4 Reasons How Money in Chinese Culture Became Important
The Chinese culture has a strong fixation on money when comparing different cultures. You have red envelopes with money, Chinese gold ingot, the importance of the fu symbol, the Chinese dragon symbol, lucky cat, lucky coins, karps and goldfish, the money tree, and even the color red.
This belief is so popular that money in China is stereotyped in modern culture today. But today, instead of looking at “Why,” let’s look at potential reasons for how Chinese people within their culture made money an important concept to them.
Reason 1: Money CAN Buy You Happiness
We all know the saying, “Money can’t buy you happiness,” but having money opens a door to opportunities and leisurely activities that can bring happiness.
For example, money allows you to have material goods that a lot of people dreamed of such as having a fancy house, a sports car, the latest technology, and luxury vacations. So, you can be happy when you buy and do things when you want.
Reason 2: Centuries-old cultural practice
It is said that this particular obsession with money could be influenced by centuries-old cultural practices.
The Buddhist religion that helped build Chinese society taught about the concept of karma—whatever you do will come back to you. For example, if you do good things, then good things will come back to you. If you do bad things, then bad things will come back to you. So if you are born into a rich family, it’s because you were a good person in your previous life.
Your good deed in the previous life has rewarded you with good luck and prosperity in this life with karma, resulting in money in Chinese culture becoming a symbol of luck and fortune.
The Taoism belief also contributes to the concept of fortune and money in society. Taoism introduces gods and goddesses if you pray and worship them, they will help you out in return. Resulting in one of the most worshipped being the god of wealth or money 财神 (chai shen). By praying to them, it is believed that you can gain more money or luck for your business.
Another cultural practice that you might be familiar with is the fish tank. In Feng Shui—the concept of energy flow—fish and water symbolize good fortune, prosperity, and wealth. Thus, putting a fish tank in the living room is believed to bring fortune to your house. Chinese restaurants around the world often do this practice. You can also call a Feng Shui expert to determine the best flow of energy in your house or establishment. He can help you decide in which room should you put the fish tank. This is so you can retrieve the maximum amount of prosperity by putting the fish tank strategically.
Reason 3: Economy and political history
These factors might just be the most important factor in how money influences Chinese culture.
There was a time when ⅓ of China’s population was below the poverty line. Once new leadership took over, the economy reformed and literally, China rose to a wealthy nation in one generation. This movement was under Deng Xiaoping, and one of his infamous quotes was, “To be rich is glorious.” And China is still one of the strongest economies we see today.
During that time of poverty where food was scarce and less than 10 years, your family was able to move into a more luxurious home with plenty of food to eat thanks to the better economy. With that experience, many Chinese people have a connection between money, happiness, and a stable life. The things that they cannot do before, they can do now because they have money.
The stability and safety that money provides were strongly ingrained in people’s heads during that time resulting in many Asian parents encouraging their children on certain career paths like doctors and lawyers where these jobs are stable, receive great income, and have respectable reputations.
Reason 4: China’s Trade History
The earliest record of trade in China dates back to the Qin dynasty in 2000 BC. China has been handling trade as a business ever since then and created a monetary system to support it.
At this point, the rest of the world’s civilization was nowhere near what China was doing. The creation of the Silk Road during the Han Dynasty made China the center of trading for centuries, which brought many merchants around the world to trade with each other. Later, paper money was invented along with a system of depositing—a very similar system to the modern banking system that we know, minus the machines and the internet.
For centuries, Chinese culture has understood the concept of doing business, trading, investing, and saving. Talking about money in Chinese culture is as common in daily life now as it was 2,000 years ago.
China is now the number one country in the world with the most number of billionaires. However, with such high pressure and competition to make money, it has become unbearable for some. Cities jobs have more opportunities to earn more than in rural areas, but this results in income disparity between both areas.
As living in the city with a big family would be too expensive, many parents go alone to work in the city and send money back leading to a common situation where many families only meet once or twice a year.
Despite the crucial importance of money in society, there have been significant cultural shifts that focus more on finding happiness. Money in Chinese culture will remain a crucial part, but the growing importance of happiness might just match that of money.