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North vs. South cultural differences in China


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I saw an article today suggesting that some differences between northern Chinese and southern Chinese is due to the type of farming traditionally practiced in each region.  


Article from TIME here.  (My quasi-summary of the article is: wheat farming practiced in the north doesn't require much cooperation so northerners are much more independent and brash whereas rice farming in the south requires more community cooperation, so people there are more risk-averse and interdependent.)


What do you all think of this?  Is there any truth to this claim?  What are your personal experiences in differences between Chinese in the northern/southern provinces?


With no real cross-country experience myself, I'm curious on your thoughts and experiences!



(edit: grammar!)

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By risk-adverse I believe you mean risk-averse. :lol:


The article is interesting but the theory seems dubious to me as it has obvious flaws. The comments section of the article is quite illuminating though.

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First Rule of Social Science: Correlation does not necessarily mean causation.  :)


One should remember that the North has been much more influenced by outside non-Han culture.  Some of the North, like Dongbei and Beijing, are deeply influenced by nomadic Mongolian (Yuan dynasty) and Manchu (Qing Dynasty) cultures.  Other parts of the North like Gansu and Shanxi are more influenced Muslim cultures from Central Asia and Middle East (i.e., the Hui minority).  In comparison, the South has a much more insular Han Chinese culture.

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@tooironic, thanks for the correction!  ;)

@gato, interesting point about other influences on the north. 


Have any of you noticed the differences described in the article (or any others) between northern and southern populations?

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  • 2 weeks later...

@renzhe, as somebody whose undergraduate work was all in the hard sciences, I tend to speak derisively about the social sciences because of things like this.


I'd be more inclined to consider the weather than I would food. Because it gets quite cold up North, you've got long periods where people aren't likely to be just milling about outside with strangers. You're more likely to hang out indoors with family and individuals that you're close to.


Obviously, that's thoroughly unscientific, but it's probably more likely. And ultimately, China, like Europe, has a history of most people not moving more than a few miles from their home over their entire life. That seems to be the case even now in many cases, but I often wondered if there wasn't a linguistic reason. People who could afford to return home after college wouldn't be stuck speaking their second language all the time.

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@realmayo, speculate? Weather up north is pretty much always colder in the north than in the south. Except for instances where there's odd air currents, the northern parts of the country get less incoming solar radiation than the southern parts do.


I lived up north for part of one winter and I lived down south for the other winter. There's a reason why buildings down south have so much less insulation, it gets quite a bit colder up north than it does down south. Even during that winter that was particularly cold down south, it was still substantially warmer down south than it was up north.


Sure, the weather patterns can and do change somewhat, but there's a very big difference between weather in the tropics versus weather at 40 degrees N latitude with wind coming off Himalayas.

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@realmayo, there's nothing wrong with proposing a hypothesis for consideration. I never said that the weather was the cause, just that it's more worthy of consideration than the type of food is.


But, considering the size of the Yangtze and the tendency of people to not move around very much, it does seem like there are probably better explanations than this.

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