Chinese Culture

Topics: Culture, Culture of China, Sociology Pages: 11 (3497 words) Published: August 20, 2010

Cross Cultural Management, 2000. 7:2, 3-10

YING FAN, PhD Lincoln School of Management Brayford Pool Lincoln LN6 7TS ENGLAND Tel 44-1522-886345 Fax 44-1522-886032 Email



ABSTRACT This paper presents a classification of Chinese Cultural Values (CCVs). Although there exist great differences between the Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, it is still possible to identify certain core cultural values that are shared by the Chinese people no matter where they live. Based on the original list by the Chinese Cultural Connection (1987), the paper creates a new list that contains 71 core values against 40 in the old. The implications and limitations of the classification are also discussed. KEY WORDS: cultural values, Chinese culture, classification.

INTRODUCTION Culture and management is an interesting but difficult filed for study. It is more interesting and difficult to study Chinese culture and management. This is because both subjects are complex and multidimensional and little is known about the relationship between these two subjects. The fundamental problem in this area is the lack of any agreement on what Chinese culture is and the difficulty in operationalising the cultural variables in the study.

In order to carry out cultural study, it is important to have a framework from which to work. This paper presents a classification of Chinese culture, in which 71 core cultural values that are generally accepted by the Chinese people are identified and grouped into eight categories. The paper begins by a brief review of the culture concept. After introduction of the Confucianism, it focuses on the core Chinese values and their classification. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of the classification and directions for future research.


THE CULTURE CONCEPT Culture is complex and multidimensional. It is in fact too complex to define in simple terms. Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952) identified over 160 different definitions of culture. One of the earliest widely cited definitions by Tylor (1887) defines culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” In this century, culture has been defined by different authors as follows: • all the historically created designs for living, explicit and implicit, rational, irrational, and nonrational, which exist at any given time as potential guides for the behaviour of men (Kluckhohn and Kelly, 1945); • the man made part of the environment (Herskovits, 1955); • the integrated sum total of learned behavioural traits that are shared by members of a society (Hoebel, 1960); • a mental map which guides us in our relations to our surroundings and to other people (Downs, 1971). More recently, Hofstede (1980) defines culture as “… the interactive aggregate of common characteristics that influence a group’s response to its environment”. He (1984) redefines culture as the collective programming of the mind which distinguish one group of people from another. The world culture apparently originates with the Latin cultura, which is related to cultus, which can be translated as “cult” or “worship”. This meaning is helpful in understanding the use of the term. Members of a cult believe in specific ways of doing things, and thus develop a culture that enshrines those beliefs. A definition by Terpstra and David (1985) serves to delineate what is meant by culture in this context: Culture is learned, shared, compelling, interrelated set of symbols whose meaning provides a set of orientations for members of a society. These orientations, taken together, provide solutions to problems that all societies must solve if they are to remain viable.


To sum up the above definitions, culture can be described as the collection of values, beliefs, behaviours, customs,...

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Table 1a: Chinese Culture Values
National Traits 1 Patriotism 2 A sense of cultural superiority 3 Respect for tradition 4* Bearing hardships 5 Knowledge (education) 6* Governing by leaders instead of by law 7* Equality /egalitarianism 8 Moderation, following the middle way Interpersonal Relations 9 Trustworthiness 10 Jen-ai / Kindness (forgiveness, compassion) 11*Li / Propriety 12*People being primarily good 13 Tolerance of others 14 Harmony with others 15 Courtesy 16 Abasement / Humbleness 17 A close, intimate friend 18 Observation of rites and social rituals 19 Reciprocation of greetings, favours and gifts 20 Repayment of both the good or the evil that another person has caused you 21 Face (protecting, giving, gaining and losing) Family /Social Orientation 22 Filial piety 23 Chastity in women 24*Kinship 25*Vebneration for the old 26 Loyalty to superiors 27*Deference to authority 28 Hierarchical relationships by status and observing this order 29*Conformity / group orientation 30*A sense of belonging 31*Reaching consensus or compromise 32*Avoiding confrontation 33 Benevolent autocrat / Paternalistic 34 Solidarity 35*Collectivism Work Attitude 36 Industry (working hard) 37 Commitment 38 39 40 41 42 Thrift (saving) Persistence (perseverance) Patience Prudence (carefulness) Adaptability
Business Philosophy 43 Non-competition 44*Not guided by profit 45*Guanxi (personal connection or networking) 46*Attaching importance to long-lasting relationship not gains 47 Wealth 48 Resistance to corruption 49 Being conservative 50*Morality Personal Traits 51*Te (virtue, moral standard) 52 Sense of righteousness / Integrity 53 Sincerity 54 Having a sense of shame 55*Wisdom / Resourcefulness 56 Self-cultivation 57 Personal steadiness and stability 58 Keeping oneself disinterested and pure 59 Having few desires 60*Being gentleman anytime 61*Obiligation for one’s family and nation 62*Pragmatic / to suit a situation 63*Contentedness with one’s position in life Time Orientation 64*Past-time oriented 65*Continuity / time viewed as circular rather than linear 66*Taking a long rang view Relationship with Nature 67*The way (Tao) 68*Fatalism / Karma (believing in one’s own fate 69*Yuarn 70*Harmony between man and nature 71*Unity of Yin and Yang
Source: Those with asterisk are added by the author. Amended and revised from the Chinese Value Survey by the Chinese Culture Connection.
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