china guide

Research:Large to Small Scale, Avoiding Homogenizing East Asian Cultures, & Paralleling Regions Appropriately

I’m currently working on a project set in a secondary world, but with nations that roughly correspond to major cultures in our world. 

By that I mean I’m trying to create amalgamations of cultural groups. For example, one country corresponds to Germanic cultures, one to Celtic, one to Mediterranean. There are, so far, also countries that correspond to Eastern Asia - a mixture of Japanese, Chinese and Korean, mainly - South America, “Arab countries” and so on. My first question, in that regard, would be whether or not this concept - creating a “vibe” that reads Eastern Asian, for example, but is not one specific culture - is offensive and if it is, what I can do to solve it. 

The project I’m working on makes use of so called FaceClaims, which means that, for example, actors are used to represent fictional characters. If I based the country on China alone, then I could only use Chinese FCs and would thus greatly limit the representation. A solution I thought of was to have each country be inofficially split up in itself, so the “East Asian” country would have a “Chinese” region, a “Korean” region and so on.
Secondly, I have a desert region that I thought would be nice for an “African” (I am very much aware that there is no such thing as an “African culture”, so bear with me) cultural group. For this “country”, I thought of a loose union between different nations of people. There, I’m stuck - should I choose one region in Africa, let’s say West Africa, and base each nation on one specific peoples there? Or should I create my own “African-inspired” cultures? Or should I choose cultures from all around Africa and base a nation on each?

My third question goes along a similar line: The “cultures” I have chosen for the countries are by far not all there are in the world. There is no country for Native Americans, for example, none for South-Eastern Asians (unless I integrate them with my “India”), no Central Asian, etc. I know it is impossible to include all cultures there are in the world, but how do I choose which ones to represent in a concept like mine? I don’t want to exclude them, but I simply cannot create as many countries as there are cultural groups.

One possible solution I thought of specifically refers to Jewish people, since I feel it is important to represent them more in fantasy writing. My current idea was to have their story go similar to that of our world: Exile, long travels, and a split into groups, one of which would be the Ashkenazim, living somewhere near the Germanic country, and the other would be the Sephardim, which I imagined to live in between the “Arab” and “African” country, in a semi-autonomous city-state. But is it offensive to adapt what happened to the Jewish people in a secondary world or should I make it so that they have a more positive past and life, no exile like there was in our world? As far as I know, the exile is an important part of Jewish identity and cultural understanding, but I thought I’d ask anyway.

I’m going to preface this that some of this wording might sound very harsh, but I recognize you are genuinely asking out of a place of respect but you just aren’t sure what the best way to respect the world’s diversity is. The problem is it’s still not quite respectful enough, and shows sometimes glaring ignorance of nuances in the region.

I would also like to remind people that just because your exact question hasn’t been answered to the full scope you’re looking at, doesn’t mean you can’t get an answer as a whole. For example, we’ve discussed the concept of how and when to mix different cultures in the East Asian tag. Shira will cover your questions regarding Jewish representation below. 

However, I’m going to specifically tackle this from a research and worldbuilding perspective, primarily talking about a history of forced homogenization and how to avoid recreating colonialism/imperialism.

Notes on Language and False Equivalences

For starters, basically all of these groups are too broad. By a long shot. Either they flatten sometimes dozens to thousands of cultures (“Native American country” is in the thousands, “West Africa” is in the hundreds, “China, Japan, Korea” is in the dozens, if not hundreds, same deal with India). This language use makes people pretty uncomfortable, because it implies that the basis is stereotypes. It implies you haven’t done research, or, at least, haven’t done enough. When discussing nuance, it’s best to imply you understand there is nuance— like you did with Africa and Jewish culture, but neglected to do everywhere else.

You also go very broad with all non-European cultures, but narrow down a general homogeneous part for your European analogues, by picking Germanic and Celtic.

This double standard is something that is exactly what we try to draw attention to at WWC: to our ears, it sounds like “I’m taking Germanic peoples for Europe, but I’m going to mix three East Asian countries because those two regions have the equivalent amount of sameness that I can pass it off.”

While that sounds specific to just you, it’s not. We’ve received this type of question dozens of times in the past and it’s a general cultural attitude we’ve faced lots and lots and lots of times. Western society makes you think the equivalence is equal, because they’ve flattened all non-European countries with the single broadest brush, but it’s not.

I would also caution you on relying on media images for face claims, because media images only represent the idealized version of beauty. We’ve written multiple description guides that point out how much variety exists within all ethnic groups and how people seeing us as all the same is a microaggression.

You are right that you can’t tackle all of the world’s diversity into your worldbuilding, because, well, there is so much. The core of your question is basically how to narrow it down, which is what I’m going to tackle.

My suggestion is twofold: 

  1. Research big, top level things, over a few centuries— namely, keep track of empires that have tried to take over places and look at what groups Western society lumps together when it spreads multiple regions.
  2. Build small with a focus on a very specific place and group— namely, pick the smallest possible region you can and see what you have to build from there.

Researching Big

Researching big helps you catch what not to flatten, or at least, where flattening might be reinforcing situations that a government perpetuated. I’m going to focus on East Asia since that’s the bulk of your question, and it’s also where I’ve spent some time worldbuilding. The principles apply to all groups you’re trying to research.

East Asia— namely Japan, Korea, and China, although that is an oversimplification itself— is composed of two empires: China and Japan. This makes homogenization extremely risky because you’re touching two nerves of countries trying to take over in very recent history.

China has taken over a very large swath of land over centuries, and still has independence fights to this day from their recent history. As a result, they have both a roughly overreaching culture because the empire is so old, and a very fractured culture with over 50 recognized ethnic groups. When you think of “Chinese” you usually think of the dominant Han Chinese, but because of its old empire roots you can get a giant variety. In modern day, some provinces have kept their individual culture, while others have been part of China for so long there is a general “sameness” to them that can capture the flare you want.

Japan’s imperialism is similarly recent, only ending in 1947, and it left wounds across the Pacific (including Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia). Many of their actions are classified as war crimes. They’ve also erased their own Indigenous population by insisting only one ethnicity lived in the country. Both of these factors make mixing Japan into an “East Asian” mix tricky. Japan’s culture, while heavily impacted by China and Korea, is pretty distinct because of its island status.

Big research also lets you see the neighbouring areas at a time borders might not have been the same. For example, in the 1600s, China was much smaller because the Manchu External Expansion hadn’t happened yet. As a result, places we now think of as “Chinese” actually weren’t, and you’ll have to account for these differences in your worldbuilding. You can determine this by looking up historical maps/empires, which might require book research (libraries are wonderful).

This does not mean you can ignore recent history, however. Because the story is set in modern day, people will be viewing it through a modern lens. You need to research both the modern and the historical context in order to understand how to go about crafting a respectful world.

So that’s stuff you would’ve discovered by big research. By tracking empire movements, you can see where old wounds are and what historical contexts exist within whatever region you’re pulling from. If you take North America, you can see how each individual tribe is cast aside in favour of settler stories; in Africa, you can see how multiple empires wanted to plunder the land and didn’t care who it was; in the Middle East, you can see both the recent military involvement, the historical Ottomans, and the historical Persians.

Build Small

You can also see what empires influenced their regions for long enough to create a similar-ish culture throughout multiple regions, which can help you extract the essence you’re looking for. I would add a very large caution to only do this for historical empires where those who suffered under the regime are not fighting in present day/ have living memory of it (such as incorporating too much of England, France, or Spain in the Americas, along with the two examples above).

Now you can build small. If you wanted to give a sense of, say, coastal China with a heavy amount of trade, you can pick a major port city in China and figure out the pluralism in relation to that city. What parts identify it as Chinese (architecture, governance, food, general religious practices— folklore changes by region, but the general gist of practices can remain similar enough to get a vibe), and what parts are borrowed from a distinct enough culture they’re noticeably different?

By going from a city level, you can imply pluralism by throwing in asides of differences “out there” that shows you’ve thought about it, without cramming your world full of cultures you can’t fit in the plot. You can then also narrow down what to include based on map proximity: if there’s an easy sea or land path to an Egyptian analogue, you’re probably going to at least hint at it. This is a known historical trade, btw. Egyptian blue and Han purple are made of similar substances, pointing to an ancient cultural link.

You can research this by simply googling the country and looking under its history in Wikipedia. If you look up “China”, you can see “Imperial Unification” as one of its history points. “Japan” similarly gets you the Meiji period. Turkey shows the Ottoman empire. You can also look up “empires in [region]” that will give you a similar overview. This even works for places you don’t think have historical empires, such as North America (the pre-colonization section notes several).

This also is a starting place for what the borders would’ve been during any given time period, and gives you places to potentially factor in military involvement and recent strife. This is where modern research comes in handy, because you can get an idea of what that strife looked like.

Hope this gives you an idea how to go about worldbuilding a diverse population, and how to avoid paralleling recent wounds. 

~ Mod Lesya

Regarding Your Jewish Characters

I think it’s valid to reflect our real history in fantasy although if you dwell too much on the suffering aspects and not the “richly varied cultural traditions” aspects you’ll probably lose some of us because suffering-porn written from the outside gets old fast (if you’re Jewish yourself you 200% have the right to write this, of course.) Human Jewish characters living in pockets in fake-northern-Europe and fake-Mediterranea and fake-North-Africa (or even Fake China and Fake India; we’re there, too) is actually injecting some well-needed historical accuracy back into a genre that’s been badly whitewashed, gentilewashed, etc by imagining a Europe where nobody but white gentiles existed until they conveniently popped into existence during whatever era the writer thinks is appropriate.

In other words, if your fake Germany has a Jewish neighborhood in its largest city, that’s a way of making pseudo-European fantasy more realistic and less -washy, and is overall a good move, despite the fact that the destruction of the temple is the reason we were in Germany in the first place. (I mean… it’s not like you’re planning on sitting there writing about Tisha b'Av itself, right? You don’t have to say “And the reason there are Jews here is because a bazillion years ago, we wound up getting scattered” just to have Jews.)

By the way, having myself written secondary-world fantasy where entire countries, plural, get to be majority-Jewish, and 100% free of on-screen antisemitism, I think both ways are valid.

–Shira

The actual world’s biggest solar farm-in-the-shape-of-a-panda

There are quite a few news stories being written regarding the world’s largest solar farm that is, incidentally, in the shape of a panda. Based in Datong, China, many have shared the above image of the 100MW farm from Panda Green Energy (come on, go with it) which, despite the appeal, is just an artist’s rendition. Snopes managed to acquire a drone shot of the actual farm, below.

Next, the Materials World blog will tell you Father Christmas isn’t real, take the Tooth Fairy to task, and proving the non-existence of God (QED) before vanishing in a puff of logic.

“multiple stereotypes of this eastern other are everywhere. whether chinese olympic athletes are branded as robots, or chinese students or tourists are likened to swarms, or shenzhen factory workers are criticized for flooding the marketplace, the subtext is the same. it is the dehumanisation of the individual into the nameless, faceless mass. on the other hand is the orientalist aesthetic narrative, where china is the exotic other, eternally unknowable, mysterious, powerless yet seductive. but rather than resisting cultural cliches, sinofuturism embraces several key stereotypes associated with china. these are its guiding principles: computing, copying, gaming, studying, addiction, labor, and gambling. at a material level, it is already everywhere, in architecture, in the technology and products we use every day. however, i propose something more radical. i propose that sinofuturism is in fact a form of artificial intelligence, a massively distributed neural network focused on copying rather than originality, addicted to learning mass amounts of raw data rather than philosophical critique or morality, with a posthuman capacity for work, and an unprecedented sense of collective will to power. rather than resisting stereotypes, sinofuturism embraces cliches, many of which are enforced by both east and west. just as afrofuturists answered the historical problem of slavery by declaring themselves as posthuman super robots, sinofuturism answers the chinese problems of physical servitude, intellectual conformity, and computational ocd by embracing artificial intelligence.”

sinofuturism (2016) dir. lawrence lek 

Lapsang Souchong


Also known as smoked tea, Lapsang Souchong is an ancient Chinese black tea, perhaps the oldest known to date. Legends say during the Qing dynasty tea producers in the Wuyi mountains accelerated the drying process of less desirable leaves to satisfy the needs of the military. The unique smoky flavour comes from a secretive process passed down through the generations, where today it is still prepared in the ancient way and only produced in a select few of the Wuyi tea estates.

The tea is picked from the fourth or fifth leaf from the bud and left to dry on a cypress or pine wood fire. The tea is then placed within wooden barrels to intensify the flavour. The final step is placing the tea into bamboo trays called honglongs, which are then placed over smoky pine fires to dry the tea completely.   

This is a very different flavour of tea that you will love or loathe. There is a strong smokiness throughout each sip with undertones of longan berry, whiskey, and pine smoke. The aroma is near spot on to that of a campfire, and brings me to think of the starry nights, roasted marshmallows and ghost stories of my childhood. Nostalgia aside the tea is really unlike any other, and would probably be a favourite for any bacon lover.      


Cannot Forget (Part 5: Laughter)

Summary: Russia and China reminisce about their time together throughout and beyond the Cold War. Written for RoChu Week 2017 (@rochuweek).

Read Part 5 on AO3 or FF.net


A/N: So - this is something a *little* more lighthearted for RoChu Week. Because the prompt is laughter, and I ain’t sadistic enough to make them suffer all the way through RoChu Week. Enjoy!

Beijing, March 27th 1969

Russia rapped his gloved hand on the door, rocking back and forth on his heels as he waited for a response. He knocked on the door again, louder, his chest bristling with hope as he heard gentle footsteps approach. The door creaked open by the slightest, China’s dark eyes peering out.

‘What are you doing here?’

Russia placed his hand to his chest, not sure if he found China’s annoyance amusing or hurtful. ‘Comrades can’t visit each other?’

China scoffed. ‘They’re not supposed to try to bomb each other, I know that for sure.’

‘You know those are only rumours!’ Russia chuckled. ‘My boss would never plan to do such a terrible thing.’

China’s brow raised. ‘So then you’re just… stopping by for a friendly visit.’

‘Of course.’

China clacked his tongue. ‘Lies. You’re visiting out of pity! I know you. Your boss has something bad in mind and you’re trying to make up for it.’

Russia paused, mumbling for an excuse. China had been, as always, quick to read him.

Keep reading

It’s a Surprise!

For @fallenangelartistlove

Posted on AO3 and Fanfiction

Pairing: Russia x China (Hetalia)



“I can look now, da?”  Russia asked, his own scarf tied around his eyes. His only guidance coming from the smaller man behind him.

“No no. It will ruin the surprise.”

“But, China. I want to be able to see it.” He whined as smaller hands kept up the pressure on his back, pushing him forward. Yet, China persisted. Not letting the larger man’s way with words sway him to reveal his present any sooner. With no response from the other, Russia had to rely on his other sense to figure out where China was taking him.

There was a soft breeze in the air, not filled with smog or other strange air pollutants. It was quiet, with the exceptions of birds chirping and other animalistic sounds coming from around. The soft aroma of plant life was relaxing. Maybe China planned a picnic, but he never remembered a time where they had done something like that. His mind came up with multiple possibilities like maybe China somehow had a house that he didn’t know about or maybe there were magical creatures out in the forest only native to China’s territory. Each option was fascinating and exciting in its own right.

His mind stopped as his body did. China’s hands no longer pressing on his back. He heard his footsteps to the side and then in front of him, getting further away. Reaching out, he grabbed the other tightly.

“Where are you going? You aren’t leaving me out here, are you?” He panicked a little at the intrusive idea. China set his hand gently on the arm that wrapped around him. He massaged little circles to relax Russia and ease his grip. It seemed to work enough.

“I’m not leaving. I just have to open the door.” He turned and had to lift himself with his toes to give the other a gentle kiss on the cheek.

“Door? China, where are we?” His free hand moved to pull his scarf down.

“Aiyah! Not yet! You’ll find out.” China was quick to stop the other from spoiling the secret. “I worked really hard and I don’t want you to waste my hard work by ruining it.” He got away from the Russian and all the other heard was a click of a key and the door slightly creaking open.  His shoulders relaxed as soft hands grabbed his own and pulled him forward. He let China guide him inside and instantly smelt the difference in the air. There was a little bit of incense, but most of the aroma was floral scented. It smelt incredibly familiar to him, yet he couldn’t place it.

“It is really hard to keep something this big a secret from you, with you following me everywhere.” China exclaimed as he led him deeper inside wherever they were.

“I have to make sure you get home okay.”

“I can take care of myself.” They stopped. “Okay, now you can look.”

The impatient Russian wasted no time pulling his scarf back around his neck and froze as he looked around.

Sunflowers.

So many sunflowers. They were huge and encompassed much of the area, save for a small pond, some trees a small grassy area that they were standing in. Russia reached out to grab one.

“What is all this?” He inquired. China slightly blushed and looked away.

“It’s just a greenhouse. Since we cannot leave for a vacation, I decide to make a vacation spot for us in my country. I knew you loved sunflowers, so I made them the main flower and figured out how to grow them. We can stay here for as long as we want, until our bosses call.” He didn’t have any time to continue as wide arms swept him up happily. They held him close, one hand around his waist and the other in his hair keeping his face plated in the large Russian’s chest.

“I want to stay here forever.”

“You know we can’t. We have our own work.”

“Can we stay as long as possible then?” China nodded against him. He held the other close for a few more minutes before pulling away slightly and leaning down to kiss him. Soft. Sweet. All the thing China never liked Russia saying while in public.

“Я люблю тебя”

“You may find Japs among any oriental civilian group….That is a favorite infiltration trick…Make your man walk…The Chinese strides…The Jap shuffles (But he may be clever enough to fake the stride)…Make him remove his socks and shoes, if any…”

Source: United States War Department. 1942. “How to Spot a Jap. Educational Comic Strip,” Pocket Guide to China. 1st edition.

NCT DREAM + Ten + Johnny when a white girl joins SM and becomes a trainee. // Quando uma garota branca se junta à SM e vira uma trainee.

Mark: Which country are you from?? Are you from Canada like me and Wendy noona? // De que país você é? Você é do Canadá que nem eu e a Wendy noona?

Originally posted by nctech

Haechan: Where do you come from? Are there pretty girls like you on your country? // De onde você é? Tem garotas bonitas que nem você no seu país?

Originally posted by neotechs

Jeno: *starts making inumerous questions about where you’re from* // *começa a fazer inúmeras perguntas sobre de onde você é*

Originally posted by yoon-to-the-oh

Renjun: *tries to speak with you in english, fails* // *tenta falar com você em inglês, falha*

Originally posted by neotechs

Chenle: China star will guide you to the basics of being an international trainee. // A Estrela da China vai te guiar nos básicos de ser um trainee internacional.

Originally posted by neotechs

Jaemin: Your accent is cute~ // Seu sotaque é fofo~

Originally posted by nctlife

Jisung: You’re not from here, right? But your korean is very good, noona! // Você não é daqui, certo? Mas seu coreano é ótimo, noona!

Originally posted by neotechs

Ten: Do you speak english? // Você fala inglês?

Originally posted by neotechs

Johnny: Are you from America? // Você é da América?

Originally posted by jesung


~Adm Hiyeonji

The Origin of Tea

According to legend, 4752 years ago in 2737 B.C. tea was first discovered by a historic Chinese ruler Shennong (Emperor of the Five Grains). It is said that while traveling through his realm, the court stopped to rest. As a custom his servants began to boil water for the court to drink, and by chance leaves fell into the pot changing the colour of the water. Shennong was renowned for the belief of teaching the ancient Chinese arts in agriculture and herbal medicine, he was also known to taste plants to test the quality. Naturally the emperor tasted this brew to learn of its nature, and tea was born. 

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