An increasing number of locals and ex-pats alike are signing up for the HSK in Singapore, a standardised test that certifies their proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. While mastering the language and learning about its various idioms, you may have been exposed to the treasure trove of knowledge and wisdom that is the Chinese culture.
The Chinese culture has evolved over multiple centuries of teachings and valuable experiences from which we can draw upon. Within the culture exists multiple variations of rituals and folklores, but there are still many commonalities these variations share. From its values and philosophies to everyday practices, modern Chinese culture has more to offer than you may think. And out of the many valuable lessons from Chinese culture, these are just three lessons we can apply to our daily lives.
An ethical system for daily life
The teachings of Confucius has become the moral philosophy many Chinese and Mandarin speakers use as a framework to abide by. However, as human nature might not allow moral integrity and goodwill to be as infallible as we wish them to be, external help can be helpful in guiding us to become better people.
Confucius teaches three fundamental values that make up his belief system, otherwise known as jen-yi-li. With many different meanings, jen can be summarised as love within humanity – the ideal relationship we should achieve with our community and society. Yi refers to the ability to abide by righteousness justice. To display it, one ought to follow the rules and make the right creative solutions during any conflict. Meanwhile, li refers to the fluid social norms that shape society and heavily emphasises one’s responsibilities within the community.
In summary, jen-yi-li describes our relationship to society and how we ought to serve our community for the good of all. By adhering to the teaching of Confucius, we can become better family members, friends, partners, and citizens. And, more importantly, we understand our capacity to do more good.
Anticipate the unknown
If you have taken Mandarin classes in Singapore, chances are you would have encountered the ancient text Tao Te Ching. Written by Laozi, this great text has largely influenced both Eastern and Western schools of thought.
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving: a proverb from this text, many have adopted this saying as part of their mindset. It serves as a reminder that the world is constantly evolving and change is the only constant. Amid chaos and uncertainty, it is easy to feel lost and misguided.
However, Laozi encourages us to think of changes as positives and accept them as inevitable phases of life. By seeing change as essential and natural, we can adopt more creative and relaxed approaches in dealing with it. Additionally, as we become more motivated to control our reactions and responses, we can achieve inner peace for ourselves.
Social networks are invaluable
If you are an ex-pat in Singapore, you might have observed the value of Mandarin and other mother tongues when communicating with the people around you, be it your neighbours or local hawkers. Personal connections and good relationships with others are easily attainable when engaging in give-and-take.
This parallels guanxi, a concept in Chinese culture where mutual obligation forms the core of social relations. Your network and connections are the key to personal success and collective achievement in society. As we build close ties with others, we also form lasting impressions and strong bonds in the relationship.
Accumulating guanxi is simple; we just need to keep an open mind and make the effort to develop and maintain both new and old connections with those around us. You are already developing guanxi by constantly reciprocating efforts and initiating kindness.
Of course, Chinese culture varies across provinces and runs deeper with thousands of years of history. However, these three valuable lessons are a good start when integrating Chinese culture into our daily lives.
As you learn Mandarin in Singapore, you will learn more about the language and expose yourself to the immense wealth of wisdom and knowledge passed down by Chinese generations. Here at Linda Mandarin, we believe in teaching more than the written and spoken language – you would develop Mandarin proficiency and an appreciation of Chinese culture.