International ties

China's positives India could adapt-Part I

By Geeta Kochhar (
Updated: 2011-05-16 09:55
Large Medium Small

Coming from India and living in China makes me observe more of the similarities and dissimilarities between the two great nations. In everyday life, there are so many things that differ in the culture of both countries and also many things that make me feel the closeness that exists between these two different societies. To build a cooperative relationship between the two nations, the essence lies in learning from each other. However, the process of learning and adapting to a different culture is difficult even with the expanding interaction among the masses. This may take decades or even centuries to amalgamate two different cultures. Yet, a different new amalgamated subculture may not evolve.

Moreover, given the proven realities of an individual becoming more concentrated in its own known group in a new environment and building stronger cultural links with its own group, converging in other cultures becomes even more difficult. Hence, to bring in a bonding between the cultures of India and China seems to be a never ending process. However, it is also important to know that between these two nations there also exists an unknown affinity of one's culture with others' subculture, though not markedly visible to many. Hence, a vision to create a breakthrough in linking the masses in totality and rooting out all differences is a daunting task. The idea out here is to introduce the positives of Chinese life that can help build a more mature and perfect Indian society.

First and foremost that attracts my attention in China is the healthy lifestyle that the young, middle and elderly Chinese live. The fact that India has so many parks and greenery in Delhi is worth appreciating yet does not suffice the insufficiencies that these parks hold. I remember in my younger days, I used to go to parks to play with my friends and there were so many instruments to have a joyful time. Even today there are some parks that care for the kids, but what about the elders, especially those who are increasingly attacked by the modern-day lifestyle diseases. I presume the main reason also lies in the lack of free and easily accessible physical training instruments. In China, almost in every colony one will find such instruments installed for the free use of the masses. Besides, middle-aged and elderly Chinese have a regular habit of organizing community dancing and exercising in open public areas. India that is famous in China for its dances actually lacks any such culture of public dancing for the mere purpose of exercise. The eye-soothing and lively atmosphere of the Chinese dances is visible in almost all areas, whether in front of a shopping mall or under a bridge or in a park, especially in the evenings. This kind of lifestyle not only wards off tensions and feeling of loneliness, but also keeps them active the whole day.

Since childhood we all hear the famous saying "early to bed and early to rise; makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise". Yet in India we end our day late in the night and start our work late in the morning. On the contrary, Chinese have been tuned to get up early in the morning and start with an early morning breakfast. At places "zaocha" (早茶 literally meaning morning tea) is common and in other places "zaodian" (早点 morning food) is a must. Everything is basically meant to have a proper early morning diet with varieties of porridge and buns. Moreover, the afternoon lunch begins at 11:30 am and dinner starts at 5:30 pm. To Indians all this sounds astonishing as lunch for them is somewhere at 1:30 or 2:00 pm. and dinner after 9 or 9:30 pm. Hence, when the Chinese prefer to have their lunch, Indians think of a late breakfast, which is usual on weekends. Moreover, Indian dinner for the Chinese is usually a time for "xiaoye" (宵夜), a late light snack in the night, though in the modern day busy life "xiaoye" is becoming a common trend. Probably these eating and resting habits of the Chinese keep them energetic.

India is known for Yoga, herbal products and ayurvedic medicines. In fact, the knowledge of natural therapies is centuries old in India. Rather, it seems that every elder individual in India is aware of ways of massaging the body and using home remedies to cure common diseases. Hence, a common phrase popular in India is "every second person you meet is a doctor". Even after having such intense understanding about body parts and common problems, Indians still do not give such utmost stress to foot massage as the Chinese. "Zuliao" (足疗) is so very common in China now that every next corner one foot massage parlor runs 24 hours a day. Based on acupressure techniques, zuliao is a body relaxing massage meant to heal whole body problems. Moreover, the Chinese stress on keeping the foot warm especially in the night and wear socks even in summers, whereas the Indians have a more common habit of not wearing even slippers in home probably due to hot temperatures or because of the culture of keeping dirt out of home. Hence the care one gives to the foot in India is comparatively much lower than in China. This exists besides the fact that most of the Indians know that you need to keep your foot cozy to stay healthy.

If the Indians adapt such very fundamental things that are prevalent in Chinese society, there would be remarkable change in the overall Indian society. However, there are many Indian facets that the Chinese could learn as well.

Dr. Geeta Kochhar is a Visiting Fellow at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. She is an Assistant Professor at the Center for Chinese & South-East Asian Studies, School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the China Daily website.