proprietors. They may form close relationship with their family, but seldom extend their social life to any larger social stratum.

When Chinese came to Singapore, they began to form themselves into groups to protect themselves in a foreign country. Huay Kuans or provincial associations, like the Hokkien Huay Kuan, were set up to look into the welfare of their members. In addition, temples and clan associations of these Chinese were also built. These Chinese immigrants began to socialize with others because there was a need to protect themselves. However, most of them still retained their sense of individualism. (Such Huay Kuans, clan association and temples can still be found in Singapore today)

The surname is very important to the Chinese. There are many rules regarding the adoption of the surname, like if the eldest has no son and the adoption must be of the eldest son of the second brother. This complicated naming process has been simplified over the years, and it remains that the son will take on the father’s surname.

2.1The Chinese religions

The Chinese mythology often merges into polytheism. No one knows when one ends and when the other begins. They form the foundations of many of the Chinese religions that we see today. In Singapore, they are mainly the Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianism religion. The Chinese religion is a civilization process itself, and most of them are not merely myths but actual stories of people whom became gods after death.

There are many Gods in the Chinese religions. The many reasons for worship includes: • Protection of life and property
• Peace and harmony in the home and in society
• Prosperity
• Attainment of virtue

2.2Chinese festivals

It is important to note that in a complete year the lunar calendar is nearly ten days short of a solar year. The first day of a lunar month is the New moon, while the fifteen is the Full moon. Many of the Chinese festival are according to this lunar calendar.

The most significant festival for Chinese is the first day of the first month of the year: Chinese New Year. Also known as the Spring Festival, it symbolizes a new beginning for the New Year , where the worst are all over. This is when Chinese will get rid of all their old household appliances and buy new clothes to celebrate the occasion. The fifteenth day of New Year symbolizes another important occasion for the Chinese – Yuan Xiao. Many Chinese families will...
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