Beijing Customs and Culture

It is all about Beijing! Beijing dialect, Beijing courtyard, Beijing hutong, Beijing cuisine, Beijing opera, Beijing temple fair, Beijing modern architectures… When breathing in this city, you can deeply sense the modern innovation aura with a nostalgic smell. Stories behind these ancient or modern are told by their bricks quietly. You might find it hard to locate a portal for merging into the melting pot of Beijing culture, as the culture in Beijing is so complicated and elaborate that it deserves a life time to probe into.

The first Beijing culture you may experience is the Beijing dialect. Beijing dialect is very interesting. Tourists of other places usually complain that they don’t understand what Beijing native said. Beijing Natives speak fast with a lot of colloquial expressions. Although the Beijing dialect and Standard Chinese are highly similar, various differences generally make clear to Chinese speakers whether an individual is a native of Beijing speaking the local Beijing variant or is an individual speaking Standard Chinese. Beijing dialect typically uses many words that are considered slang, and therefore occur much less or not at all in Standard Chinese. Speakers not native to Beijing may have trouble understanding many or most of these. Here is a list of colloquial expressions of Beijing, which will five you great help:

bèir — very, especially (referring to manner or attribute)
bié jie — do not (Usually used when rejecting a favor or politeness from close friends)
cuō huǒr — to be angry
diār le — to leave; to run away
èr bǎ dāo — a person with limited abilities, klutz
sa ya zi — to let go on feet, to go, leave.
sóng / niār — no backbone, spiritless
xiāo ting — to finally and thankfully become quiet and calm
zhé — way (to do something)

Narrow lanes, the old quadrangles and the daily life of ordinary Beijing citizens, these are the factors of the past Beijing, while they will still be kept permanently as a history textbook of the past Beijing. In the past, several thousand lanes, alleys and quadrangles formed residential areas for ordinary people living in the capital. Today, as the city develops into an international metropolis, its lanes and alleyways, occupying one third of the city proper, still serve as dwellings for half the toatal urban population. Beijing’s hutong and its courtyards are the only domestic habitats of their kind in the world. They are living murals of ordinary people’s lifestyles and a museum retelling the story of Beijing’s population. Many foreign tourist look forward to visiting Beijing’s lances and hope for an opportunity to experience life, history and culture first-hand in this city.

Mandarin cuisine is the local style of cooking in Beijing. Peking Roasted Duck is perhaps the best-known dish. The Manhan Quanxi (Manchu-Han Chinese full banquet) is a rare traditional banquet originally intended for the ethnic-Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty; it remains very prestigious and expensive. Teahouses are also common in Beijing. Chinese teas come in many varieties and some rather expensive types of Chinese tea are claimed to cure an ailing body extraordinarily well.

Peking opera is a traditional style of Chinese theatre performance and is regarded as the quintessence of Chinese culture, enjoying a history of more than 200 years. With its unique combination of music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics, Peking Opera is an ideal medium for interpretation and performance of traditional and historic myth and legend.

Traditional Beijing temple fair is a kind of folk activity with Beijing leisure culture. Temple fairs in Beijing originally held around the temple, and they are held regularly, so temple fairs in Beijing gradually become the city culture. In Beijing, temple fairs were held in turn every 10 days at the Earth Temple, the Flower Market, the White Pagoda Temple, the Huguo (Protect the Nation) Temple and the Longfu (Intense Happiness) Temple. There was also the annual Changdian (Factory Grounds) Fair held during the first 15 days of the first lunar month and the annual Pantaogong (Peach of Immortality Palace) Fair held from the third day of the third lunar month inside the Dongbianmen (Eastern Informal) Gate. The fairs mentioned above took place regularly for over 300 years. Most Beijing temple fairs are held in the spring festival period. The highlights of Beijing temple fair are the folk performances and various folk handicrafts. Performances such as yangko dance and lion dance can be seen everywhere. In this kind of carnival, people wear the traditional Chinese clothing and play joyfully.

During the ancient time, cloisonné was a technique for decorating metalwork objects. While in our modern age, cloisonné also can be one of the famous arts and crafts of Beijing with a history of over 500 years. The charm and unique technology require rather elaborate and complicated processes. And the body is made of copper because it is easily hammered and stretched. The technique was in ancient times mostly used for jewellery and small fittings for clothes, weapons or similar small objects decorated with geometric or schematic designs, with thick cloison walls. In the Byzantine Empire techniques using thinner wires were developed to allow more pictorial images to be produced, mostly used for religious images and jewellery, and now always using enamel. By the 14th century this enamel technique had spread to China, where it was soon used for much larger vessels such as bowls and vases; the technique remains common in China to the present day, and cloisonné enamel objects using Chinese-derived styles were produced in the West from the 18th century.