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Chinese Culture

Updated on June 25, 2012

China is a great country is seldom disputed, not only because of the size of the land it occupies, but also of its culture and massive economic power. In Asia, it is surpassed only by Russia and easily dwarfs all other countries that borders. Not surprisingly, its landscape, climate, culture are highly varied.

The Sick Man of Asia
The Sick Man of Asia

Man's Pigtail

China began to be referred the last century (late 19th and early 20th centuries) as 'the sick man of Asia', bullied and exploited by colonial powers as they raced to carve out their slices of the world. The term 'sick man of Asia' corresponds to 'sick man of Europe', referring to the weakening Ottoman Empire during the same period. It was also used as a derogatory term for the Chinese by Japanese invaders during the Second World War and the years immediately preceding it, in which Japan occupied sections of China.

One of features of 'Sick Man of Asia' is pigtail. Since the occupying of Qing Dynasty, Chinese started to wear pigtails. The pigtails are in fact a Manchurian hair-style. They shaved the front part of the head, from forehead to about the middle of his head, braided the rest of the hair on the back of their head into a single queue or 'pigtail'.

The Manchus imposed their hair style to the Han-Chinese, having pigtails was a policy used to effectively rule China. Anyone found not growing pigtails will be executed, 'shave your head or lose your head'. This policy was a practical way for the Manchus to determine on the battlefield and elsewhere if a given Chinese was loyal to the new dynasty. A quick visual inspection told them if a given Chinese was loyal to the Qing or not. A Chinese who had adopted the Manchu hairstyle was, of course, considered loyal. Similarly, Chinese were also forced to adopt Manchu costume. Therefore, a practical way to determine who was loyal and who was not would have indeed been helpful. In this way Chinese losing its true identity, and forced themselves to act lower.

Woman's Footbinding

The second feature of 'Sick Man of Asia' was revealed indirectly by his partner, woman's Footbinding. Pigtails was imposed by Manchus, but footbinding is a genuine Han custom. The Practice of Foot Binding began in the Tang Dynasty(618-907). Tang Dancers would bind their feet with long strips of cloth to help them take the small, light steps which were demanded by the dancing style. Manchus who conquered China in the 17th century tried without success to abolish the practice. Manchu women were forbidden from binding their feet or the feet of their daughters. Bound feet became an important differentiating marker between Manchu and Han.

Opium Addicts and Smoking

The third feature of "sick man of Asia" is drug addictive.

By the 1830's, the English had become the major drug-trafficking criminal organization in the world; very few drug cartels of the twentieth century can even touch the England of the early nineteenth century in sheer size of criminality. Growing opium in India, the East India Company shipped tons of opium into Canton (Now Guangdong Province)which it traded for Chinese manufactured goods and for tea. This trade had produced, quite literally, a country filled with drug addicts, as opium parlors proliferated all throughout China in the early part of the nineteenth century. This trafficking, it should be stressed, was a criminal activity after 1836, but the British traders generously bribed Canton officials in order to keep the opium traffic flowing. The effects on Chinese society were devastating. In fact, there are few periods in Chinese history that approach the early nineteenth century in terms of pure human misery and tragedy.

Another highly addictive habbit of Chinese is smoking. Now, nearly three-quarters of all Chinese men are smokers, and China has the largest number of smoking-related deaths in the world. Because of a sharp increase in cigarette sales in the last 30 years, around 2,000 people a day are currently dying of smoking in China. By 2050, the researchers expect this number could rise to 8,000 a day - some three million people a year.

The worst thing of all is the ignorance of harms done by smoking, Surveys showed two-thirds of Chinese people think smoking does little or no harm, 60% think it does not cause lung cancer and 96% do not know that it causes heart disease. Despite Chinese health officials' backing for efforts to reduce tobacco consumption, treasury officials might find it difficult to say no to the huge revenue they can reap from the cigarette industry.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      1. Atomic bombing of japan 1945. First and only time to have atomic bombing of japan..1945

      2. Slavery in USA until civil war 1865. 10 US Presidents owned slaves until US civil war.

      3. False, Fake evidence for the invasion of iraq. 2003

      4. Adolf Hitler....concentration camps in Europe. 1940s

      World war I/World War II/Adolf Hitler...

      5 USSR: red communism in russia from 1917-1991. Free russia now. 1991




      We just want the truth.. truth for all free people of the free world in a free 21st. century...

    • profile image

      BRUCE LEE 

      7 years ago

      Truth: we need the truth. and nothing but the truth.

      1911/1949: Baby emperor PUYI to red emperor mao.

      we need the truth... the good bad ugly. we need the truth on china...

      Truth will set china free. Truth will world free free free.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      the chinese do it to themselves. it's their society. they don't care about each other, so they don't care about themselves. you see the results.

      there is nothing keeping them from being as capable as the rest of the world, except that one fact. so they remain sick and will for a long, long time.

    • Zubyre profile image

      Zubyre Parvez 

      8 years ago from East London

      Some aspects of ancient china were a bit backward in other ways it was beyond present science eg. the chinese medicine was well ahead of it's time and most of all it was a land of superior virtue and godliness! traditional chinese culture is a semi divine culture.

    • profile image

      mao zedong 

      8 years ago

      ask simple question: how come after 2000 years.

      1. workers making 25 cents an hour.

      2. Not a single Nobel-prize in 100 years. only way win Nobel prize is leave china for usa.

      3. 70% are peasants-famer.

      4. Japan: 1/10 of people. one-tenth number of people, larger economy than china.

      5. 1885: "Leaving Asia" sick man of asia. china. backward korea.

      Google: Leaving Asia essay. true in 1885 / 2010

    • profile image

      Charles Darwin 

      8 years ago

      1... what retards think they are at the "center of world"

      "center of world"

      "center of cosmos'

      Pope in 15th. century told all Earth was center of the world.

      2. Is china "center of the world"

      3. Sick Man of Asia.

      4. Century of Shame

      who was called the "sick man of asia"

      who had a "century of humiliation"

    • hubby7 profile image


      9 years ago from Chicago

      Interesting information on China and its people. It was very infomative from the origin of pigtails to women binding their feet to the high rate of smoking and death among the Chinese. Again, very good hub!

    • tony0724 profile image


      9 years ago from san diego calif

      I love the Chinese people . It Is their repressive Government I find so sad. We have alot of Chinese people here In San Diego and I find them utterly charming .

    • elfear profile image


      9 years ago

      Not any more! That was history.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      why must chinese men need to keep pigtails

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love China and chinese people, they are very gentle and kind, My boyfriend is from China he doesnt have a pigtails But I will still love him the same even if he 'll have one. 90% of Chinese men and some women too are habitual smokers. But that doesnt affect their rich culture and great history. China is the best. xx

    • profile image

      charles darwin 

      9 years ago

      china: sick man of asia. True

      china: century of humiliation. True.

      We do Not fear the truth. Truth for the world. Truth of the world.

      china never had in 19th, 20th. century.

      1. scientific revolution: what's science.

      Experiment-based sciences. what's experiment?

      2. Industrial revolution: industry. cars, airplanes, computers, cell phones.

      what's industry. what a car, airplane, computer, microchip.

      3. Democratic revolution:

      National assembly, Parliament, National Congress. Legal-rational rule and administration.

      What's a Parliament, National Assembly. National Congress. wha's the law?

      4. Alphabet: abcdefghi.

      Prison to a primative, barbaric writing sytem. digitla age. All you need is the Number two, 2.

      What's an alphabet? what's ABC. what's reading & writing, alphabet.

    • jim.sheng profile imageAUTHOR

      Dalriada Books Ltd 

      10 years ago from UK

      Those are historical drama base on historical events and famous persons of Qing Dynasty, most popular topic is about Qianlong Emperor.

    • topstuff profile image


      10 years ago

      Chinese are no more sickmen.i love China and chinese people.But i want to ask you why many chinese dramas on tv are not without the men having pigtails.Do some people like to have pigtails in some regions of China.

    • Angela Harris profile image

      Angela Harris 

      11 years ago from Around the USA

      This is a very interesting hub!


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