A Dramatic Shift in China’s Cultural Values

September 4, 2011

Before 1949, Chinese culture was heavily influenced by Confucian thought and poetry, and the arts were extremely popular for their aesthetic and moral importance.

The goal of Confucianism was to create gentlemen that carried themselves with grace, spoke correctly and demonstrated integrity in all things.

Confucius believed that the most important lessons for obtaining a moral education were to be found in the Book of Songs, because many of its poems were both beautiful and good.

In fact, to Confucius, the role of poetry and art played an important role in the moral education of a gentleman as well as that of society in general.

For this reason, before 1949, the cultivation of poetry and the arts was considered more important than that of science or business.

Prior to 1949, to have a son majoring in the arts was a source of pride for most Chinese parents.

However, today, if a parent says his or her son is majoring in the arts (such as poetry, literature, or painting) at this or that university, (shocked) silence is the usual response and many Chinese parents would not want a daughter to marry such a man since this career choice may often lead to a dismal future.

A better choice today might be to see one’s daughter marry a banker or an I.T. major working for Alibaba, China’s e-Bay, or Baidu, China’s Google.

This cultural shift may best be seen by popular majors in China’s modern universities.

According to a recent survey conducted by Beijing University, the 10 most popular college majors in China recently were I.T. (information technology, which refers to anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, and the Internet), electronics, languages (study of foreign languages such as  English), law, mechanics, architecture, accounting and finance, journalism, medicine, environment and business management.

In comparison, according to College Stats.org , the most popular college majors in the United States are biology, business, communications (journalism), computer science, criminal justice (law), elementary education, marketing, nursing, psychology, and political science and/or sociology.

If we compare popular college majors in China to those in the United States, which country appears to be on the right track?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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