I am travelling in China, and here found yet another definition of the word “culture.” I thought that this definition might be worth posting on Ethnography.com where Googling Anthro 101 students seeking to write that obligatory “write and discuss the meaning of culture” essay might land! So here is a Chinese definition to add to those from your textbook.
In written Chinese, the word for “culture” is “Wen Hua” (文化) which is made up of two characters, i.e. the character “Wen” (文) that is usually translated by itself as “language,” and a second Hua (化) which is usually translated by itself as “change, melt, dissolve.” Taken by themselves, the two characters can be roughly translated as “changing of a language.” But put together, they take on the meaning of “culture.”.
The equation of language and culture of course is not unique to Chinese—plenty of 20th century English-writing anthropologists have made this connection. However, I like the combination with the character for “change, melt, dissolve” because it implies what we all know well about culture—not only is culture connected to language, but both language and culture re in constant flux—the change! So for those of you struggling with that essay, you can cite the wisdom of the Chinese definition of culture by noting that culture is by Chinese definition transformational!