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The Cultural Differences and Similarities Between China and Japan

Cultural Differences and Similarities Between China and Japan
The interest that a Chinese culture vs. Japanese culture comparison generates dates back to many centuries. China and Japan are neighbors, and yet, there are as many differences in their cultures as there are similarities.
Anup Patwardhan
Last Updated: Jan 30, 2018
Fun Fact...
The origins of paper money can be traced back to China. It was first used during the 7th century under the rule of the Tang Dynasty.
The relations between China and Japan have blown hot and cold, time and again, since ancient times to the end of the First World War. After the conclusion of the Great War, the relations between these two nations saw heightened tensions that remained so to the conclusion of the Second World War.

On the cultural front, Chinese culture had a strong hold over Japan up unto the fall of the Tang Dynasty. As such, the impact of Chinese culture on Japan has been seen over a long time. Buddhism came to Japan through the Chinese. This religion has a strong influence over both, China and Japan.

As the influence of Chinese culture over Japan started to decline, Japanese culture began to emerge and evolve, creating its own identity. This gave rise to quite a few differences between the Chinese and Japanese cultures.
Torii Gate
Torii Gate
Yin Yang
Yin Yang
Kanji Script
Japanese Kanji Script
Chinese Script
Chinese Characters
Japanese Cuisine
Japanese Cuisine
Chinese Cuisine
Chinese Food
Traditional Japanese Robes
Traditional Japanese Kimonos
Traditional Chinese 'Qipao'
Chinese Qipao
Japanese Architecture
Japanese Architecture
Chinese Architecture
Chinese Architecture
Differences Between Chinese and Japanese Culture
There are multiple dialects that are spoken in China (for example, Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu), whereas, there is only one written language, Chinese.

Japanese people have a variety of written languages (Katakana, Hiragana, Rōmaji), while the dialect spoken is the same; Japanese.
Most Chinese names are monosyllabic (Lee, Ma, Lú). Although, there has been some change seen in this trend off late.

While most of the Chinese names are monosyllabic, Japanese names are polysyllabic (Hayate, Minato, Yuzuki).
Along with Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are also widely practiced in China.

Shinto is a largely practiced religion in Japan, just like Buddhism is. Most Japanese do not follow a single religion. They are practitioners of Shintoism and Buddhism at the same time.
It is a common sight in China to see people talking or laughing loudly in public places or while traveling aboard public transport. Today, public display of affection has not remained uncommon in China.

Japanese people consider it impolite to talk loudly in public places. Most of them mute the ringer of their phones when using public transport for travel. It is considered rude to show affection towards loved ones in public.
The food in China is diverse because of the large geographic extent as well as the influence of various foreign cuisines, specially middle-eastern and Mongolian. The Chinese use a lot of oil, and evenly fry their food along with using various flavors and spices. Their food mainly include duck, chicken, pork, and beef.

Japanese cuisine, like their culture, was isolated for a long time, owing to the fact that Japan is an island. Seafood is preferred on a large-scale here. Japanese food is considered to be more healthier, as there is minimal use of oil. In Japanese cuisine, most of the food is raw. While slurping when having your meals can draw frowns in China, it is considered as a compliment in Japan.
During the Han rule, 'Hanfu' dominated the clothing of the Chinese people. This is a round-neck robe. During the Manchu rule it was banned, and the 'Qipao' became the official clothing. A 'Qipao' is one-piece baggy dress with a high neck and tight skirt.

Traditional Japanese clothing consisted of the 'Kimono', which is also known as the 'Gofuku'. These are T-shaped robes. The Kimono was further stylized into a 12-layered robe known as 'Jūnihitoe'. This robe was specific to royalty, whereas, a 'Kosode' was meant for the common people. The number of layers of a robe varied from eight to twenty.
Traditional Chinese architecture lay emphasis on the use of wood as opposed to the modern ways. Also, preference was given to breadth over height, whereas, in modern architecture, high rises are preferred to adjust with the changing population dynamics. There were not much open spaces on any property, as all the available area was used for construction. Indoors, the sitting arrangement consisted of chairs. There was also an emphasis on the construction being done in accordance to Feng Shui.

Japanese architecture had a Chinese influence for a long time. Buddhism, with its advent, also had a major impact on Japanese architecture. The Japanese made use of mats on the floor for their sitting arrangement, and the houses are built elevated from the ground by a few inches. This allows the houses to remain cool in the hot and humid Japanese climate. The rooms in a Japanese home are not designated for any particular purpose, except for the kitchen. As for the role of other rooms, any room can be used as a dining room or a living room or a bedroom, from time to time. The size of the rooms can also vary, as most of them are separated by a sliding partition wall. Wood is majorly used for construction, as it remains cool in their weather conditions.
Similarities Between Chinese and Japanese Culture
During the 2nd and 1st century B.C., the trade between and China and Japan began to flourish. This resulted in masses migrating from either nation to the other. This continued to the 4th century C.E. It was during this time that the Chinese way of living caught the imagination of the Japanese populace. This resulted in the Chinese culture having a great influence over the Japanese culture. This continued to the 8th century C.E, after which, during the Heian Era, the Japanese culture began to evolve. Due to the strong Chinese influence for a long time, there are many similarities that these two cultures share.
Both cultures are strongly influenced by Confucianism. There is a strong sense of loyalty that people of Japan as well as China have, though, the Chinese people tend to stay more loyal to their families. On the other hand, the Japanese are loyal to the group to which they belong. Like they are most loyal to, say, the company they are working for.

Another common link shared by China and Japan is Buddhism. Japan was introduced to Buddhism through China. The Japanese scholars and monks who visited China bought along with them the teachings of Buddhism. In Japan, people started following Buddhism along with Shintoism.
There is also a strong sense of collectivism displayed in both the countries. People stick together with one another, and there is emphasis on interdependence of human beings. This has led to a healthier social life, in general. This, however, at times, also may be a test of patience and time-consuming, as people tend to avoid doing even mundane things alone.
Language and Arts
Another field that the Chinese culture had an impact on Japan was in language and arts. One of the languages in written Japanese is 'Kanji'. This language is adopted from and consists of Chinese characters used for writing. Chinese was widely used for official communications to the time that the Japanese script had not completely evolved from the Chinese influence. Impact Chinese art are also noticeable on Japanese arts.
The food habits of these neighbors, though varied, also show a lot of similarities. Both cuisines emphasize on rice and noodles in their meals. Noodles, that forms a major component in the diet, are of three types: Udon, Soba, and Ramen. The Japanese, like their counterparts, also include pork and beef in their diet.
Another difference that has defined the culture in these two nations for a few decades now is their military policies. China has given a major impetus on their defense sector. They are second only to the United States of America with respect to their military might. The Japanese aggression during the Second World War was a major factor in the shaping up of this new strategy by China.

While Japan, on the other hand, since the war, has shifted its focus away from the defense sector. In fact, Japan has only 1% of its economy directed towards this sector. There is an article in the Japanese constitution that renounces war and aggression.

Japan has grown tremendously despite having to overcome the havoc wreaked during the war. This can be attributed to the deeply rooted values of discipline and industrious attitude in Japanese culture. China had to wait to the latter part of the '70s of the 20th century before economic reforms brought about a change in its policies. Since then, they have lost no time in catching up and surging ahead of most nations with respect to both, economic and military might.
Tokyo National Museum
The Forbidden City Beijing China
Himeji Castle In Japan
Chinese Dragon
Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur
Yu Garden