Two Sides of China: North vs South

There is a friendly rivalry between Chinese people from the North and South of China. Beijing and Shanghai represent the conflict best as two of the most important cities in the country, Beijing being the seat of government and Shanghai being the center of the financial world. Beyond the economic focus of each city, there are many food and language differences as well.

The staple food of China is rice but actually, rice is most common in Southern China while Northern China has a lot of wheat and therefore eats more noodles. Dumplings are served all over China but in Northern cities they are usually boiled and served in broth whereas Southern cities fry dumplings. One notable exception is Shanghai's soup dumplings 小笼包 (xiǎo lóng bāo) which are steamed with broth inside the dumpling. Northern China's weather is colder so they eat more hearty meats, specifically lamb and goat. Southern Chinese people usually don't like the taste or even the smell of lamb or goat.


The official language of China is Mandarin and has been since the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Modern Chinese language standards are based on the Beijing dialect since that is the location of the government. The main difference between the Beijing dialect and Southern Chinese dialects is the "r" sound. Words like 点 (diǎn, a little, a dot) and 空 (kōng, empty, air) in Southern China are still said on their own whereas in Northern China, and standard Mandarin, these words have "r" at the end: 点儿 (diǎn'r),空儿 (kòng'r).

Some other words in standard Mandarin use "r" but in Southern Chinese have a completely different syllable instead of the "r":


This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.