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Chinese Cultural Studies:
Chinese Culture Worksheet


The Brooklyn College Core 9 course looks at the "culture" rather than just the history, or art, or literature of the various world societies we cover.

So what is culture? We have adopted an anthropological definition, that the culture of a people can be understood as the system of shared ideas and meanings, explicit and implicit, which a people use to interpret the world and which serve to pattern their behavior. [Ebrey]

Historian Patricia Ebrey suggests that if we really want to understand a culture the features of a society in the table below are worth looking at (some may overlap). Although this approach is in the background of the classes, I will not be explicitly signaling each aspect as we discuss it. To help you make sense of Chinese culture[or cultures], complete the following table over the semester from the content of reading, lectures, and discussion.


Cultural Category

Aspects of Chinese Culture


What people say one ought to do or not do. What is considered good and bad. For instance, the importance of honesty, or chastity.








What political authorities have decided people should do, and what the sanctions are. For instance laws about murder and robbery.








What a society has decided its members should do, and the sanctions imposed. For instance social rules about marriage ages, childrearing.








Social Categories

Ways of thinking about people as types. For instance "kings", "friends", "Criminals", "lovers", "nobles", "clergy". Not all categories exist in all societies.














Tacit Models

Implicit standards and patterns of behavior that a person does not think about. For instance, knowing how to address police officer rather than friends. Knowing how to dress for a job interview as opposed to a dance.










Implicit, not usually articulated ideas and beliefs. For instance, a belief that hard work will be repaid, or the belief that things will get better (for a long time this was a defining aspect of American culture.)









Fundamental Categories - Categories and ways of thinking that people take for granted and may not recognized even when pointed out. For instance, thinking in dualities good/bad, male/female, beastly/godly. Classifying insects but not plants as living beings. Seeing history as circular or as straight line towards a definite goal.