Making Sense of the Geographical Divisions in China | 进一步的去了解中国的地域划分

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Before coming to China I, like most of my friends and relatives back in the U.S., assumed that China was one, huge, homogenous chunk of land – where everyone spoke “Chinese,” looked “Chinese,” and shared a common culture and history.

After living on-and-off in China since 2007 and traveling throughout much of the country, I can resolutely say that notion is false. Just like in the United States, each geographic region of China (province in China’s case) is distinct with its own cuisine, culture, and in many cases, dialect. Although an overwhelming majority of the people, close to 92 percent according to government statistics, are Han Chinese, there are 55 other ethnic minorities in China. Some, like the Uighurs in China’s extreme northwest, look nothing like the image of the “typical” Chinese person that was burned into my mind before coming.

Now, having just traveled to Shenzhen in China’s southern Guangdong Province, I’ve become aware of another division that shares a parallel with the U.S. – the distinction between northern China and southern China.

In my experience, if you ask a Chinese northerner (north of the Yangtze river) the difference between northern China and southern China, they’ll tell you that southerners are more interested in earning money and less interested in politics.  They eat rice instead of noodles and steamed buns, don’t dine on jiaozi (dumplings) during the spring festival, and are generally darker-skinned.

Of course, if you ask a Southerner about a Northerner, they’re likely to say that they’re taller, stronger, and eat heartier food, but are a tad less “cultured.”

In Guangdong province, the heart of China’s Cantonese culture, I experienced southern culture at its apex. In Beijing and Manchuria (dong bei), I experienced northern culture at its apex.

Just like in the U.S., each region has a rich heritage and culture. In southern states in the U.S., you’re likely to hear voices flavored by a Dixie accent, and will probably see a confederate flag or two, a remnant of an era that came and went.

In China, I’ve found that the stereotypes of north and south are, by-and-large, spot on. Like the culture as a whole, southern cuisine is carefully prepared, subtly spiced, and neatly served. In the north, food is blasted with flavor and sauce, and served on huge, heaping platters.

It’s tough to say which culture I like better, but because I’ve spent most of my time in China in Beijing, I’ve become more familiar and comfortable around the northern culture. Still, the allure of the warm, subtle south is alluring.

What’s most important is for an outsider to understand that China, like the U.S., is far from a homogenous country. The geographic divisions, north-south especially, play an important role.

 


 

在还没来中国之前,我和我的朋友都认为中国就是块很大并且非常相似的一块土地-而且所有人说的都是同一种语言,样子也相同,而且文化和历史都一样。

直到从2007年开始,我在中国生活过并且去过了许多地方,我可以很准确的说我们原来的判断是错误的。中国就像美国,每一个地理区域(中国叫做省)都有自己的文化习俗,美食,甚至属于自己的语言。根据政府统计,百分之九十二的人都是汉人,尽管这样,中国还是拥有多达五十五个少数名族。比如维吾尔族,他们民族的人跟我想象中的中国人完全不一样。

前不久我刚去了深圳,在中国南方的广东省,从那里,我意识到了跟美国很相似的一点-中国北方和中国南方。

根据我的经验,如果你问一个在北方生活的人;北方与南方的区别,他会告诉你南方人更喜欢赚钱而不是很重视政治。他们吃米饭要多过吃面食,过年的时候不吃饺子,而且皮肤比较黑。

如果你问一个南方人关于北方,他很可能告诉你北方人个子较高,力大,吃的丰盛,不过相对来说没有很浓的“文化。”

在广东省,我经历了最浓厚的南方文化,在北京还有东北,我经历了最浓厚的北方文化。

就像美国一样,每一个局域都含有自己独特的文化与习俗。在南美洲,你会听到迪克西口音, 而且你还会看到人们挂着盟旗,用来纪念一段历史。

那些针对于北方或者南方的说法还真不是瞎扯的。南方的食物是精心准备的,而且口味比较清淡。而北方的食物,是在各种酱料下做成的,味道较浓。

南北如果要我选的话,我很难可以选一个我更喜欢的,不过因为大部分时间我还是在北京度过的,所以北方对我来说比较亲切。不过这不代表我不喜欢南方,那边温暖的天气与友好的人们也很让我留恋。

对于一个外来者,最重要的还是得让他们了解中国,就像美国一样,完全不是一个同质的国家。地域划分,尤其是北方与南方是很重要的。

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Some of us were talking about the problem of littering in office today. For me, who grew up in Shanghai, studied in Singapore and finished college in Cedar Falls, Shanghai has the most serious littering problem. However, as I have always seen America as a homogenous entity, I failed to realize the difference people came from different places would have. From what was described to me, cities like New York has a much worst littering problem than Shanghai.

This did make me start to think about the difference people show in my four years in the States. Americans do not have dialects like we do in China, but some of them do have a very distinguishable accent. Another thing I noticed was Americans usually have a very strong stereotype for each state whereas in China, most of the people are grouped into North and South.

The reason for the difference in my opinion is that more people want to travel and move into bigger cities in China which created a bigger flow of population. I think there are enough opportunities here in the States so people can do well without depending too much on their location. But it is very different in China, most people believe in going to a bigger city would bring them more income and ultimately lead to a good life. While this idea is true in many cases, I feel there are many opportunities missed in smaller communities.

Most of my American friends could not understand the difference between a dialect and a language and are usually surprised to learn that people from the north can sometimes do not understand a single word someone from the south is speaking even though they can both write in the same language. I personally believe this is a very important aspect of Chinese culture and should definitely be preserved and this can be a good indicator of geological identity.

 


 

今天我们几人在办公室里谈到乱扔垃圾的问题,对我这个在上海长大,新加坡读书,美国完成大学的人来说,上海在这三个城市中乱扔垃圾的问题最严重。但是,我一直把美国看成是一个整体,我没有考虑到来自于美国不同地方的人们会有不用的习性这个问题。按我听到的理解,纽约的垃圾问题要远远比上海严重。

这让我开始回想四年来在美国观察到的来自于不同地域的人在待人处事上的不同之处来。他们不像中国大部分城市那样有着自己的方言,但不少地方会有自己独特的口音,我还注意到美国人之间几乎对其他的周都一个比较传神的印象而不想中国的大部分人那样分成南方和北方。、

我认为造成这个区别的主要原因是不少中国人都希望搬去大城市工作生活,所以人口构成会比较复杂。在美国有足够多的让人们可以不用过度依靠周围环境而过上小康生活的机会,但在中国大部分人都相信进入大城市可以带来更多的收入和为以后提供更好的生活。虽然这个想法依当前的国情来说没错,但我还是认为一些小城市里的机会被人们遗忘了。

我的许多美国朋友都搞不懂方言和另一种语言的区别,他们往往在听说中国北方长大的孩子可能会遇见一个说南方方言的人而一个字都听不懂,但双方却能写一样的字的时候表示大吃一惊。我个人认为这是中国文化中很重要的一个组成部分,方言可以成为一个非常直观的地域标识所以具有很高的保留意义。

language: 
Chinese