Religions & Social Customs

The kites made in Weifang, Shandong Province, are famous throughout the world.


Wedding on a boat.


A Beijing snack, chatang (gruel of millet flour and sugar).

Social Customs

During the long course of historical development, China’s different peoples have developed individual customs regarding food, clothing and housing, in response to their own particular environments, social conditions and level of economic development. Generally, the Han people take rice and noodles as their staple diet (people in the south prefer rice while those in the north prefer noodles), love to eat vegetables, beans, meat, fish and eggs, and pay particular attention to cooking techniques. Mongolians often eat beef and mutton, and drink tea with milk. Tibetans take tsampa (roasted highland barley flour) as their staple food, and drink buttered tea, and highland barley wine, but Tibetan herdsmen mainly eat beef and mutton. The Uygurs, Kazaks, and Ozbeks enjoy roast mutton kebabs, unleavened bread and rice. Koreans like sticky rice cakes, cold noodles and kimchi (hot pickled vegetables). The Li, Jing, Dai, Blang and Hani all chew betel nuts.

The typical costume of Manchu women used to be the qipao (a close-fitting dress with high neck and slit skirt). Mongolians wear their traditional robes and riding boots. Tibetans love to wear Tibetan robes, waistbands and boots. Koreans are known for their boat-shaped shoes. Uygurs wear diamond-shaped embroidered skullcaps. Yi, Miao and Yao women wear pleated skirts, and are often bedecked with gold or silver ornaments.

Courtyard-type dwellings were traditionally the rule in Han areas. Most minority herdsmen living in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Qinghai and Gansu live in yurts. The Dais, Zhuangs and Bouyeis in southern China often live in ganlan (multiple-storied houses raised on stilts).

In China, birthdays are not commonly celebrated, although city dwellers do so more frequently than their country cousins, and children and old people more than young and middle-aged people. No special ceremony is occasioned by a birthday. Many people like to eat “longevity noodles,” symbols of long life inspired by the noodle’s shape. Nowadays, many city dwellers choose to eat Western-style birthday cakes instead of noodles. According to the Marriage Law, a man may legally marry at age 22 and a woman at 20, by acquiring a marriage license issued by a marriage registration office. Thus, a wedding ceremony is not a necessary legal procedure for marriage registration, but only a way for relatives and friends to congratulate the bride and groom. The newlyweds will offer “wedding candies” to their colleagues and friends. In return, their colleagues and friends will present the newlyweds with gifts.

Funeral ceremonies in China are very simple. Usually, a memorial meeting is held to pay last respects to the deceased and allow the living to express their grief. Cremation is  the rule in cities, and interment in rural areas. White is the traditional color of mourning, but city people nowadays usually wear black gauze armbands to show their bereavement.

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Last updated: 2000-07-13.