Japanese culture has been greatly influenced by the Chinese culture, and yet they are almost as different from each other as any two neighboring countries can ever be. Part of these differences may lie in the self-imposed isolation of Japan till Meiji revolutions, but there are other important reasons too, that make the two societies and cultures vastly different.
Similarities between the Japanese and Chinese Cultures
To begin the comparison, there is no dearth of similarities between the two. Both are typical Asian cultures, surviving since a few millennia. Like all old cultures, many of the traditions in both societiesare woven around the family structure and social hierarchy that they have nurtured over several centuries.
Like all old Eastern cultures, the gender roles used to be highly differentiated in both societies. Both the societies followed a patriarchal system of inheritance, and the head of the family used to be the eldest male. In both societies, extended families were common, and the social order dictated request for elders and teachers. In both China and Japan, modesty of womenfolk was part of the culture, though restrictions on women were far less compared to those practiced in Middle East countries.
Both China and Japan provide a lot of emphasis on Confucian values in life. Confucianism, along with Buddhism is one of the common links that bind the two cultures. In both societies, one can observe apathy towards blatant consumerism, and a high tendency to save, as part of social and moral fabric.
There are numerous similarities in language and vocabulary used in the two countries. Kanji, the symbol characters in Japan have a lot in common to the Chinese characters, and can actually be the common link between a Chinese and a Japanese, who do not understand each other's language.
In modern times, both societies have changed in somewhat comparable manners. The majority of people in both countries have adopted the Western outfit as the usual default dress, and traditional outfits are used occasionally for celebrations and festivities. However, in spite of all the Western influence, both countries still follow their own language and script, and though Christmas is an important event, both the countries have their own set of festivals and celebrations.
Thanks to the continuous exchanges between people, both societies have commonalities in Music, arts, sculpture and architecture. Typical inclined roofs giving a pagoda like appearance are a common feature in both countries. Lastly, the popularity of martial arts among the people is a common feature in both societies, even though there may be differences in Japanese and Chinese martial arts techniques.
Dissimilarities between the Japanese and Chinese Cultures
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Unlike China, Japan also has a phonetic script, the Hiragana, which has little similarity with Chinese language. It is more like the Indo-European language group. Unlike China, Japanese people are far more religious, and follow both Buddhism and Shinto beliefs. However, modern Japanese has practically very little time to spare for religion, and his actual religious practices may be very different from his ancestors. Unlike China, loyalty and respect to the Emperor is an important part of Japanese public life. The Emperor continues to be an important influence in Japan.
Japanese culture places a lot of emphasis upon harmony in society. Thus, the level of self discipline that is expected from a Japanese person is very high. Even in conversation with each other, Japanese persons follow a very polite approach. In Japan, it would not be easy to come across quarrels in public, people yelling at each other, or other signs of social stress. In comparison, China poses the picture of a typical developing country, with level of politeness being less common.
Japanese music is very much influenced by the Western counterparts. Another important feature of Japanese culture is its folk dances and traditional festivities. All these are very different from the Chinese dance and music.
The Japanese food does not have much in common with its Japanese counterparts. While the Chinese food is spicy and involves a lot of frying and cooking, the Japanese food is far less spicy, and has very subtle flavors compared to other local foods in Asia. Honor and hard work are two important characteristics of the Japanese culture today. Compared to their Chinese counterparts, Japanese are likely to be more hard working.