Looking for Chinese or Koreans So I Can Learn About Your Cultures


#1

Hello! I’m currently planning to write a political thriller sometime in the near future, and it will include several Mainland Chinese and (both North- and South-) Korean characters. As I am neither Chinese or Korean, I would like to learn about their respective cultures from people who live/have lived there so that I may be able to avoid stereotypes in this story.

So if you can help in any way, I thank you in advance and I look forward to learning from you! :smile:


#2

Hey, I think I can help you with Chinese culture. I’m of Chinese descent, although I was born in an English speaking country. I’m very fond of the culture and the deep history, so if you have any question, feel free to ask me. (I can write and read too.) :slight_smile:


#3

That’s great! I am really interested in 20th- and 21st-Century Chinese history, but I’m not really knowledgeable about more everyday aspects of culture and traditions, particularly under communist rule as the Communist Party has gone to great lengths to try and influence it. So I guess my main questions would be about things like values, traditions, daily life, etc.

Again, thank you for any help you can give! I really appreciate it! :blush:


#4

Is the story taking place today? Or in the past? Korea had many political & social changes in the 20th & 21st century so it’s important to know when the story takes place.


#5

It takes place today, or within the very near future


#6

Hey, sorry for late reply, I went to sleep.

Regarding your question, I would say that it’s rather biased. China is large and so saying that communism is trying to influence the lives of normal citizens is entirely incorrect. Every citizens live normally just as they would in other countries, politics is politics, they do not stop the values and traditions of the norm. Medias, especially in US, tends to make wrong allegations and portrayal of how China governs. China is no where near North Korea in term of its communism. There are cases where the government gets crazy and literally made a group of people disappeared because they bad mouthed Communism. But, I think that they would only influence you if you are high in fame. (and cause them damages.)

Values, traditions and daily lives in China depends on who you are looking at.There’s wide variety of status, ages, classes and their values differ widely. There’s also a lot of different cultures within China itself. (East, North, West, South, Mainland etc.)

So, what age group and social status are you focusing on? So, I can break it down to something a little more specific. Also, if you want to write about the dark side of the government (since admittedly there is a dark side), then I can focus on that. But, beware what you say about the government, it wouldn’t be something I would touch on, especially that there are cases of people going missing because they bad talk about communism :confused:


#7

Would it be better to say that Communism tried to influence traditions in the past tense?

I’m gonna be here too, trying to write a story set in probably Beijing. Do you have or know any good ways of making up Chinese names? Most of the time I just try to mix the surname and given name of two obscure-as-possible historical figures or something


#8

I don’t think communism tried to influence people’s traditions as Chinese people still keep their etiquette even until today. The people in the government likely still hold those traditions as well.

But, if you are talking about value, then yes, they are trying to influence the citizens to believe/value communism.

In anyways, I hate talking about politics. :sweat_smile: So, I’m just going to move to the naming. For naming, there’s plenty of sites that offer you countless names with definition.

Like this website:

http://www.20000-names.com/female_chinese_names_02.htm
(Keep in mind, the site gives you name without last name.)

Anyways, there’s actually not many last names in China, just like it is for Korea, I think. Eg. Li, Wang, Zhang, Liu, Yang, Han, Wu, Xu etc.

Normally Chinese names consist of 1-2 syllables/characters + last name would be 2-3 characters.

Eg.
Ju Jingyi
Ju | Jing | Yi
鞠 | 婧 | 祎

Liu Yifei
Liu | Yi | Fei
刘 | 亦 | 菲

Etc.

You always start with last name. I think the best way to come up with names is to combine the characters you like together. (The characters that have good meaning and looks pretty etc.) Then you see the pinyin of the word for the character pronounciation and there, you get your names. :slight_smile:


#10

First off I just want to apologize for any bias I may have had coming into this: it’s what I’m hoping to eliminate through this thread. Also, I mean no offense in anything I’ve said.

Also sorry for the late reply.

Anyway, the purpose of the book would be to observe aspects such as corruption and hidden agendas in the militaries and governments of both China and the US, with the protagonists being a group of politicians and officers from both sides who are able to come together and prevent a war from breaking out between the two countries after a crisis leads to an armed standoff between them. So most of the characters (on both sides) would be either politicians or members of the military. In terms of culture the characters on the Chinese side would be mostly Mainland/Han Chinese, mostly from the north (Either around Beijing or Qingdao).

One of the main characters is a Navy Admiral who lived through the Cultural Revolution as a child, and is now part of the Jiang Zemin faction of the CCP currently being purged by Xi Jinping. The other is his young aide, who is completely apolitical but joined the military in order to escape poverty. The two determine that the state of standoff between them and the US is inherently unstable and attempt to secretly negotiate a peace with the American Secretary of State (whose own government is being pushed by corrupt politicians and the Military Industrial Complex towards escalating tensions). Since the Admiral realises his days are numbered anyway, he decides to go ahead with the plan as a way to serve his country one last time before he is purged. His aide joins him out of loyalty as he was the one to help her keep from being stuck living on the streets, and he has become a mentor/father figure to her, causing her to feel that she owes him a personal debt.

There are a few more characters in the Chinese portion of the plot, but they are mostly side-characters rather than main protagonists.

So my questions would be whether their motivations are realistic, and what kinds of values and traditional/day-to-day practices would apply to people in these kinds of positions in modern-day Mainland China?

Again, any bias is completely unintentional and I only seek to learn about the culture so I can remove that kind of bias


#11

If your book touches military stuff, be aware that Korea has mandatory military enlistment for all males 18-35.


#12

So you create the names from characters? There’s not a set list of names like in English?


#13

There could be some kind of backstory dating back to the early days of Communist rule, or the Cultural Revolution, involving their families.


#14

No problem :smile:

If you were to go by realism, the conflicts between the two country is likely to never ceased. Considering that just like a day ago, Huawei CFO was taken captive by the US government.

Anyways, although I am technically Chinese, my information on the military is super scarce. China is honestly pretty secretive with their military and insides government. So, I can’t say how corrupt it is in the millitary itself, but, I can say that the two’s motivations are realistic.

Also, returning favour to a benefactor, or a savour is super important in China. They will do everything in anyway to pay off debt. And, if someone saved another, they are bonded forever. The person that is in debt will be loyal to the savour for life. So, the aide returning debt/loyalty to admiral is very realistic.

The values, tradition and day-to-day aspects would depend on the person actually. I would say that one of the biggest culture or values in China would be family. So, if they were isolated to live in the millitary, they would experience homesickness, or missing their family very much. (Which I don’t suppose this is that relevant to your story.)

This is all I can think of at the moment. If any other idea struck me, I’ll write them up.


#15

Yes, you create any name for your characters. Chinese names held wide diversity, there’s no set of names. Though, there’s set of last names.


#16

Again, sorry for the late reply, but thank you very much for all the help you’ve given so far!

As for the military and political aspects themselves, I’m looking at getting some books on the subject from Chinese and western analysts in order to try and get a better picture of things like the levels of corruption, different institutional organisation, etc. That will definitely be of use.

The dynamic of homesickness sounds like it would be very interesting to play around with. Thank you for teaching me about that!

Sorry to barrage you with more questions, but I have a few more that just came to mind.

Is politeness very important? And if so, what kinds of things are considered polite/impolite which would not be in Western cultures?

Also, what is the cuisine like in the areas I described? I know the characters would be in the military and thus not get to eat much outside food, but there’s gotta be at least a few times they’d eat something other than packs of rations. And I realise that North American Chinese takeout is by no means a true representation of the various dishes in Chinese culture (as someone with Italian grandparents myself, I can safely say that what passes for “Italian food” here in North America is nowhere near authentic, so I’m assuming it’s very similar for other immigrant cultures too), so what kinds of dishes would actually be served? And aside from regional delicacies, are there any common foods that are eaten across the country?

Finally, are there any serious taboos in Chinese culture (outside of politics)? And what kind of response is there when such taboos are violated?

Thank you so much again for all your help! :blush:


#17

you CANNOT learn culture

the majority of things that people are telling you here is inaccurate,esp since they themselves do not live in their ethic hometown.

you can learn simple things like how names are made and the proper way to say them because they are different from english names, but cultures cannot be learnt unless you will spend some time talking to natives or live in that place for abit.

for example, china is developing some very weird slangs and memes that have become part of their culture.
any chinese that has never been to china will not understand these. for example, calling a girl big sister, is actually fine when talking to chinese people everywhere except china because somehow recently, big sister has become associated with being a whore.

so if you go to like, a chinese restaurant in US and say da jie, it is okay. but you go to china and call them da jie, they will beat you up!

another weird thing that has changed in china is “sister”. mei zi has somehow become how you address your girlfriend/wife in china but no where else. in many translated novels, you see people scolding “your sister!” but it actually means your wife/girlfriend.

and these translators do not care about being accurate because they are often western people who are learning chinese, or chinese who are living aboard like aus,ABC…ect and thinks that they know everything because they are “chinese” yet they know nothing!

also the dos and don’ts are often very state specific. for example what you can do in beijing, might not be okay in hong kong or shang hai.

not to mention that things like 333zhang and stuff just makes no sense unless you grew up with it. many westerners cannot understand how sun wukong staff can become bigger than the diameter of the earth or how he is able to jump around the earth in a single leap.

even the majority of things about koreans that you see on tv is false and 100% fiction.

one thing that i am very fustrated with is also how westerners keep on telling chinese people to stop the racism against japan for ww2.

ww2 isnt even that long ago and there are still alot of old people who are still alive in china that remembers and might have experienced everything that happened!

people needs to realize that most of the children of ww2 are the parents/grandparents of children today. and when your parents tell you that their parents disappeared/raped/killed/tortured during ww, you wouldn’t like them too.

not to mention that they are constantly reminded by the government about the atrocities that happened during ww2!

if we put up a loud speaker at pearl habour and reminded them every morning that they were bombed, they too would hate the japanese today!

however nobody here understand this and all they can do is scold the chinese people for being racist when its not racism, but hatred and dislike for things that they did to them!


#18

regarding names, our surname/last names are …complex
the majority of surnames are the names of villages and they used it to identify what village you come from.

the emperor would also often bestow names upon families and they would take up that name as their surname.
surnames that consists of two or more characters are usually their original surname+a name bestowed by the emperor.

names also often carry some meaning or the hopes of their families.

but tbh unless you want their names to hint at the character’s fate, you shouldn’t place too much though on it.

anyway if you are really intending to write a book in a place that you know next to nothing about, i would just suggest you to write about it in the more westernized countries because the people there would be influenced by western media and it would be easier to check how people live there

i think one very interesting place is tokyo. because there are so many different kinds of people living there that you really cannot make a very general description of culture there

while korea is kinda like china, where the lives of people living in seoul is very different from people living in other cities


#19

I realise I cannot learn everything about any given culture, but I would like to at least know enough that I could represent characters from that culture without being stereotypical or offensive. I also realise that the information I’ve been getting so far is from people who do not live there and are rather of that heritage, but given that nobody who lives/lived there responded, I thought it was the best I could get for now at least. I don’t exactly see how that is unreasonable.

As for the relationship between Chinese and Japanese, I have seen it mentioned many times before and I can very much understand it because my family comes from a very similar situation. One side of the family comes from the former Yugoslavia, so believe me when I say that I know how this kind of hatred between ethnic groups is festered. There are so many all over the world (Armenians and Turks, Croats and Serbs, etc.), and when you look at the events in the countries’ histories (i.e the Rape of Nanking, or the Srebrenica Massacre) you can hardly blame the people for hating each other. So on that front I totally get you.

I am also aware that popular media doesn’t really portray cultures all that well, that’s why I wouldn’t turn to it as a source. I don’t even pay attention to popular media in the West because a lot of it is complete garbage anyway.


#20

i dont understand why you dont want to use stereotypes.

stereotypes are stereotypes because these are features that found in the majority of people belonging to a group.

while yes, it can be offensive and irksome to talk about stereotypes irl today, like i said, they are still the most common traits of people in that group no matter what and are usually fact and honestly most people do not care.

one of my favorite examples is that asian girl in harry potter that nobody cared about. her name was ching chong or whatever and honestly, it was a stereotypes and it was never offensive until that actress who portrayed her, said it was when she tried to use it to get fame and become popular.

i mean, i’m asian and i was not offended by her character nor did i think it was offensive until she mentioned it in a video and i was like “hmmm yes its somehow offensive but i still dont care.”

as long as you dont do something ridiculous like D&G, you should be fine i think?


#21

Well obviously there’s no way to eliminate stereotypes completely, but as someone who is intrigued by different cultures, I would like to try and at least be somewhat accurate. I mean, at the end of the day the character as an individual should be prioritized over trying to have them represent an entire culture, but realistically there are also many ways in which culture affects one’s perspective and sometimes even the actions they take. So I feel like it’s important to at least have a good idea of many of the bigger, more important aspects of another culture when trying to represent characters from it in fiction.

Also, I know I wouldn’t like it if someone grossly misrepresented my culture, but at the same time I would find it interesting and even flattering if someone were to show that they at least put some research into the culture by making nods to some of the things which make it unique. So for this I’d be trying to apply the same standard pretty much. But since it is not unheard of for people who write about other cultures to unintentionally write stuff that ends up being rather racist, I wanted to at least have some input from some members of the community I wish to represent so that I don’t accidentally find myself falling into that trap (and also because I am genuinely interested in Chinese history and culture regardless of whether I were to write any Chinese characters in a story).