How to Use the Chinese Words for Custom Posted by Ayana on Jan 11, 2021 in Culture, Vocabulary
The famous Chinese idiom入乡随俗 (rù xiāng suí sú) is an equivalent to the English idiom when in Rome do as the Romans. The Chinese version, though, has nothing to do with Rome or its citizens. The four-character idiom is literally translated to when entering a village, follow the local customs.
In this concise idiom each character is one word. The fourth character 俗 (sú) means custom, a shortening of the words:
Custom is a traditional way of behaving or doing something that is widely accepted and already complied for generations by people from a particular society or place.
Fàng bào zhú shì zhōng guó chuán tǒng mín jiān xí sú.
Setting off firecrackers is a traditional Chinese folk custom.
Xià wǔ 4 diǎn zhōng chī chá diǎn shì liú xíng Yīng guó fēng sú.
4 o’clock tea is a popular British custom.
Wǒ lái shān cūn yǐ jīng yī nián duō le, dàn shì duì yú zhè cūn lǐ de xí sú, yī rán yī zhī bàn jiě.
It has been more than a year since I came to the mountain village, but I still don’t know much about its customs.
The customs and habits of people differ in each locality. As the Chinese saying goes: 百里不同风，千里不同俗 (băi lĭ bù tóng fēng qiān lĭ bù tóng sú). The character 里 (lĭ) which appears in the saying is a Chinese unit of length, equals to 500 metres. The saying is composed of a parallelism between two sentences, and is literally translated as different customs in a hundred Li, different customs in a thousand Li.
Bǎi lǐ bù tóng fēng, qiān lǐ bù tóng sú de yì si shì bù tóng dì dì fāng yǒu bù tóng de fēng sú xí guàn, gè dì mín sú fēng qíng bù tóng.
Different customs in a hundred Li, different customs in a thousand Li means that different places have different customs and habits, each place has different folklore and local culture.
A homonym for this saying is another saying: 百里而异习， 千里而殊俗 (bǎi lǐ ér yì xí, qiān lǐ ér shū sú), meaning hundred Li but diverse customs, thousand Li but different customs.
Most customs can be described as 旧 (jiù, old), or as 由来已久 (yóu lái yǐ jiǔ, long-standing). They have been passed (传chuán) from parents to children, from generation to generation (世代相传 shì dài xiāng chuán). This can also describe the custom of Chinese New Year Paintings:
Nián huà, zhè zhǒng fēng sú qǐ yuán yú zhōng guó. Zhè ge fēng sú yóu lái yǐ jiǔ, kě shàng sù dào song cháo. Tā shì dài chuán xià lái de. Àn xí sú, měi zhí suì mò jiā hù dōu yào tiē shàng xǐ qìng nián huà.
The custom of New Year paintings originated in China. This custom has a long history and can be traced back to the Song Dynasty. It has been handed down from generation to generation. According to the custom, at the end of the year every household pastes festive New Year paintings.
Some customs have not changed since ancient times (自古以来 zì gǔ yǐ lái). But modernity affected many of them. A custom, for instance, can be no longer popular (不再流行了 bù zài liú xíng le). A custom can even disappear (消失 xiāo shī). The postpartum Chinese tradition the sitting month became controversial in recent years:
Bù xìng de shì, dāng jīn, xǔ duō jiù xí sú zhèng zài zhú jiàn xiāo wáng. Bǐ rú zuò yuè zi de lǎo xí sú. Suí zhe xiàn dài sheng huó shuǐ píng de tí gāo, yǒu nǚ rén rèn wéi zuò yuè zi shì yī zhǒng luò hòu de wén huà.
Unfortunately, many old customs are gradually disappearing today. Such as the old custom of the sitting month. With the improvement of modern living standards, some women think the sitting month is a backward tradition.
Read more about some of China new and old customs:
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