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Chinese Culture >> Understanding Chinese Culture

Understanding the Mystic Chinese Culture

by: Tianliang Zhang

When I was a child, I read a story which told of a man sold ancient paintings. One of the paintings he was selling was of a shepherd boy trying to pull a buffalo across a bridge. Facing the buffalo and leaning his body backward to pull the buffalo, the shepherd boy's strength was vividly depicted.

A passerby appreciated this painting very much, but he did not have enough money with him at the time, so he went home to get the money.

Taking a closer look at it, the vendor found that the painting lacked the rope that the boy needed to pull the buffalo. He regarded it as a defect and picked up a brush pen to paint a rope on the painting.

As soon as the customer came back, he noticed the rope added by the vendor and did not want to buy the painting anymore. He said, "The reason I wanted to buy this painting was that I could feel the existence of the rope without it having been painted on the painting."

It dawned on me that the Chinese have a unique way of thinking. The structure of Chinese language and thought do not follow Western logic. Instead, one simply describes several points. As to how to connect the points to form the curve, that is the reader's business.

Tao Te Ching, the foundation of the Taoism, consists of merely 5000 Chinese characters and 81 chapters in which each chapter only talks about one point. Superficially, it seems as though there is no connection among the points. Readers are thus required to construct continuity through their own enlightenment. The same can also be said for Confucius' Analects.

With regard to these examples, one can see a similar concept in traditional Chinese paintings, in which some spaces are left blank purposely so as to allow viewers to construct a complete picture through their own imagination and enlightenment.

Similarly, traditional Chinese dance lacks the precisely choreographed movements common to some other forms of dance, yet requires something different--something difficult to put into words. The movements perhaps leave more room for the imagination, while on the other hand, the performer's state of mind is revealed through the demeanor shown on on their face and reflected by their body movements.

This holiday season, the NTDTV "Holiday Wonders Show" brings a unique opportunity to experience the magic of traditional Chinese culture. The magnificence of the backdrops, the abundant imagination, the marvelous music, the splendor of the costumes, and the actors' great skill--altogether make for outstanding entertainment reflecting China's 5,000 years of civilization and traditional culture - a culture full of myths and legends.

For me, the impact of the show did not merely penetrate my senses, but went much further, resonating deep in my soul. Somehow the show seems to revive our intrinsic human nature--something difficult to describe in words.

About the Author:

Tianliang Zhang is a writer on China and Chinese culture. For more about the NTDTV "Holiday Wonders Show" and "Chinese New Year Spectacular" in your area, visit