The origin of global business etiquette particularly comes from Chinese etiquette, which is just some changes in the basic etiquette forms. China is a country of etiquette that has been passed down for thousands of years, and the sound teaching is spread overseas. 

According to legend, during the Yin and Zhou dynasties more than 3,000 years ago, Zhou Gong made rituals and music, and proposed the program of the rule of ritual. Afterwards, through the advocacy and improvement of Confucius and the Seventy, as well as Mencius, Xunzi and others, the civilization of ritual and music became the core of Confucian culture. 

After the Western Han Dynasty, as the theoretical form of ritual and music culture and the source of ancient etiquette, “Rituals”, “Zhouli”, and “Book of Rites” were successively included in the academic officials, not only became the must-read classics of ancient scholars, but also became the classics of ancient dynasties. It goes without saying that the basis of making rituals has had a profound impact on Chinese culture and history. 

With the formation of the Confucian cultural circle in East Asia, the culture of ritual and music has naturally become an important feature of Eastern civilization. Undoubtedly, to understand Chinese traditional culture, one must understand Chinese etiquette culture. The development of etiquette culture has its historical origin. It can be traced back to the distant past. It should be said that when the history of the Chinese nation opened the first page, etiquette was born along with human activities and primitive religion. 

The etiquette system was formulated to deal with the three major relationships between man and god, man and ghost, and man and man. After humans turned their fear and awe of gods and natural forces to humans themselves, with the development of human social life, people’s activities of expressing awe and offering sacrifices have become more and more numerous, gradually forming various fixed patterns and finally formed into etiquette norms.

It can be seen that from the perspective of the emergence and development of etiquette is the need for the development of human social life, and is an inevitable requirement and inevitable reflection of human social relations. This point can also be further proved by the formation and changes of etiquette norms in the process of Chinese historical development. 

According to archaeological data, in the 5,000-year-old Hongshan cultural site discovered in Kazuo, Liaoning, there are large altars, temples, stone tombs, etc., which are places for large-scale sacrificial activities, pottery figurines of women, possibly goddesses of fertility worshiped by the ancestors. The images of human faces and worm bodies on the painted pottery of the earlier Yangshao Culture, and the heads of the dead lying facing west in the tombs also reveal some information about the etiquette system in ancient times. 

In ancient literature, there is a saying that “since Fuxi, the five rites have been manifested; in the time of Yao and Shun, the five rites have been prepared”. In fact, the evolution and development of the etiquette system has gone through a long and tortuous course, and the truly complete and systematic one is the etiquette system of the Western Zhou Dynasty. The etiquette system before the Zhou Dynasty, due to lack of materials and insufficient literature, has been difficult to examine in detail. 

The monograph “Three Rituals” – “Zhou Li”, “Yi Li” and “Book of Rites”, compiled by Confucian scholars, records and preserves many etiquettes of the Zhou Dynasty. For more than 2,000 years after the Han Dynasty, they have been the classic works of the country’s etiquette system, so they are called “Book of Rites”. Now, to study and explore the ritual system mainly applicable to nobles in ancient times, “Three Rituals” is still the most important book. Although the evaluation of their ideological tendencies is different, and many of their expositions are only based on the ideals of later Confucianism, they still have certain reference value and influence in cultural history. The so-called etiquette in ancient times included a wide range of content and forms, such as the political system, imperial codes, sacrifices to ghosts and gods, prayers for floods and droughts, imperial examinations in schools, military campaigns, division of administrative regions, construction of houses and mausoleums, and even food, clothing, transportation, weddings and funerals. Marriage, speech and behavior are all related to etiquette. It is almost a huge concept that includes all laws and regulations of the country’s politics, economy, military, and culture, as well as personal ethics and morals, and codes of conduct. It was not until modern times that the scope of etiquette was gradually narrowed, and now it generally only means etiquette and ceremony. 

Chinese etiquette culture has a profound influence on people with its peaceful and upright features. However, the culture of any nation cannot be consistent throughout the ages, but can only change with the times, discarding its dross and taking its essence. The factors of excellent culture are often timeless, survive in the long river of history for a long time, and continue to affect the spirit and appearance of the nation. For example, around the sixth century BC was the axis age of ancient civilizations in the world, and philosophers such as Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Sun Tzu appeared, as well as Socrates, Plato, Sakyamuni, and other classics. For more than two thousand years, they have always accompanied the process of history, and people can feel their presence almost everywhere. In today’s highly developed science and technology, people often have to go back to that era to find wisdom. People should also view the culture of ritual and music advocated by Confucius schools in the same way. Since modern times, due to the decline of the country and the invasion of foreign powers, the people of the country are agitated by time changes, and they blame the traditional culture for their backwardness and beatings. This has some truth, but it is not entirely true. 

Just imagine, a well-educated scholar was beaten by a robber. People can blame him for not being brave, but they can’t blame him for not being well-educated. If the scholar throws away his books and only practices martial arts, and becomes an uneducated “strong man”, that would be a real tragedy. Human society will eventually enter a civilized era where everyone respects each other. Therefore, people should not only practice martial arts to strengthen their bodies, but also carry forward the existing culture, and the ritual and music culture will eventually have its new use. 

Chinese etiquette culture not only has a great effect on the Chinese nation, but also has a profound impact on the world. For example, a lot of traditional Chinese etiquette culture has been preserved in South Korea and Japan, and it continues to play an active role in social life, but what is shameful is that in people’s homeland, its loss rate is very alarming. In people’s interpersonal communication, people who know how to use polite language and manners to show respect have become increasingly rare. Weddings, birthdays and other celebrations, which are the most common and solemn among the people, are increasingly losing their national characteristics and are being rapidly globalised by labels seen on TV; while Christmas and Valentine’s Day are increasingly becoming important festivals for Chinese young people. 

Once the etiquette and festivals that are the symbols of national culture are fully westernized, it shows that the standard culture has been abandoned by the people, and its demise will not be too far away. The descendants of Yan and Huang, and people of insight, should know how to worry. The etiquette culture created by China’s thousands of years of civilization could have become the strength of the tourism economy. However, many industry members can’t even say the ten-character polite language of specific “I’m sorry, thank you, it’s okay, please”, let alone others. 

Although hotels are becoming more and more gorgeous at present, the service quality has always been the weakness of the development of tourism, which was lamentable. In addition, in recent years, the number of Chinese people traveling abroad has been increasing day by day, despite even COVID19 effects, but there are many who behave vulgarly and lack etiquette education.

The criticism of overseas public opinion is often reported, which greatly damages the national image of this “country of ancient civilization” and “state of etiquette”. In order to change this situation, in recent years, the government has taken “honesty and integrity” as an important content of the 20-character “civic morality”, and how to rebuild etiquette norms that meet the requirements of the times has been put on the agenda. Chinese traditional etiquette civilization is a valuable ideological resource, which can provide important reference for people. 

The 21st century is the century of culture, and a certain competition between countries and nations, even between nationalities will be taken place more and more in the field of culture. Culture is the basic characteristic of a nation. If culture survives, the nation will survive; if culture dies, the nation will perish. Throughout the ages, there are not many nationalities that were truly extinct due to genocide, on the contrary they got to rebirth thriving round the globe afterwards, but there are too many nationalities that have perished due to the disappearance of their inherent culture. 

China is probably the only civilization among the four ancient civilizations in the world that has not experienced total cultural interruption. In the coming century, one of the basic prerequisites for whether the Chinese civilization can stand on its own among the nations of the world is whether it can establish a strong standard culture on the basis of absorbing advanced foreign cultures. This is undoubtedly a major event of strategic significance.  

Ritual and music culture is the core of traditional Chinese culture, and whether its essence can be carried forward is crucial to the rise and fall of standard culture. The important content of how to rebuild the etiquette norms that meet the requirements of the times has been put on the agenda. Chinese traditional etiquette civilization is a valuable ideological resource, which can provide important reference for people. The 21st century is the century of culture, and the competition between countries and nations and between nations will be carried out more and more in the field of culture. 

For more information regarding the school and tratitions of Chinese business etiquette please do not hesitate to contact us for lectures, workshops or training arrangement for your personell working with China.



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