Frequently Asked Questions
1. How long have the different Asian countries been in existence?
Each country evolved at a different time but China, like India, seems to have been one of the earliest to have developed, certainly three thousand years before the birth of Christ.
2. How long have they each had a central form of government?
This is virtually impossible to answer because, in many of these cultures. There were no written records for anything until centuries after they first existed.
3. How long was China ruled by emperors?
Strictly speaking, China’s first full-fledged "Emperor" began with Ch’in Shi-Huang (221 B.C.).
4. How many emperors were there?
5. Were the other Asian countries also ruled by emperors?
Yes (If not called emperors; they were the chief rulers of their cultures).
6. Does Japan’s emperor have true power, or is he a figurehead like Queen Elizabeth in England?
This depends entirely on the historical period in question.
7. Was Marco Polo a real person?
Yes, though his visit to China is questioned by some scholars.
8. Did the ideas of paper money, fireworks and spaghetti really come from China?
Paper came from china around the latter Han Period during the reign of Emperor He Ti (90AD-101AD) by a man named T’sai Lun; Paper money probably did not come to China until much later. Fireworks did originate in China. The tradition is that spaghet ti was originally a kind of Chinese noodle, introduced to the west by Marco Polo.
9. Why is China called the "People’s Republic of China"?
Because Mao always claimed that his was a people's revolution.
10. Why is Taiwan called the "Republic of China"?
When the Nationalists retreated to Taiwan from the PRC in 1949, they continued to us e the name for China invented in 1911 when the Ch’ing Dynasty was overthrown.
11. When did Asian people first come to America?
No one knows
although some scholars think an early migration came over the Bering Strait during the B.C. period.
12. Has the American government apologized to the nisei yet?
Yes, recently the US Government formally apologized and awarded a sum of money to each Japanese who had been interned in US Concentration Camps during the second world war.
13. Did the nisei ever get back everything that the government confiscated?
No. (See above). How can the indignities and humiliations be repaid or the years of their lives which were lost in misery.
14. When the nisei were segregated during World War II, how did the other Asian-Americans avoid being mistaken for Japanese-Americans?
Often they were mistaken as Japanese and treated disgracefully until they produced some kind of identity verifying their origins.
15. Why is it wrong to call someone "Oriental" instead of "Asian"?
"Oriental" (Easterners) is a designation invented by westerners (Occidentals) to specify those who lived "East" of them. What is wrong about this geographical "Displacement" is the fact that westerners consider themselves the norm or the place from w hich others are defined.
16. Why do most people in Chinatowns speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin?
The migrants from China to America took place largely in the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of them came from the southeastern part of China known as Canton (present-day Guangdong, just west of Hong Kong) ; hence, Cantonese was the common language oken. By mid-century, many Chinese migrants came from other parts of China and spoke a variety of dialects, but Mandarin was fast becoming the national language at that time.
17. How long did it take to build the Great Wall of China?
It is quite difficult to give the exact dates because the "Great Wall" was really the connecting of many pre-existing walls. It certainly took many decades to complete the entire linkage.
18. Why was it built?
To protect the Chinese from their northern neighbors who were constantly invading the China in those days.
19. How many people did it take?
Estimates vary but the slave labor involved hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whom died in the process.
20. Why is Korea divided between North Korea and South Korea?
The Korean War (1950-1953) was fought between the communists in the north and the non-communist south; the north was aided by communist China and the south by the US and the UN After many attacks and counter-attacks, an armistice was signed enabling both sides to live in an uneasy "peaceful CO-existence".
21. Why did China banish the Dalai Lama?
China considers Tibet to be part of China and that it should be ruled by the Central Government. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan religion and is rejected by the PRC as a destabilizing factor and a political leader of separatism.
22. Is there really a Jewish community in China?
Yes, and it has a long and distinguished history going back centuries.
23. Why do so many people from the Philippines have Hispanic names?
Spain ruled the Philippines from many years before the Americans defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War (1898). Hence, Spanish was spoken by educated Filipinos for many decades and they took Spanish names to accommodate them to their new rulers.
24. What is the origin of Chinese astrology?
If we are talking here of "Astrology" and not "Astronomy", We are dealing more with interpreting the stars by human individuals rather than scientific study. It is impossible to date this phenomenon but it is obvious that almost all cultures have loo ked to the stars and wondered about their influence on earth (e.g., gravity from the moon, light and warmth to grow crops from the sun, etc., to say nothing of how the arrangement of the planets in the heavens might influence our personal lives.
25. Does the Chinese government still permit only one child per family?
Yes, but it is not being as strictly enforced as in the beginning. There are some exceptions; e.g., the minorities are often allowed more than one child.
26. Why do they have such a policy?
As the most densely populated country in the world, the population explosion is a serious problem in China. Simply put, if there are two many mouths to feed; they cannot grow enough food to satisfy every one and this inevitably leads to social unrest
27. How do they enforce it?
The communist government has a very comprehensive and efficient way of reaching all of its citizens down to the village level. Party loyalists are sent to every sector of society to enforce the directives from the top. When they cannot persuade they can use force to make sure directives are followed.
28. On Chinese New Year’s Day, why is there always a parade with fireworks and a lion dance?
The traditional explanation about fireworks is that they are to scare away evil spirits as a new year begins. The lion dance probably originates from the fact that the lion was considered a ferocious beast who could frighten away evil.
The Lion Dance
29. Do other Asian cultures have similar customs?
Many Asian cultures (e.g. Korea, Japan, Vietnam, etc.); have been directly influenced by China over the centuries and, consequently, they also have very similar customs and practices (to say nothing of the influence of Chinese cuisine on much of the Asian population).
30. What is the predominant religion in each Asian country?
Each Asian country is very different and many of these countries combine several religions (including Animism) as part of their complex cultural heritage. While Buddhism is probably the most common religion in Asia, there are many different forms of Buddhism just as their are many forms of Protestantism in the West. Japan also has a thriving Shinto Belief. India has a strong Hindu as well as Muslim population. The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia.
31. What is Buddhism and where did it originate?
Buddhism originated in India with the famous Prince Siddhartha, also called Gautama (566-C480 B.C.) and later spread to China, Burma, Japan, Tibet, and parts of southeast Asia. It claims that life is full of suffering and that we should eliminate al l desire to end our suffering in an enlightenment that may eventually end our countless births and rebirths so that we can enter a state called Nirvana (Release from the cycle of rebirths and earthly pain and suffering). Ironically, Buddhism has virtuall y disappeared from India, its country of origin.
32. What is the theory behind acupuncture?
The theory is an organic one that considers the human body to be a unified system of "connections" that, once stimulated, can help other parts of the body. It is a Chinese Medical Practice that can treat certain kinds of illness by stimulating certa in "Points" mapped out on the human body by the insertion of long needles at these sites. It can also act as a kind of anesthesia.
This History of Acupuncture in China
33. Where did the idea of yin and yang come from?
These terms are at the heart of Chinese cosmology explaining the origin of all things. In a sense, these are the ultimate principles which explain everything in the world. They are considered opposite balancing principles and the terms associated wi th each are as follows: Yin: Female, Darkness, Passivity, Negative, etc.; Yang: Male, Brightness, Activity, positive, etc. in Chinese Philosophy and Religion (especially, Taoism), the interaction of these two principles influence the destinies of all c reatures, small and great. The origin of these terms probably came from the great Chinese thinker Lao-Tzu, 5thcentury B.C. , and the famous book of Changes, an ancient book of Chinese divination.
34. What is the basis of feng shui?
Literally the words mean "wind and water", indicating nature and natural surroundings. It is the art of adapting the residence of the living and the dead as well as adapting external topographical features (e.g., streams, hills, etc.) to one’s person al environment (e.g., one’s house) (e.g., which direction does the main door face, etc.).