Customs

The Chinese Dragon

Nowadays, not only Chinese people, but also foreigners who know about the culture of China, all of them know the Chinese dragon and regard it as the symbol of China. There are big differences between the dragons in ancient Chinese myths and the dragons in ancient European myths. Chinese dragons don’t have two wings as European dragons, and generally they can throw water, but they can’t throw fire as European dragons. So in many myths, the Chinese dragon can bring rain and flood. The European dragon was always the symbol of evil, but the Chinese dragon was the symbol of the best dream.

The Proprieties of Sitting

Before the Song Dynasty (A.D. 960-1279), Chinese people didn’t sit in chairs. They put a mat or a cushion on the ground, and sat with kneeling. Ancient Chinese people had many proprieties of sitting.

The normal sitting posture was kneel-sitting (跪坐). Not only ministers and common people, but also emperors, kings and monarchs, all sat with kneeling. If the sitting posture of someone was not kneeling-sitting, others would think that he was insolent.

The Rites of Shooting

The tribes who were led by Yan-Di (炎帝) and Huang-Di (黄帝) gave the Chinese nation a body, and the Zhou Dynasty gave the Chinese nation a soul. The founders of the Zhou Dynasty established a series of systems and rites for the whole society. Many systems and rites had military colors, because the Chinese nation was a warlike people at that time. Young noble men got educated since their childhood. The educational contents included proprieties (礼), music (乐), books (书), arithmetic (数), driving chariots (御), and archery (射). Young noble men must join battle, and they were the army’s elite.

The Torch Relay in Ancient China

In the Han Empire (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), there was a torch relay in the Nuo (傩) ritual of every 12th lunar month. The Nuo ritual was a very old religious ceremony for lustrating plagues. In the Han Empire, a torch relay was added to the ritual. In the Nuo ritual, a man acted the part of the god named Fangxiang (方相) whose duty was to drive devils away. Twelve men acted the parts of twelve divine animals in myth. They intoned the litany which described that the divine animals ate the devils. One hundred and twenty boys joined in chorus.