Each posterity of Yan & Huang Emperors wishes Chinese culture have longevity. After all, our culture has been on for 50 centuries (some experts say 30 centuries) since the later era of the Neolithic Age. To preserve and spread Chinese culture, Chinese set up Confucius Institutes all over the world. Many organizations in China try their best to let modern citizens know what is conventional Chinese culture. But objective situation is never changed because of subjective belief no matter how we prayer for our culture. Being divorced from modern social ideas, Chinese culture, perhaps, is going to disappear in future, a time that is not too far from us.
In the retrospect of Chinese modern history and contemporary history since A.D 1840 with the First Opium War as the symbol, China has been on the way to modernization up to today. In the past 164 years, China has been successfully transformed from a total agricultural and self-sufficient country into a commercialized and initially industrialized economy, and this process is still being carried on. With the change of social and industrial structures, the culture among Chinese folk has also been changed. One main stream is that more and more traditional Chinese cultural elements have been abandoned by new society. In the era between 1840~1949, which is deemed as the first time of modernization in China, the common people who thought Chinese culture should be thrown away and absorb western culture. The officials and intellectuals in favour of old Chinese morals were swept away by main stream. Because Chinese traditional culture hates doing business and new machines, which were most popular factors to make China a powerful country then. After new republic was founded in 1949, USSR culture, which was a paradigm of socialism culture, became the model of new generation in China. This trend lasted until 1979. In Mao’s era (1949~1976), all resources of the country was concentrated on large-scale industrial construction and people noted each other as “comrade”, eliminating the ranks in the folk, which was supported by traditional Chinese culture. And the concentration of resource destroyed the old private fortune among countryside, which was taught by the old farmer’s teachers. After 1979, China entered global commercial activities, and western culture and other advanced cultures, such as Japanese culture, came back to China. Quietness, social sequence, commercial equality and law governance, which were all introduced from western world after “Reform & Open”, have been known as the new culture. But all these new elements seem to be contradict to traditional Chinese culture. Reviewing the past 164 years of Chinese history, therefore, the modernization of China has been accompanied with the discard of Chinese culture.
Perhaps most Chinese fellows can’t and are unwilling to accept this proposition. Some may believe Chinese culture is even more advanced by western culture or other Asian cultures. And they claim Chinese philosophers said same things in B.C. era as what Max and Feuerbach said in recent 300 years. But to my part, I could merely say they’re just using sophistry. The old saying can be rather simple literally, and you can give it different ideas today. However, they’re quite different between each other. The same words said by Chinese ancient men are bound to be rather different from modern philosophy concepts. For instance, Chinese love “harmony”. Many experts say it has much longer history than western “harmony”. But you can’t deny that Chinese “harmony” means mix up right and wrong. Chinese culture is in favour of patriotism, so is western culture. But conventional Chinese patriotism fails to tolerance your homeland is not so developed as those affluent countries. Both Chinese and western people take care of family. But Chinese people stand on the side of family even though their families are criminals and do harm to others! Same examples are countless, no matter whether those fellows believe or not. Sophistry can’t change anything.
Chinese culture contains all elements of Chinese ancient agricultural society. And small farmer idea fills all cultural range. Saying fairly, Chinese culture hadn’t improved between Han Dynasty and later Qing Dynasty, around 2,000 years in total. Most people can’t imagine the awareness among a huge country stayed still for over 20 centuries. But Chinese did it! Long time of ancient small farmer thinking makes Chinese culture fails to fit in modern commercial and industrialized society. Though the basic moral view is same, the higher level of moral in Chinese culture is totally against modern society. After over 30 years’ urbanization, new surrounding asks people to respect other’s privacy. But traditional small farmer culture believes those who take care of private stuff are stingy. Commercial society needs efficiency and equality. But traditional Chinese culture runs against it. Modern culture requests people love their homeland, and also human being and cultures all over the world. On the contrary, Chinese culture asks people love their homeland, and more important, the government. Of course, praising other countries and prayer for other countries’ people, which were done by many Chinese in Japanese earthquake in recent years, are not contained in traditional Chinese culture. Chinese culture forces students study for position rather than fostering a man. But modern society needs man with wholesome personality instead of many knowledge nerds with position and lack of morality. Over long time of culture stagnant leads to huge gap between Chinese culture and modern commercial culture. Morality and value system of Chinese culture find difficulties to embed itself in modern global culture.
Some experts advice that Taiwan, Korea and Japan are also obey Chinese culture but why they managed to step into modern civilized society? The answer is: they change Chinese culture into the mode of modern commercial culture rather than stick to old Chinese culture. Taiwan is a traditional region, but also a modern region. They gave up small farmer culture about 30 years ago when Mr. Chiang Ching-kuo held the power. He was the first politician who pushed a state in Chinese culture circle into a democratic and commercial society. Once commercial system was established, Chinese culture couldn’t bear it because the soil of the culture extincted. Same change took place in South Korea and Japan in that age. Commercial and industrial brought us urban life. Small farmer culture can’t live in cities. Taiwan, Korea and Japan merely used the basic factor of Chinese culture. But the social rule, citizen’s mind have accepted the equality, efficiency and sequence in modern commercial culture. That’s why Chinese cities are in chaos and the citizens are mostly in low quality though the architectures of the cities are brilliant.
As a Chinese, I do not want my culture go away from global stage. I think Japanese mode is acceptable to modify Chinese culture. The social culture should be reformed with modern commercial culture, to be clear, it is modern western culture. I believe Japanese did it after Meiji Restoration, especially after the society modification after 1950. China should retain some parts of the basic elements of Chinese culture, such as filial duty. And the thinking mode of Chinese culture should fade away because the society’s sequence and law is supposed to be constructed more modern.