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China by Stuart Strother

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CHAPTER 2

History, Philosophy, and Religion

“The sun may rise in the east, but it sets in the west,” Owen Wilson’s character explained to Jackie Chan’s character in the movie Shanghai Noon. I was living in Shanghai in 2000 when this movie came out and the line stuck in my head as a clear explanation for the question I asked myself everyday about some aspect of Chinese life, “Why do they do it that way?”

There are many quirky customs in Chinese daily life that have some basis in Chinese history and culture. As a foreigner on Chinese turf, your hosts will make certain judgments about you not only on your ability to follow local customs, but also your basic knowledge or lack of knowledge of Chinese society.1 This chapter offers a short history ...

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