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  • Writer's pictureYiyu Chen

Learn about China's countryside culture from YouTube

Do you like watching YouTube videos? Videos give us more specific information from different parts of the world than just pictures and words. The emergence of personal video makers also gives an insight into those interesting lives outside of the official media.


What do you think of when you talk about China? Throw away the tangled economic and political issues politicians and academics discuss. And leave behind the boring events recorded in history books. The stories of countless magnificent emperors and the proof of their wealth and power that have survived are only a small part of Chinese culture. Let's put our feet on the ground and talk about the stories of people's everyday lives. Today, most Chinese live in cities. Rural life has become a memory for the grandparents' generation. The valuable spiritual heritage and stories from the countryside, which are passed down through thousands of years of farming civilization, are still an integral part of Chinese culture.


People want to display these Chinese cultures that many are unaware of. There is no trace of modernity inside these stories from the land. There is no machinery or electronic equipment. All we can find in those stories is the fruit of the countless experiences and the wisdom of hard-working Chinese over the thousands of years of survival. These traditional techniques usually revolve around the most common needs of life, about how to start with cultivation, step by step to obtain delicious food from the soil, or about the mastery of the craft of making the necessities of life. There are many traditional customs that even the current Chinese themselves do not know. Those people are working hard to record these disappearing Chinese rural cultures and natural landscapes, showing the beauty of labor and hard work. Let's get to know them through some YouTube videos.


李子柒Liziqi


This is a picture of the homepage of Liziqui's YouTube channel.

This image is sourced from Liziqi. To view this, please click here.


She is probably the most popular Chinese video maker on YouTube, and I guess many of you already know about her. She is a hardworking, multi-talented, beautiful girl who wears plain clothes but knows out of the reach of your imaginations. Her videos discuss architecture, masonry, carpentry, making bamboo furniture, making clothes, roasting a whole sheep, making wine, and brewing soybean paste. In short, there is nothing that Li Ziqi can't make. Unlike going to the store to buy groceries, she harvests food from natural sources, cleans it, and cooks it organically. She does it all with the natural products available around her. Her videos are full of watchable, calming content, and they are a good introduction to Chinese culture.


Dragon Boat Zongzi

This is a picture of three wrapped Zongzis
Zongzi is an important part of the Dragon Boat Festivals

This image is sourced from Liziqi. To view this, please click here.


The Dragon Boat Festival, also known as Duanwu Festival, occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of the traditional lunar calendar. The Dragon Boat Festival stems from the ancient Chinese taboo against the evil day when the plague was prevalent in midsummer. It is also the festival for dragon worship, and many of the Dragon Boat customs have elements of driving away the plague and avoiding epidemics. Realgar Liquor and wormwood sprigs are believed to fend off evil spirits and unwanted bugs. The ancient Chinese considered boats as a tool to send away evil spirits, which led to the creation of the dragon boat race. Five colored silk threads wrapped around the wrist or hung on the body are said to pray for long life and many blessings. In this video, you can see all these customs and, most importantly, how to make different flavors of Zongzi, which was also once a ritual food. Zongzi is a glutinous rice ball with various fillings wrapped in Indocalamus leaves. Depending on the region of China, Zongzis are available in sweet and salty varieties, with fillings such as red beans, rose jam, and honey date for sweet ones, and egg yolk, preserved vegetable, and pork belly for salty ones. Generally, Zongzis are usually wrapped with different colored threads to distinguish different flavors when making them. Zongzis are the perfect snack, with a unique aroma and taste, and there is always a flavor you will love.


Brown Sugar

This is a picture of the thumbnail of one of Liziqi's videos.
Brown sugar is a tasty ingredient that has some health benefits.

This image is sourced from Liziqi. To view this, please visit here.


Brown sugar is a coarse sugar made from sugar cane. Although the production process is rough because it is not highly refined, it contains almost all the ingredients in the cane juice. In addition to the function of sugar, it also contains vitamins and trace minerals, such as iron, zinc, manganese, chromium, etc. The nutrient content is much higher than that of white granulated sugar. Therefore, brown sugar is not only used as a sweetener in China, but it has also been considered a health product since ancient times. Brown sugar can be used as a raw material to make a lot of delicious, healthy dishes, such as adding eggs and wine dregs shown in the video or adding red dates, cinnamon, lotus seeds, and silver fungus to make a delicious sweet soup.


Dianxi Xiaoge 滇西小哥


This is a picture of the homepage of Dianxi Xiaoge's YouTube channel.

This image is sourced from Dianxi Xiaoge. To view this image, visit here.


Pu-erh tea, Dian cuisine,

family and friends, best indeed.

Dianxi Xiaoge, a Yunnan local.

Come with me to explore the authentic Dianxi.

The place where rivers and mountains come to life,

where people enjoy eating insects and herbs.


This text is from her profile, from which you can get a basic understanding of her. Dianxi is the vast area west of Kunming in Yunnan, where more than twenty different Chinese ethnic minorities live, so you can often see completely different things from the Han tradition in Danxi Xiaoge's videos. She is not as versatile as Li Ziqi but is definitely at the top of her game when it comes to cooking. She can make many delicious foods that are unknown to Chinese people from other regions. They might not have an exquisite plate design, but they are super delicious. And you can see more of the customs and minority culture of this border region in her videos.


Naxi People's Annual Pig Fest

This is a picture of the thumbnail of one of Dianxi Xiaoge's videos.
The Naxi are an ancient ethnic minority.

This image is sourced from Dianxi Xiaoge. To view this image, visit here.


The Naxi people are a very ancient ethnic minority in southwest China, now living in Lijiang and adjacent areas on the border of Yunnan, Sichuan, and Tibet. The Naxi have their own language and script. Naxi women generally wear broadcloth clothes, round hats, and sheepskin shawls. The shawl has two white back straps crossing over the chest and is usually decorated with seven white circles at the back of the waist, which symbolizes the seven stars of the Big Dipper in the sky. Those are commonly known as “draping the stars and wearing the moon." In this video, Dianxi Xiaoge wears this traditional costume and prepares the food for the feast together with the women of this ethnic minority. You can see how one food of this ethnic group, rice-stuffed sausages, is made, as well as other delicious foods included in the feast. The scene of them singing and dancing at the event is also recorded in the video.


Dai-Style Homemade Beef Balls

This is a picture of a YouTube thumbnail for Dianxi Xiaoge's Dai-Style Beef Ball video.
Dai-Style Beef Balls are a tasty, must-try dish.

This image is sourced from Dianxi Xiaoge. To view this image, visit this link.


This dish originates from the Dai, an ethnic minority group who live mainly in the mountain area of tropical and subtropical climates. The Dai people use rice as their main food, and the most characteristic is bamboo tube rice. It is made by putting rice into fresh bamboo tubes, adding water, and then grilling it over the fire, which makes it taste delicious and fragrant. Insects are used as raw materials to make a variety of flavorful dishes and snacks, which is an important part of the composition of Dai food. To make this dish, you pound the beef with 1.5 kg iron bars continuously until it's finely pulverized. When you see the texture of the beef in the video, you can imagine how chewy and crunchy they are when they enter the mouth. You can also tell that the woman is powerful, and the food took a lot of hard work to prepare.


阿木爷爷Grandpa Amu


This is a picture of Grandpa Amu's YouTube homepage.
Grandpa Amu is a Chinese carpenter.

This image is sourced from Grandpa Amu. To view this image, visit here.


GRANDPA A Mu is an old carpenter who mainly works by hand. Most of the videos here are about handicrafts and delicious food. Moreover, GRANDPA A Mu and his children are also trying to shoot more creative videos to share with everyone so that every reader can learn knowledge and ease their mood.


In the history of China, many things were made of wood, such as houses, tables, chairs, tableware, and many beautiful decorations. This demand for wooden objects led to the creation of carpentry as a profession. The main characteristic of ancient Chinese carpenters was that they did not rely on nails or glue. Instead, they firmly bonded the wood by shaping special structures. Grandpa Amu was a talented and creative carpenter. In his videos, he makes wooden or bamboo toys for his grandchildren and shows his immense skills. You can learn more about this ancient Chinese carpentry craft from the video below.


The Lu Ban Stool

The Lu Ban stool, legend says, was invented by Lu Ban 2600 years ago. It is made of a whole piece of wood and relies on a complex process of sawing, planing, grinding, drilling, chiseling, gouging, etc. The whole object has no nails or other metal components. Lu Ban stools can open and close freely, and the parts can not be completely separated, which transforms into a particular piece of furniture. Its structure is similar to a hinge, which can be opened by rotation and then fixed by a special structure that snaps into place. Lu Ban was a famous craftsman in the late Spring and Autumn period. There are many legends circulating in China about his contributions to the construction and carpentry industries. He is believed to have designed tools and construction laws that are used today. Therefore, Lu Ban is revered by later generations as the originating ancestral master of the Chinese craftsmen. There are Lu Ban temples or temples of Lu Ban built all over China. In the video, we can see Grandpa Amu drawing a few strokes with a ruler, sawing the wood with a saw blade along the traced lines, chiseling, and grinding, and after a flowing operation, it becomes a Lu Ban stool. Before he finished, you could not imagine that a piece of wood could transform into such a magical stool.



This is a GIF of a Lu Ban Stool unfolding.
Lu Ban stools don't use iron nails.

This is a GIF of a Lu Ban stool unfolding.

The unfolding process of the Lu Ban stool.

This GIF is sourced from this video at 11:12. To view this and other content, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVQYqvHXHao&vl=zh


Mortise and tenon technology is a structural method in ancient Chinese architecture, furniture, and instruments. It is a way of joining two components using both concave and convex parts. The convex part is called the tenon, and the concave part is called mortise. The convex and concave parts bite into each other and support each other to remain connected. The mortise and tenon is an extremely sophisticated invention. This way of connecting components can not only withstand intense pressure, but it allows for a certain amount of deformation. In this technique, no nails are used, but the pieces are stronger and more durable than wood joined with iron nails. This combination effectively limits twisting in all directions between the wooden pieces, which cannot be done with iron nail connections. Mortise and tenon pieces are also easy to transport. They can be taken apart for transport and reassembled without harm. In this video, you can see the magic of mortise and tenon joinery.



All these YouTubers' videos have a lot of similarities. They hook you with good food and keep you with excellent craftsmanship. In the end, you may find that what really attracts you is those kinds of lives away from the busy urban areas. This most primitive element of life has an unimaginable appeal in our fast-paced lives. If you listen carefully enough, you will notice that they do not speak the same language as standard Mandarin. The different accents in this continent of China also give a unique sense to these videos.


Do you want to know more about those cultures? Learning a new language can help you gain a deeper understanding of a culture. It expands your mind and opens up a world of possibilities to interact and cross paths with more people from different regions.


Are you worried that the time commitment is too much or that learning a language is too difficult? Don't worry about it. At ReDefiners World Languages, we make it easy to learn English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. Our courses teach you how to talk in another language and learn more about the culture. For more information or to register, visit www.redefinerswl.org or email info@redefinerswl.org.

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