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Home > Facts > Tradition & Customs > Chinese Kowtow (叩头)

Chinese Kowtow (叩头)

A Brief Introduction of Kowtow
In historical operas and films of China, one can often see Chinese people performing kowtow - a traditional custom for worship on bended knees. It is said that the history of kowtow can be traced back as early as the legendary Emperor Xuan Yuan. How this custom originated and how it survived throughout history has a lot to do with the living standard and customs of ancient Chinese people.

The Origin of Kowtow
The connotation of the words "to sit" in ancient times was completely different from what we understand today. "Sitting" is generally known as kowtow today. Both knees bent down on the mat, with the buttocks resting on the heels. When meeting a guest, the host usually had to stretch the upper part of the body to show respect. Gradually, the custom of kowtow became a part of daily life.

When to Perform Kowtow?
Traditional Chinese etiquette contained situations in which kowtow was performed, according to imperial Chinese protocol, kowtow was performed before the emperor. During the Spring Festival, younger family members would kowtow to members of each generation above them. At a wedding ceremony, the bride and bridegroom had to kowtow to everyone from the eldest down to their parents in order. During ancestor worship services and the Bright and Clear Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day), kowtow was also often performed.

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