China is a country with the largest amount of population in the world and the third largest country on the planet (Gunde 11). It is not surprising that there are numerous differences between its regions in political, economic, and cultural spheres. The North of China represents the progressive political and military heart of the country, while the South is an example of the original culture preservation and economic flourishing.  

Self-isolation of the Southern Chinese in the community occurred on the basis of the historical past of the region which appeared more than 2,000 years ago as a conglomerate of nations Yen (Gunde 41). The paper analyses the origin of cultural differences between the North and South China on the basis of two primary sources: a description of the Northern capital Luoyang by Yang Xuanzhi, made in 547-50, and the Yan Zhitui’s advice addressed to his sons, made in 531-591 (Ebrey 109). Yan Zhitui was a native Southerner who fled to the North and experienced the effect of cultural differences in those ancient times. Differences between the North and South of China are a vivid example of cultural diversity within one country. Their antagonism and competition throughout the history stimulated the development of the rich, diverse, and original Chinese culture. 



Yang Yuanshen was a noble Northern representative treating and welcoming Southern guests at his palace. In a reserved manner, he managed to convince his cultural opponents in the dominant position of his region. His behavior, the choice of words and similes revealed the progressive and convincing privilege of the Northern cultural tradition.

The extract under analysis shows the scene of sincere conversation of Yang Yuanshen with his guests. When they drank and felt disposed to the sincere talk, one of the Southerners tried to provoke Yuanshen with a contemptuous note that the Northerners belong to Barbarians with their acceptation of new traditions and ways of behavior (Ebrey 109). He tried to underline that the Southerners preserved and possessed the legitimate right to be called Chinese, because their rituals and customs were older and more relevant to the ancient tradition. However, Yuanshen responded that the North had to struggle for the preserving of national unity, while the South still existed and developed in a war-free peaceful region with more natural recourses and land for cultivation (Ebrey 109). The man gave examples of inappropriate behavior of the rulers and suggested that such a mode of living was archaic. Yuanshen compared the Southerners to the frogs and toads living in a common dump by the insects and birds (Ebrey 109). By that simile he implied that keeping to tradition without adherence to progress and reconsideration of values leads to stagnation. The man revealed that law and arts had made the life of the Northern Chinese more refined and sensual. They developed the new ethics based both on tradition and the best progressive ideas. He stressed that stagnation led to the misbehavior and loss of grace in the Southern rulers and gave a vivid example of the princess of Shanyin who suffered from debauchery (Ebrey 110). On the one hand, preserving originality of tradition and cultural identity is important for the country’s survival and self-identity, but at the other hand, it should not be turned into permissiveness for those at power. Yuanshen stressed that reforms led the Wei dynasty to glory and thrive of ritual, music, and laws (Ebrey 110). His opponents were at loss for words, especially when the master of the palace called them friends of fish and turtle, implying the closeness of the Southern citizens to the seas and rivers. 

On the one hand, Yuanshe was right in his idea that the culture develops and becomes stronger in communication and combination with other cultures. On the other hand, the modern life shows that South China progresses as an economically developed area, including Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao (Hsu 29). Southern China preserves the special Lingnan culture and Cantonese language. The region has close ties with the world's economic elite through the immigrants Diaspora living in the United States and Europe (Hsu 29). In fact, Southern China has played the role of a bridge between the Western world and China's national elites. Nowadays, Shanghai region is the strongest competitor of South China, which is based on its financial greatness and export model of development. Political, economic, and cultural events of the last 30 years are largely predetermined by the struggle between the two regions and the combination of the forces of their ideological allies (Hsu 29).


The difference in customs peculiarities between the North and the South of China is revealed in the Zhitui’s advice to his sons (Ebrey 110). The man originated from the South of the country but had to migrate and serve in the court in the North. He could see and experience the cultural differences in the noble social environment. The man described his experience with a tint of admiration to the progress and reasonability of the newly acquired customs. 

The first contrast was made in the manner of greeting and parting that differed in the absence of salutation and accompany to the point on leaving (Ebrey 110). Zhitui approved the Northern way to salute their guests and noted that it was an ancient tradition, probably lost in the South.  

The father referred to the discussion of ancestors as a difficult practice in the Southern families. At the same time, he noted that the Northerners showed more openness to the discussion of family affairs and never wrote about them or felt ashamed. He warned his sons not to remain calm when asking about relatives or ancestors, as it was accustomed in the Southern region (Ebrey 110). Cult of the ancestors is popular and common for the whole China. However, in the South they have a strong cult of the goddess of the sea and the god of wealth. They completely avoid the tradition of Lamaism and Confucian esthetics and the cult of the state (Hsu 29).

Zhitui underlined that it was not typical of the Northerners to shed tears at parting (Ebrey 110). He gave a vivid example of the Southern Emperor Wu, who cried when his son was going to leave him forever. The prince just showed the sad look but did not shed tears, and it was treated rude. As a result, the young prince never left his domains. The Northern way allowed and even encouraged a happy expression on the crossroad that everything is for the better and the leaver would return soon. 

The Southern tradition of wailing for the dead relatives was also different in the North. Zhitui wrote that it was not typical to condemn the neighbors who could not come and moan along with the relatives (Ebrey 110). The tradition, very strict in the South, transformed in the North into the sending of consoling letter in case of living far away and being incapable to come. 

Zhitui warned his sons from criticizing anyone’s essay in the North, as it was typical for the citizens in the South. The Southerners welcomed critiques as they believed it could help them improve while the Northerners treated it as a disgrace (Ebrey 111). On the one hand, the ability to improve through someone’s critique is an effective way to improvement. On the other hand, someone’s negative characteristic can undermine the confidence in one’s strength. The trait of the Southerners to respond to the notes and critique may have helped them in the development into a prosperous region with distinct cultural identity and economical privileges. At the same time, the Northern region remains the political heart of the country, the center of reforms and innovation implementation. 

The last of Zhitui’s reflection was on the position of women in the society (Ebrey 111). He noted that women in the North experienced far extended rights than the women in the South. He wrote that many women led open social life and often visited their relatives and attended social events, while women in the South remained hidden behind the walls of their homes. He revealed that the Northern men were more liberal to the luxury in clothes and carriages, taking into consideration the family income and the need for food and services. In the South, the clothes meant much for the status maintenance and relevance to the rituals and traditions. 

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Both selections show that antagonism between the North and the South of China appeared long ago and persisted through the centuries. The native Northern representative and the refugees from the South region showed similarity in their admiration with the style of life in the North of China in those times. Since then, the population of the Northern China did not consider Southern Chinese as their fellow citizens, while Southern Chinese, in turn, believed that the North lost ancestral cultural identity in connection with the extensive influence of alien nomadic tribes (Hsu 33). At the same time, the competition within one country made people accumulate the inner cultural sources from both sides, making China a super-powerful and culturally unique civilization. 

In the North, dominated by the military and bureaucracy, one can trace honor of valor, austerity, silence, and the knowledge of the canon of Confucian wisdom. The ideal of the South is luxury, while the ideal of the North is power (Hsu 29). These are just the most obvious differences of the two poles of the Chinese reality. Moreover, the division of China on the South and the North is not final. 


The high level and long-living cultural tradition of the modern China stipulates its success on the international arena. However, the conducted analysis of chosen selections showed that there were numerous differences and persistent antagonism between the different cultural regions. The traditional division on the North and the South has traces in the ancient historical texts and primary sources. The analyzed extracts demonstrated the competition and the dominance of the Northern cultural tradition over the Southern one. The last were shown as the people ignoring the progress and being stuck in stagnation of the primitive customs. The authors reflected the vision stipulated by their current political situation. It was the time of the North flourishing and advancing. At the same time, the merit of the South is in the preserving of the ancient and original traditions and the ability to be a decent opponent and competitor of the North. 


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