China and Japan are two of the commercial and economic giants, with revolutions in science and technology that are distinct from other states. While both these countries may seem alike to a foreign eye, there is a lot of difference between China and Japan between the cultures, norms, and practices of these two nations.
Apart from the languages, there are differences in the way residents of these two countries practice their traditions and carry out their day-to-day activities. Understanding the differences between the two may help a foreigner or a tourist to distinguish between them for a good cultural experience. China and Japan culture is unlike any other in the world.
Since the beginning of these two civilizations, historians have been comparing their norms, customs, and cultures. This is because although these two countries are neighbors, there are quite a number of differences and similarities between the two. It must be noted here that the relations between these nations have blown hot and cold over the years, since ancient times, and at the end of the First World War. On the cultural front, Chinese culture has always dominated Japan’s culture and this domination has shown itself in Japan’s norms, culture, and values.
However, with the passage of time, as the influence of Chinese culture over Japanese culture started to decline, Japanese culture began to emerge and evolve, creating its own distinct identity. This has given rise to a number of differences and similarities between the two cultures.
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Difference Between Chinese and Japanese Languages
Chinese Vs Japanese culture has two distinct East Asian languages with their own unique features, writing systems, cultural contexts, and historical backgrounds. Chinese is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family and is part of the Sinitic branch. It has several dialects, with Mandarin being the most widely spoken. Japanese is considered a language isolate, which means it is not directly related to any other known language. It has borrowed vocabulary and some cultural concepts from the Chinese over the centuries. Chinese uses logographic characters, where each character represents a word or morpheme. The writing system is composed of thousands of characters, each with its own meaning and pronunciation. Japanese uses a combination of logographic characters (Kanji), syllabic characters (Hiragana and Katakana), and the Latin alphabet (Romaji). Kanji characters are often borrowed from Chinese but can have different readings and meanings in Japanese. Moreover, differences between China and Japan show us more visible differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and historical context has also highly affected both languages to differ further with time.
Chinese and Japanese Cultures – Similarities
With the increase in trade and commercial practices globally, the trade between China and Japan also began to increase during the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C. This also resulted in mass migrations of people between the two states. The practice continued until the 4th century C.E., and this was the time when the Chinese lifestyle began to influence Japanese culture. Owing to this powerful influence which lasted for a long time, a number of similarities between the two nations began to emerge, which are discussed below.
China and Japan have a common religion and both are intensely influenced by the Confucianism school of thought. This is evident from the powerful sense of faithfulness and devotion amongst the people of China and Japan, but still, the Chinese seem to be more loyal to their families than the Japanese people. On the other hand, the Japanese are more loyal to the groups that they belong to.
Another similarity between the religions of the two states is the Buddhism religion which traveled from China to Japan through the Japanese monks and scholars who visited China and brought the teachings of Buddhism back home.
The people who have visited China and Japan have observed an interesting similarity—their people’s minds are similar to each other. This is because there is a solid sense of collectivism present in both nations. People like to stick to each other and focus on interdependence with each other. This has contributed to opening ways for a better social life. Furthermore, it can also be considered a test of time and patience, as people intend to avoid doing ordinary chores alone.
3. Language and Arts
With the Chinese influence affecting the Japanese culture, other things that also got affected are the Japanese language and arts. “Kanji” is one of the examples of these languages which are based on countless Chinese characters used for writing purposes. Moreover, the Chinese language was exclusively been used in official communications when the Japanese script had not evolved completely. Also, Chinese art also influenced Japanese art which took its roots in ancient art.
The eating habits of China and Japan are very similar to each other. Both countries’ cuisines emphasize noodles and rice as the main meals. Noodles are considered a major component of the diet—and all three kinds of noodles are eaten in both countries, Soba, Ramen, and Udon.
5. Family Roots & Gender Roles
Similar to other ancient cultures, there are many traditions in both Chinese and Japanese societies that are rooted in family structure, social hierarchy, and things like that. They have actually nurtured these traditions over several centuries, and thus stick to them. Moreover, both societies are similar to other old Eastern cultures when it comes to gender roles that are highly distinct and differentiated. For inheritance, a patriarchal system had been followed in both of these societies, where the eldest male is usually the head of the family. Social order in both societies dictates respect for elderly people as well as teachers. The modesty of women was not just part of their culture but was considered an excellent moral attitude. However, restrictions on womenfolk were not as strict as there are in Middle Eastern countries.
China and Japan – Contrasts
Although both countries and their cultures share some similarities, there are also many contrasts and distinct differences that set them apart.
It is interesting to note that the majority of Chinese names are uncommunicative, for example, “Lee, Ma, Lu”, though there are a number of differences observed in the names over the years. On the contrary, most Japanese names are polysyllabic like Minato, Yuzuki, and Hayate, etc.
Along with Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are also commonly exercised as religions in China. Shinto is a largely practiced religion in Japan, just like Buddhism in China. Other than that, a majority of the Japanese population is a practitioner of Buddhism and Shintoism at the same time.
In China, it is a common practice to see people laughing or talking loudly while traveling abroad in public transport or in public places. Also, nowadays, public displays of affection are not rare in China. On the other hand, it is considered impolite to have loud conversations in public places in Japan. This is to such an extent that a majority of Japanese people mute the ringer of their smartphones while using public transport for traveling. Moreover, consumer behaviors such as showing affection towards loved ones are publicly discouraged in Japan.
4. Clothing and Attire
Like other things, there are differences between the clothing and attire of China and Japan. The “Hanfu” controlled the clothing of Chinese people during the Han period. Afterward, Manchu rule came to power and made “Qipao” the official clothing style in China. Qipao is a one-piece baggy dress with a tight skirt and a high neck.
On the other hand, the traditional Japanese clothing style consists of Kimono which is also named “Gofuku”. These are basically T-shaped fine clothes. After some modifications with time, Kimono was further stylized into a 12-layered robe which is called the “Junihitoe”.
Chinese traditional architecture laid emphasis on the use of wood as opposed to the use of stone in ancient times. Instead of height, breadth was given preference. On the other hand, in modern architecture, high-rise buildings are preferred. Japanese architecture had a Chinese influence for a long time. With the advent of Buddhism, Japanese architecture was also influenced. The Japanese made use of mats on the floor for sitting purposes and the houses began to be built a bit elevated from the ground by a few inches. Moreover, wood is mostly used for construction in Japan as it remains cool in humid weather conditions.
The Last Word
China and Japan may be two different nations, but these are two sides of the same coin. These nations share a number of similarities that make these an ideal choice for travelers and visitors. If you are a traveler, chances are you are likely to notice the differences between the two states when you visit but these differences will only serve to increase the recreational values of these two states.