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Travelling in and around China: Japan

China – the Kingdom of the middle- had a wide influence in Asia. In almost every neighboring  country of China you can still find traces of Chinese Civilization from hundreds of years ago. However, you can also discover external influences in Chinese culture – customs, habits, products or even whole lifestyles have been imported from abroad and been integrated into Modern Chinese Culture. One of those neighboring countries which China always had a very special relationship to, is Japan. I had the chance to get a return flight for only 3.000,- RMB to Tokyo so I took advantage of it and explored a beautiful and fascinating place not far from China.

InternChina - at Chengdu airport
InternChina – at Chengdu airport

Even though, Japan is geographically located close to China, the cultures are differing a lot from each other. As a German I can see the parallels rather between Japanese and Germans… but then on the other hand, there are a lot of concepts and ideas which are shared by the Japanese and the Chinese and make them very similar from a Western perspective!

To give you an idea of similarities and differences between Japanese and Chinese Culture, I want to share my experiences and observations with you.

InternChina - Park in Tokyo inspired by Chinese Daoists
InternChina – Park in Tokyo inspired by Chinese Daoists
InternChina - only in Asia
InternChina – only in Asia
japanese nightlife
japanese nightlife

Traffic: A lot of foreigners perceive Chinese traffic as more chaotic than organized (see our blog: https://internchina.com/surviving-in-chinese-traffic/). When I arrived in Tokyo, it was the complete opposite picture. Even though, more people seem to use public transportation at the same time, everything was very organized, calm and people act very polite. For Chinese people it seems normal to use their elbows, don’t cover their mouths when they are coughing or sneezing in public and shout into their mobile phone on any possible occasion – Japanese people prefer their little space around themselves, nobody talks on the phone in the subway and avoid under any circumstance to run into each other even if it is crowded. It was very interesting to see that crowded doesn’t necessarily mean chaotic.
***Be aware though, that in Japan cars go on the left side of the street!

InternChina - organized traffic in Japan
InternChina – organized traffic in Japan
InternChina - friendly reminder in Tokyo subway
InternChina – friendly reminder in Tokyo subway

Language: Japanese on the first glance seems to be much easier than Chinese because you don’t have any tones that you need to take care of. If you know Chinese, you already can read a good part of the Japanese characters (not the pronounciation though, but you can guess the meaning!) which is very helpful in a country which is not using Latin letters. However, on a long-run mastering Japanese language seems to become a lot more complicated and rather difficult to master as grammatical rules are similarly difficult to German grammar. If you want to make quick progress on speaking learning Chinese seems to be the better choice (see our blog: https://internchina.com/china-vs-europe-reasons-to-learn-chinese-in-china/).

InternChina - studying Chinese
InternChina – studying Chinese

Saving/Losing face: Being in China for three years now gave me confidence to understand the idea of saving or losing face. For many westerners it is something very difficult to grasp and accept as a part of the Eastern Culture. It means a lot of rules, such as avoiding to name problems, not to negate or refuse anything directly or using a very flowery language. In business situations this can cause a lot of misunderstandings if you don’t understand these rules or are not be able to read between the lines. Japanese seem to follow this concept to an even further extent  than the Chinese, so I can imagine that for Westerners doing business in Japan is even more difficult to adapt to than doing Business in China. More about cross-cultural communication: https://internchina.com/cross-cultural-communication-in-china-west-vs-east/.

Eating and drinking: Japan offers a wide variety of traditional Japanese dishes, but also international influences can be found. There are many restaurants offering fusion kitchen and the Japanese interpretation of “Western Food”. Very similar to Chinese food, you can offer several dishes, which you can share with your friends. Of course, the best way is to get up very early in the morning and enjoy the freshest sushi in the world at the Tokyo fish market. However, excellent sea-food can be found in China as well – especially in coastal cities (e.g. Qingdao) sea-food will be offered and is part of traditional dishes. In the West we hold the prejudice, Chinese and Japanese wouldn’t drink a lot as they are lacking an enzyme to process alcohol. It is true, that the digestion/processing for a lot of Asians is difficult, but that doesn’t keep them away from consuming good amounts of beer (e.g. Asahi in Japan, Tsingtao-Beer in China) and rice wine (Baijiu in China, Sake in Japan). “Cheers” sounds very similar in Japanese (“Kanpai”) and Chinese (“Ganbei”). More info about eating and drinking customs in Asia: https://internchina.com/how-to-say-bon-appetit-in-chinese/.

InternChina - sharing Chinese food
InternChina – sharing Chinese food
great japanese food
great japanese food
sushi and sashimi
sushi and sashimi

Religion/Beliefs:  Chinese traditional beliefs are rooted in Confucianism, Daoism and the Buddhism which originally came from India to China. Japanese are traditionally Zen-Buddhists and Shintoists. Shintoists believe in “kami” (= spirits) which live in every tree, stone, house etc. Animism is a big part of Shintoism, which means, that each animal has its own spirit. That’s why you can find in Japan numerous parks with temples and shrines where people can pray to certain spirits. In China, there are only a few places left where Daoists and Buddhists can practice their traditional beliefs, modern culture dictates a very practical approach of practicing Buddhist and Daoist traditions. I was very fascinated by the parallels between Daoist beliefs and Shintoism. In both beliefs,  unity and harmony of humans and animals and nature in general play a significant role. Each country though developed their own interpretation of a universal truth. More about Daoism: https://internchina.com/a-visit-to-qingyang-temple-back-to-the-roots-of-daoism/.

InternChina - Daoist temple in Chengdu
InternChina – Daoist temple in Chengdu
InternChina - Shinto shrine for Rackoon dogs in the middle of Tokyo
InternChina – Shinto shrine for Rackoon dogs in the middle of Tokyo
InternChina - beautiful Garden in Japan InternChina - beautiful Garden in Japan
InternChina – beautiful Garden in Japan
InternChina – beautiful Garden in Japan

All in all it was a very interesting trip to Japan and I am sure to come back at a later point to enjoy the blossom of the Sakura trees (cherry trees) as it is said to be one of the most beautiful events in the world!

If you are interested in Eastern Culture, try an internship in China and see if you are ready for exploring the rest of Asia! Apply now and get a great internship in Qingdao, Chengdu or Zhuhai!

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Chengdu Blogs, Cultural, Things To Do in Chengdu

A Visit to Qingyang Temple – Back to the Roots of Daoism


Chengdu is a dynamic city – some people say it is the fastest growing city in the world! Skyscrapers and shopping centers are being built up quickly everywhere in the city. However, there are still some peaceful places left, where you can rest your stressed soul.

One of them I visited last weekend: Qingyang Temple – the place where Laozi is to be said that he spoke the Tao Te King (also: Dao De Jing 道德经) to one of his disciples, which is one of the main books (besides the famous I Ching/Yi Jing 易经) of Daoism.

If you are a little familiar with Chinese culture, you might know, that Daoism is a deep-rooted concept in Chinese history and Chinese daily life. Even if you haven’t heard of Daoism yet, you might have seen the black and white yin yang symbol before, or have heard about Taiji, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or feng shui.

As these concepts are becoming more popular in the West now as well, a lot of people are living a part of the Chinese culture in their daily lifes already. Now, where is this all originating from?

Chengdu is the center of the West of modern China. However, in ancient times it was part of a kingdom during the Warring State Period. There was a wise man (some say he is more a mystical figure, but it seems like there is prove that he actually lived): called Laozi (老子). He was said to have lived at the same time as Confucius (or Kongzi 孔子), who is well-known in the East and West for his quotes about state-philosophy and the relationship of family members. Laotse was a follower of the way of Dao and formulated the 81 core principles of Daoism. The book has inspired hundreds and thousands of commentators and has been translated and interpreted in many languages.  In honour to the place where he was said to have read these principles to one of his disciples, a temple was built. Today, it is called Qingyang Gong (The Green Goat Temple 青羊宫).

The temple has been built during the Chunqiu Period and has been revived under the Tang Dynasty. Parts of the temple have been renovated during the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century. It has been one of the few Daoist temples which was allowed by the Chinese government to open its doors again in the 1980’ies.

Today, it is a centre of peace and relaxation. A teahouse on one side forms a place for socialization of local people, whereas within one of the yards you can watch young disciples training Wushu and older disciples training Taiji. Everywhere you can see Daoist nuns and monks, who stroll around in the park and help keeping the incense stick holders clean.

In several places, you can find references to the Daoist astrology, namely the 12 animal zodiac signs (mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse. Goat, monkey, chicken, dog, pig): May it be engravings on the floor or little sculptures on stone walls. Also look out for the big yin-yang symbol which is engraved in the stone floor in one of the yards. The symbol looks simple, but is highly complex, therefore I just want to give a brief summary: The yin is represented by the black part which is carrying the white seed, the yang energy, and the other way around. Yin energy is often anticipated with the female, the moon and the earth, whereas yang energy is often anticipated with the male, the sun and the heaven. In combination and interaction they are creating life or also called the ‘Qi’. Qi is everything which moves, wherever is movement, there’s life. Where ever movement stops, there’s no life anymore. The ideal balance of yin and yang always creates life.

Many people I know, say, that if you have seen one Chinese temple, you know them all.

I have to refuse since I know Qingyang Gong. Buddhist temples in China, that might be, often end up as tourist attractions selling lots of souvenirs, snacks and drinks. I even found a Starbucks once in a temple area. Buddhism in China has sold itself out,  maybe. I am glad to say, that if you are looking for a true place for spiritualism, you can come to Chengdu and visit Qingyang temple. Pay the 10 RMB entrance fee, get some incense sticks to send prayers to your ancestors, family and friends and enjoy a happy and relaxed day by get your yin and yang in balance!

There are more aspects than Chinese modern business culture, that you are interested in? Our team in Chengdu is happily arranging visits to temples or organizes other cultural activities to help you understanding the Chinese culture better.
Apply now for an internship and become part of the Intern China experience!