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The relationship between language and culture is inextricably intertwined. Language is the verbal expression used to maintain, convey and influence culture and cultural ties. Culture is the idea, custom and beliefs of a community communicated by at least one distinct language from one community member of to another. In another word, language is deeply rooted in culture and culture is reflected and passed on by language from one generation to the next (Emmitt & Pollock 1997).

Therefore, learning a new language inevitably involves the learning of a new culture. Otherwise, language learning becomes senseless, inaccurate and incomplete, since all learners get are a bundle of empty or meaningless symbols.

Chinese culture, as conveyed and maintained by Chinese language for thousands of years, is one of the world’s oldest and most complex cultures. It is so diverse and unique, yet harmoniously blended. It contains rare beauty and enchantment with Chinese history. It has played an important role in China itself, and presents itself as an invaluable asset to the world society.

Chinese traditional cultural studies, also called “sinology”, refer to the study of Chinese classical language and literature, and the philological approach. They are used especially as learning materials for Chinese culture. In fact, a lot of Chinese traditional cultural studies have been used as textbooks for young children to learn Chinese language and culture for thousands of years.

Typical Chinese traditional cultural studies include the Three Character Classic, the Thousand Character Classic, the Analects of Confucius, Chinese idiom stories, and Chinese ancient poems.

The Three Chinese Character Classic, or called San Zi Jing, has served as a child’s first formal education at home for thousands of years. With the short and simple text arranged in three-character verses, children learned many common characters, grammar structures, elements of Chinese history and the basis of Confucian morality.

Three Character Classic (CD) (Chinese edition) Three Character Classic (CD) (Chinese edition)
Three Character Classic (CD) (Chinese edition) Three Character Classic (CD) (Chinese edition)


The Thousand Character Classic 
is a Chinese poem used as a primer for teaching Chinese characters to children. It contains exactly one thousand unique characters, which sometimes were used to represent the numbers from 1 through 1000 (as the standard numbers could more easily be altered with an extra stroke or two). The Thousand Character Classic is sung in the same way in which children learning Latin alphabet writing do with the “alphabet song”.

Thousand Character Classic (CD) (Chinese edition) Thousand-character Classic (Chinese Edition)
Thousand Character Classic (CD) (Chinese edition) Thousand-character Classic (Chinese Edition)


The Analects of Confucius
is a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions they held. It is the representative work of Confucianism and continues to have a tremendous influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.

The Analects of Confucius The Analects of Confucius
The Analects of Confucius The Analects (Oxford World’s Classics)

Chinese idioms, often referred as Chengyu, are a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expressions, most of which consist of four characters. They were widely used in classical Chinese and are still common in vernacular Chinese writing and spoken Chinese today.

Each Chinese idiom, or Chengyu, is a short phrase, usually with a Chinese story with significant and interesting meaning. A Chinese idiom story will not only tell you the meaning of a phrase, but also help you learn more about ancient Chinese culture.

The Analects of Confucius The Analects of Confucius
Chinese Proverbs and Popular Sayings ABC Dictionary of Chinese Proverbs

Tang poetry refers to poetry written in or around the time of and in the characteristic style of China’s Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and/or follows a certain style, often considered as the Golden Age of Chinese poetry.

Tang Dynasty marked the high point of classical Chinese poetry. Not only was the period prolific in poets and in poems (perhaps as many as 50,000 poems), but poetry was integrated into almost every aspect of professional and social life, including as part of the Imperial examinations taken by anyone wanting a government post.

The poetry of the Tang Dynasty was so strong that it remains influential today, and it towered over the generations that followed it.

Tang Poems How to Read A Chinese Poem: A Bilingual Anthology of Tang Poetry
Tang Poems How to Read A Chinese Poem: A Bilingual Anthology of Tang Poetry

Reference:
Emmitt M & Pollock J (1997). Language and Teaching: An Introduction for Teaching, Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Sarah @ Baby Bilingual // January 31st, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    You make a strong argument for sharing the classics with children, even very young ones! I rely on French poetry to put my three-year-old to sleep.

  2. 2
    Lina // February 3rd, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    @Sarah: Nice to hear from you again! How are you?

    For thousands of years, the Chinese traditional cultural studies (e.g. the Three Character Classic, the Thousand Character Classic, etc) were used as textbooks for young children to learn Chinese language and culture.

    At that times, these books recorded what exactly how ancient Chinese spoke. Therefore, there was no problem in using them as textbooks, even nursing rhymes, to babies and young children.

    But with the time passing by, great changes have happened and the once-easy-enough ancient Chinese language became quite a challenge to modern Chinese, not to mention young children.

    Yes, how to bridge ancient Chinese language and traditional culture with modern China is a quite interesting topic for linguists and educators.

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