Culture Corner

/Culture Corner


September is a special month. Confucius was born in September more than two thousand years ago. To commemorate the birth of this great man, we set September 28 every year as “Confucius Day”. As a saint who appeared in the same period as Socrates and Plat, what are his representative ideas? What is the spread and influence overseas? What are the ways in which Confucius is commemorated today? Let’s take a look at them through the following introduction.

1.Introduction of Confucius
Confucius (September 28, 551 B.C. – April 11, 479 B.C.), also known as Kǒng Zǐ or Kǒng Qiū, courtesy name Zhòng Ní, was a Chinese ideologist, educator, and founder of Confucianism, which is one of the most influential schools in China.

2.The representative thoughts and The Analects
Confucius began teaching at the age of 30 and taught more than 3,000 students throughout his life, more than 70 of whom were considered outstanding. Confucius advocated “Humanity”, “Integrity”, “Propriety”, “Wisdom” and “Sincerity”, which are reflected in politics “Governing the country with morality” and “People-based”; in education “Teaching students in accordance with their aptitude” and “Making study serve the practical purpose”; in economic “Valuing righteousness over benefit” and “Thinking of justice when seeing the personal advantage”. Confucius’s disciples recorded the words and deeds of Confucius, and made them into The Analects.

3.Overseas dissemination and influence
Confucianism, as the core of Chinese traditional ideology and culture, has wide influence in the world. Every year a large number of foreigners travel to Confucius’ hometown, Qufu, to visit and conduct academic research and cultural exchanges. Since 2004, the “Confucius Institute” named after Confucius conducts Chinese language teaching and cultural exchanges all over the world.

4.Confucius Ceremony – “yì wǔ”
In the second year after the death of Confucius, Lu Ai Gong build a temple in Confucius’s former site in Qufu, which is today’s Confucian Temple. On the day of Confucius’ birthday, people will gather at the Confucian Temple to hold some ritual activities to commemorate this philosopher who brought great influence to China. “Yì wǔ” is a representative dance in the Confucius-commemorating ritual. The humble attitude and pious image of “yì wǔ” reflect directly the essence of Confucian ritual and music culture. The scale of “yì wǔ” depends on the status and level of the sacrifice, such as the king or emperor with eight yì, the leud with six yì, the scholar-bureaucrat with four yì.

5. The “yì wǔ” performance at the University of Macau
UM’s Confucius Institute and Centre for Chinese History and Culture jointly organized the “Forum on Chinese History and Culture and the Celebration of Confucius’ Birthday” in September 2019. The Confucius Institute’s cultural ambassadors conducted the “yì wǔ” performance in traditional robes with rites and music during the opening ceremony of the Forum. The performance was elegant, dignified and peaceful. Through 96 movements and 37 steps, it reflected their understanding of UM’s motto: humanity, integrity, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity.



Introduction on Chinese Characters

Do you know how to read the following Chinese characters? They look like different characters, but they actually belong to the same character “學”. The lack of logical connection between characters and meaning often cause headaches to beginners who have just started to learn Chinese characters. Why are there so many glyphs in a Chinese character? What are traditional Chinese characters and simplified Chinese characters? How many Chinese characters do I have to learn to be able to read Chinese writings? Let us find out the answers together through reading the below introduction.

學 “study; to learn”

1. Evolution of Chinese Characters
Chinese characters have a history of more than 5,000 years. At first, the ancients remembered things by drawing patterns on utensils, and then these patterns evolved over time and gradually formed Chinese characters. The evolution of Chinese characters are as follows:

Oracle Bone Inscriptions 甲骨文 jiǎgǔwén
甲 (jiǎ) means a tortoise shell, 骨 (gǔ) means bone, Oral Bone Inscriptions are texts carved on a tortoise shell or animal bone. This is the earliest form of Chinese characters.

Bronze Inscriptions 金文 jīnwén
金 (jīn) refers to bronze, mental. Bronze Inscriptions are words engraved on bronze.

Small Seal Characters 小篆 xiǎozhuàn
The problem of one character corresponding to multiple glyphs also existed in ancient times. After the first emperor of Qin (Qin Shi Huang) unified China, he adopted Small Seal Characters as the standard script used throughout the country. The unification of the glyphs this time had a profound impact on the standardization of Chinese characters.

Official Script 隸書 lìshū
The Small Seal Characters are complicated, and the writing speed is relatively slow. In order to improve writing efficiency, people began to use the Official Script more often. Starting from the Official Script, the pictographic characteristics of the characters are weakening, and the glyphs are getting closer to the shape of modern Chinese characters.

Regular Script 楷書 kǎishū
The character “楷” in “楷書” is from “楷模 modal”, means the regular script is a very standard Chinese character font, and its Chinese character structure is very strict.

Cursive Writing or Grass Stroke Characters 草書 cǎoshū
Cursive script is a font created on the basis of Official Script for the convenience of writing. Some strokes are omitted during the rapid writing of Chinese characters. Now the artistry of cursive script is greater than its practicality, because their glyphs are often illegible to the untrained eye.

Freehand Cursive 行書 xíngshū
Freehand Cursive is a font developed on the basis of Regular Script. It is between Regular Script and Cursive Writing. It is smoother than Regular Script and is not illegible like Cursive Writing.

Taking “魚 fish” as an example, the evolution of Chinese characters is as follows:

2. Traditional and Simplified Characters
In order to comply with the law of the development of Chinese characters, China issued the Chinese Character Simplification Plan. From 1956 to 1986, a total of 2,235 Chinese characters were simplified. These are the simplified Chinese characters that we use now. The simplified Chinese character strokes are greatly reduced, making Chinese characters easier to remember. The simplification process of Chinese characters has certain rules. Part of the simplified characters is to select the glyphs of Cursive Writing and Freehand Cursive. The “魚 fish” in the above text is an example, Regular Script is “魚”, the Cursive Writing and Freehand Cursive are “鱼”. Simplify the four dots of the traditional Chinese character “魚” into one horizontal line.

3. Number of Chinese Characters
A total of 60,370 Chinese characters are included in the Chinese Dictionary published by Modern Times, which is a very large number. But don’t worry, the commonly used Chinese characters are between 6,000 to 9,000.

Let us narrow down the scope a little bit. According to the List of Commonly Used Modern Chinese Characters issued by the National Language Commission, there are 2,500 commonly used Chinese characters and 1,000 frequently used characters. A study conducted a test on a corpus of 3 million characters and found that the coverage rate of 2,500 commonly used characters was as high as 97.97%. In other words, after knowing 2,500 Chinese characters, you can “read” most of the Chinese writing.

I use the quoted “閱-read” to remind everyone that knowing Chinese characters does not mean that you can understand the meaning of the text. For example, you may know “明-bright” and also know “白-white”, but when you see the word “明白”, you may not know it means “understand”. Knowing Chinese characters is only one aspect of learning Chinese. The more Chinese characters you know does not mean the more Chinese vocabulary you know. While learning Chinese characters, vocabulary and grammar learning are equally important.

The Confucius Institute will be launching an online Chinese characters course that aims to introduce the basics of Chinese characters and vocabularies. The online Chinese characters course will also help students to establish a connection between the shape and meaning of the characters through the explanation of the etymology. There are a total of ten lessons in this course. Common strokes and radicals will be introduced at the beginning of the course, and Chinese characters will be explained later. Each lesson will teach about 6 to 7 Chinese characters. After completing the course, students will be able to master at least 70 Chinese characters. The online course will roll out in September 2020 and to be offered to all students of the Confucius Institute. Please stay tuned.

If you want to learn more about Chinese characters, you can also watch the following video:

[4]黃伯榮,廖序東. 現代漢語 北京:高等教育出版社
Huang Borong, Liao Xudong. Modern Chinese. Higher education press, Beijing.

Introduction on Chinese Characters2020-10-07T11:07:07+08:00

Introduction on Chinese 24 Solar Terms – Summer Solar Terms


The twenty-four solar terms, which originated in the Yellow River Basin, is the law of agricultural activities and climate change summarized by the ancient people in agricultural production practice. It provides a reference for the arrangement of agricultural affairs and farming activities. These twenty-four climatic laws have experienced a long period of development.

As shangshu yaodian recorded, in the Spring and Autumn Period (春秋, chūn qiū, 770 – 476 B.C.), by measuring the length of the Sun’s Shadow, the Summer Solstice (the sun shadow is the shortest, the sun reaches the northernmost point, and the longest daytime in the northern hemisphere) , the Winter Solstice (the longest day shadow, the sun reaches the southernmost point, the shortest daytime in the northern hemisphere) , the Spring Equinox and the Autumn Equinox (the sun is directly at the Equator and day and night are equal in length), these four solar terms are settled. At the end of the Warring States period (戰國, zhàn guó, 475 – 221 B.C.), four solar terms, the Beginning of Spring, the Beginning of Summer, the Beginning of Autumn and the Beginning of Winter were confirmed and recorded in Guanzi. In the early Western Han Dynasty, the twenty-four solar terms were determined.

At the very beginning, some of the solar terms were just a description of climate change in Lv’s Spring and Autumn. Huainanzi changed those descriptions to two characters words which became the official name of the solar terms.

Not all the features reflected in these names are directly related to the season. In addition to the eight solar terms that denote seasonal changes, there are also those related to temperature, such as 小暑 (xiǎoshǔ) Lesser Heat , 大暑 (dàshǔ) Greater Heat, 小寒 (xiǎohán) Lesser Cold, 大寒 (dàhán) Greater Cold , etc. Meteorological, such as 雨水 (yǔshuǐ) Rain Water, 寒露 (hánlù) Cold Dew, 霜降 (shuāngjiàng) Frost’s Descent, etc., as well as about farming activities, such as 小滿 (xiǎomǎn) Lesser Fullness of Grain, 芒種 (mángzhòng) Grain in Beard.

The 24 solar terms is related to the sun’s annual motion. Ancient Chinese divided the circle of the annual motion of the sun into 24 equal segments.

Today, the 24 solar terms still guide agricultural production. Although the solar term mainly corresponds to the climatic change of the Yellow River Basin, agricultural production in other regions still uses solar terms as a reference and has produced a number of farming proverbs. For example, with regard to the sowing of cotton, north China has the saying 清明早,小滿遲,穀雨種棉正當時 (Qīngmíng zǎo, xiǎomǎn chí, gǔyǔ zhòng mián zhèngdāngshí) “When sowing cotton, Grain Rain is the right time, because the time of Pure Brightness is too early but, when Lesser Fullness of Grain comes it is too late”, while in central China, Sichuan and other places, the farming proverb is 清明前,種好棉 (qīngmíng qián, zhòng hǎo mián) “Sowing cotton before Pure Brightness is the right time”.

The end of Greater Heat is near, and the summer phase determined by 24 solar terms is coming to an end. Let’s take a look at the summer solar term features in the 24 solar terms.

立夏 lìxià The Beginning of Summer May 5, 6 or 7
People used to place on the beginning of summer as temperature increased significantly, in the hot summer will, thunderstorm, entered the peak season to grow crops is one of the most important solar terms. After the beginning of summer, is critical period of early rice accumulates ZaiCha, sooner or later, and this time the rain comes and amount of rainfall, and closely related to the harvest in the future.


小滿 xiǎomǎn Lesser Fullness of Grain May 20,21 or 22
Since grain full, barley, wheat has been as a result, the summer harvest crops, such as grain gradually see full, but not yet mature, so called grain buds.

芒種 mángzhǒng Grain in Beard Jun. 5, 6 or 7
芒 (máng) is awn; beard, a slender, bristle-like appendage found on the spikelet of certain grasses. If wheat and barley’s spikelet have awn, it means they are mature. 種 can be a verb, read as zhòng, means to plant some grain ; it can be a noun, read as zhǒng, means the seed. Grain in beard-such as wheat and barley are mans crops to mature, and seed. Also means the paddy are ready to be planted. Also means at this time the paddy is ready to be planted.

夏至 xiàzhì The Summer Solstice Jun. 21 or 22
Every year on June 21st or 22nd, for the summer solstice, the sun and the tropic of cancer is in the northern hemisphere daylight on the longest day of the year, across the south, from sunrise to sunset is mostly for fourteen hours. Summer solstice day although the longest day, the sun Angle is the highest, but it’s not the hottest time of the year.

小暑 xiǎoshǔ Lesser Heat Jul. 6, 7 or 8
Before and after slight heat, I save much thunderstorms weather, is a severe thunderstorm weather phenomenon, often associated with short accompanied by strong winds, heavy rain, and sometimes hail.

大暑 dàshǔ Greater Heat Jul. 22, 23 or 24
Is the hottest period, the highest temperature, fastest growing, most parts of the most frequent drought, waterlogging, wind and rush in the harvest busy planting, drougt waterlogging orainage control stage and field management task in very heavy. Folk have drink Fu tea, sun fu jiang, burn Fuxiang custom, etc.

After reading this article, do you now understand the Chinese Solar Terms? Today is the “Greater Heat ” and the hot weather is coming to an end. If you want to know more about this topic, you can watch this video:


  1. Jingyi Wang. Discussion on the Generation and Application of Twenty-four Solar Terms. Journal of Suihua Teachers College, 1999(04): 86-90.
  2. Le Zi. The Formation of the Twenty-four Solar Terms and the Origin of its Name. Journal of Shanxi University (Philosophy and Social Science Edition). 1989 (02): 39.
  3. Feng Lin. The Twenty-four Solar Terms Unique to China. Shandong Agricultural Sciences. 1975(01): 58-63.
  4. English translation reference of twenty-four solar terms:
  5. Introduction to summer solar terms:
  6. The Twenty-Four Solar Terms, knowledge in China of time and practices developed through observation of the sun’s annual motion:
  7. All pictures of summer solar terms (author: Chen Mingjie) are from:
Introduction on Chinese 24 Solar Terms – Summer Solar Terms2020-08-05T12:33:45+08:00