Text: Žikica Milošević
The Chinese culture and civilisation could be one of the oldest and richest in the world. It gave birth to many ideas unknown in the West, which we “discovered” there centuries later. China is one of the Four Ancient Civilisations (alongside Babylon, India and Egypt) and its distance, isolation and different philosophy made it exotic for many generations. Now with increased globalisation and modernisation, China manages to blend the novelties and traditions in a successful manner.
THE GREATEST HITS
The cultural achievements of China could be easily descibed as “the greatest hits”: namely, the important components of Chinese culture include the invention of ceramics, typical architecture, music, literature, martial arts including kung-fu, cuisine with typical meals and eating sticks, visual arts, philosophy and religion, with Confuchianism and Taoism as greatest inventions of Chinese spirit in the field. Not to mention spaghetti, noodles, ice cream, gun powder or some other “small things”, both in science and gastronomy. It is said that Marco Polo took the recipies for spaghetti and ice cream and brought them to Venice, thus effectively making Italy the leading superpower in producing these two gastronomic delights. Also, in Europe there were no such big numbers, and Polo’s book is called “The Million” according to the word he heard in China, meaning “thousand of thousands”. If we assume that Guttenberg was a great guy, Chinese printing machines were already in use for many centuries, and the Chinese doctors learned that the blood was pumped throughout the body by heart beating, which the English only discovered in the 16th century.
MERITOCRACY AND CHINESE WORLD
China calles itself Chung-Kwo, or The Middle Kingdom. Like in some Game of Thrones fiction or Hobbits, but they really perceive themseves this way. And not only them. Japanese call it Chu-Koku, with the same meaning. It means that the Asian world borrowed much culture from China, including mathaematics, arts, calendars and alphabet, Hanzi, called Kanji in Japan. The countries which are nominally Muslim now, like Indonesia and Malaysia, show a strong Chinese cultural influence. Traders, learned people, all of them came from China, the world producer of such fine things as silk at the time, the most guarded secret ever. And the Confucianism as a philosophy-religion emphasising harmony and knowledge, led to specific meritocracy and system of exams which is now deeply rooted in Chinese society.
They say that the centres of civilisation are moving westwards through history. It all started in China long ago, then moved to India, Persia and Babylon. Later on, Egypt and Middle East ruled, followed by Greece and Rome, which had its successor in Byzantium. After it fell, the Renaissance moved to Italy and the West, and the discovery of America made Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and England superpowers. The final stages occured in the 20th century when America became the leader, followed by Japan. And in the 21st century, it is all over again in China and Asia. The circle is closed, the civilisation and power comes home. Where it originated.