I think if
we are to feel at home in the world ... we shall have to
admit Asia to equality in our thoughts, not only politically
but culturally. What changes this will bring about I do not
know, but I am convinced that they will be profound and of
the greatest importance.
Russell, History of Western Philosophy, 1946
than half a century ago, the foresight and philosophy of
Bertrand Russell were indeed remarkable. It was written at a
time when European supremacy worldwide was unchallenged and
Asians were colonised or poorly understood.
True to the
common Chinese saying “Feng Shui rotates, fortunes go up and
[fengshui lunliu zhuan] (refer to chapter five), the
relative political, economic, social and cultural
equilibrium have certainly shifted.
later, the transformation of the East Asian nations is
beyond recognition. Countries in South East Asia have gained
independence and emerged to various degrees as successful
nations. China has emerged from the shackles of Western and
Japanese domination, demonstrating vividly how “communism”
could coexist, or perhaps supplement “market liberalism”, to
lead the world as an economic powerhouse of this millennium.
As we begin
our new millennium the political and demographic landscapes
have been transformed in a most interesting manner. Post war
migration from Asian countries to the United States, United
Kingdom, Europe, Australia and European nations have created
a ethnic diversity. In this new political climate racial
tolerance and understanding need to be taken into account.
The collective intelligence, strength and resilience of
people from all over the world
building, a source of pride for these nations. Indeed the
vigour of successful nations in the new millennium depends
to a large extent on their abilities to attract and retain
“quality” people from various backgrounds.
impressive proportion of first or second generation
migrants, the stage is set to tap into this pool of human
and intellectual resources for trade, political or cultural
opportunities. This is particularly so when countries such
as China and India develop into massive markets, as their
economies take off.
To tap these
opportunities the need to understand cultural peculiarities
becomes increasingly acute. In addition to trade, an
appreciation of cultural sensitivities promotes harmonious
community relations, meaningful dialogues, and facilitates
conflict resolution. This forms the platform for equitable
treatment for all and efficiency in the workplace.
countries the Asian community is increasing in numbers,
complexity and influence. To various degrees they share
their hopes and aspirations with the broader community,
intertwined with other citizens or residents in the
workplace, churches or community associations, and adapt
themselves to their adopted homelands.
Asians the Chinese are perhaps one of the largest
communities. Their background and compositions are complex;
they are possibly least understood amongst all ethnic
This book is
dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Chinese
throughout the World, ethnic Chinese citizens or residence
who would like to know more about their own heritage. The
book serves as a source of information to those, through no
fault of their own, were deprived of an environment to know
or learn their own language or practice their own culture.
To those who
seek to find out what their surname or name means, or where
their dialects come from, we seek to deliver the basic
would like to know in simple English terms, common habits,
customs, culture, historical perspectives, Chinese zodiac
interpretations, philosophy and outlook will find this a
Last but not
least the book seeks to serve as a guide for the wider
community to understand the ethnic Chinese, either as
neighbours, colleagues, church members, team members,
simply as friends. It is also useful for anyone involved in
retail business, import or export trade, diplomatic
missions, government agencies or departments, as long as
ethnic Chinese are involved.
title of the book The Chinese dimensions: Their Roots,
Mindset, Psyche is self explanatory. The book seeks to
provide a basic understanding of the concepts, often poorly
understood in the West. The book
bilingual approach, where the relevant texts are printed in
Chinese, with the standard pinyin pronunciation given
wherever possible, followed by translation in English.
One, “The ethnic Chinese identity”, we take a general look
into the situation pertaining to the ethnic Chinese
community, their countries of origin, as well as touch on
issues such as ethnic identity, name, religion, cultural
heritage, in an attempt to profile a typical ethnic Chinese.
“Cultural roots – Chinese names” deals with the issue of
Chinese naming system. It explains how Chinese names are
structured, as well as a list of common surnames in various
dialects and spellings. Some of the common names for men and
women are also listed, together with their meanings.
“Cultural roots – the Chinese language” looks at the Chinese
language, its origin, development, structure, as well as
salient features that make it different from any other
language in the world. It looks at connections to the “word
radical”, and various calligraphic styles. The Chinese
pronunciation system, in particular [pinyin] is then
reviewed, together with the system of intonation. Issues
such as association of words with sounds or meanings, as
well as how the language copes with the digital era are also
discussed. The pronunciation chart of all possible word
sounds in Chinese is provided, with an example of each
“Cultural roots – Land of origin”, deals with commonly
spoken Chinese dialects, their distribution and origins. It
also looks at the provinces and regions of origin in China
where most ethnic Chinese migrated from. Various dialects
spoken in Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan and Guangxi are looked
into. To help people locate their region of origin, complete
lists of administrative municipalities, cities and counties
of these provinces are made.
“Source of culture and mindset - History at play”, gives a
brief introduction to five thousand years of Chinese
history. It goes through the various dynasties, and provides
a list of key personalities (political, cultural, military,
etc) over the centuries. The chapter also includes a listing
of two hundred notable personalities in Chinese history,
ranging from emperors to folk heroes. It ends with a brief
outline of China’s decline, the advent of European
domination in the East, important landmarks in recent
history, as well as current development.
“The Chinese mindset, collective wisdom from centuries of
publications”, deals with thoughts and ideas behind the
Chinese psyche, as reflected in Chinese literature. It
begins with a list of 365 proverbs or sayings, one for each
day of the week. These proverbs reflect cultural values and
judgment criteria. It then looks into Chinese literature, in
particular quotations or ancient texts pertaining to
education, government, military, philosophy, Confucius
studies, as well as some of the best known publications over
the centuries. The chapter ends with a brief look at poetry,
including [duilian], the “coupled poems”.
“Some cultural practice”, deals with some aspects of Chinese
culture. The first part looks at Taoism and Confucianism,
with quotations from “Dao De Jing” as well as various
Confucius texts such as ‘the Analects”, “Great Studies” and
“Doctrine of the Mean”. The second part looks into cultural
norms such as family terminology, formal salutations and
titles, basic social terminology and practices. The chapter
also touches on taboos, family values and the position of
women. It ends with words of congratulations commonly used
by the Chinese.
“In search of Chinese psyche - revisiting ancient
paradigms”, looks at the basic concepts behind Chinese
culture, Yin-yang and five determinant elements. These
entities are described in simple terms, together with
examples in terms of human personalities. The concepts of
Celestial stems and Terrestrial branches, unique to Chinese
computations and critical to zodiac and other analysis, are
dealt with in some detail.
“The pillars of destiny: an application of the paradigms”,
looks at the Chinese calendar, its zodiac systems. It
explains the function of the four pillars of year, month,
day and hour individually. A description of each of the
Chinese zodiac signs is given, together with modifications
from the five determinants. The chapter touches on
compatibility, clashes, as well as interaction between
Celestial stems and Terrestrial branches. It ends with a
look at the “pillar of destiny”, its basic concepts and
“Living in a continuously changing world” looks at Yijing
(I-Ching). It gives an introduction to the trilogy and
formation of the trigrams. A short description of the eight
basic trigrams, linking some of the variables is then given.
The chapter looks at a few hexagrams in some detail; it then
lists the sixty four hexagrams. The chapter ends with a
quick look at “divination”, as examples of the applications
of this fascinating topic.
We adopt the
theme “Crossing the Oceans … taking roots upon landing”
It is a translation of two Chinese sayings; it depicts
crossing the vast ocean to settle in a new land. In the
process however, there is always a need to redefine one’s
identity, cultural heritage, as well as taking part in the
overall Nation Building, based both on professional skills
and cultural heritage.