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Thread: China (And East Asia In General) Should Return To Its Cultural Roots

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    Regular Member Silverbackman's Avatar
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    China (And East Asia In General) Should Return To Its Cultural Roots

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to be "westernized", but honestly.....it's getting quite annoying now. It seems every culture in the world wants to be "westernized" (whatever that exactly means). There is nothing wrong with adopting some technology or customs of another civilization......people have been doing this for thousands of years. But now it seems like the latest craze for nations to become western.

    East Asia is somewhat of an example of this, though they have done a lot better than other cultures in preserving their cultural heritage. But we can easily see the influence of the west everywhere. In China for example the country itself is run by a party that worships communism and Karl Marx (a western philosophy and a western thinker).......and his later devotees like Mao, while abandoning far better wisdom found in China's true traditions of Confucianism and Taoism.

    The unique architecture of China (as well as the rest of East Asia) has all but disappeared in the construction of newer buildings. If you look at a city in China from a distance it looks too much like a western city. You don't see modern skyscrapers with that Chinese look......they look not much different from something you would see in the West.

    Now some people may say that this is due to the classical architecture of China being too impractical for today's buildings. I think this is bullshit. Let's say that the Mongols never invaded China centuries ago. During the Tang and Song Dynasty China was already in an industrial revolution of its own and could have colonized the world in the same way Europe did in the 19th century 1,000 years (of course it wouldn't be nearly as brutal as the European conquests). If this occurred I am pretty sure we would see more of the styles of East Asia used in modern construction instead of Europe.

    And then of course their is clothing styles. Most Chinese and East Asians have adopted western clothing in nearly all aspects of life. This includes western business suits, jeans, ect. Again, all this isn't bad, but it would be a lot nicer of Chinese people stuck to their cultural identity and wore Hanfu-type clothing instead of copying the West. Some say Hanfu clothing wouldn't be practical in today's world........but this argument is as weak as the architecture argument. The fact of the matter is people have been wearing hanfu clothing (as well as the kimono in Japan and the Hanbok in Korea) for thousands of years to do a wide variety of work and recreation.

    There is nothing superior about Western culture.......and I say this as a Westerner that has religiously studied other cultures. Maybe other cultures still think there is something superior about European-based culture because of the last 200 years of colonization and exploitation.....but people of other cultures need to realize that western domination is a relatively new phenomenon. In the past (such as during the Middle Ages) the West was no where near to the top in scientific, technological, and cultural advancement. In fact they were far behind most of the rest of Eurasia during the Middle Ages.

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    Koyaniskatsi yukio_michael's Avatar
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    One, you are you admit a Westerner, so what business is it of yours how exactly Asians of any race conduct their own personal lives? What do you want of them? Do you want them to run around with straw hats and rickshaws so that they preserve your specific notions of ethnic antiquity?

    Second, this comes up time and time again, such and such non-Asian person feels that Japan or China isn't living up to their own expectations, not being Asian enough... You see blue jeans and cowboy boots and you think that Asia is becoming Westernized, you're also implying that the citizens themselves are both not aware of their own cultural histories (they are very much so), nor are they able to think for themselves on the matter.

    If you want to see time-honoured cultural aspects of Japan, I suggest visiting during any time of the many festivals, called matsuri in the Japanese language. Visit Akasaka. Whatever lens you are looking through is distorting your image of Asia, where first-person contact would probably improve it.

    If you don't want to look beyond your own pre-conceived notions, I suggest that you simply fly to Orlando and visit the Epcot Center World Pavilion, where you can experience all the simulated culture you want. Asia is neither your playground, nor your amusement park... it's not for you to say how they act, even though your assumptions about their lack of cultural identity, are although common, quite incorrect.

    Some people require that Japan be a technological future-land where robots roam freely and reconstruct a future mega-Chiba city... Others would prefer that everyone walked around with katana at their sides where sword play would solve the argument at the local ale-house. Unfortunately for those who wish it so, another country simply can't be what you wish it were.

    ps. I'll ask you why you're not so critical of your own country, for abandoning the Western (much like the Samurai films of the 50's-60's have also seemed to wane in popularity). Why not rage against the lack of period pieces (which frankly bore me to tears)... Lament that not enough people are reading Ethan Frome, and too many people are reading Fight Club.

    pps. I know that the majority of my response deal with Japan, which I am more familiar with, but I feel it also applies to China as well, and through some of my meetings with Chinese students, I do feel that they hold a strong regard for their cultural heritage... As do Koreans, if you're interested, & oh yes, quite a few of them wear blue jeans.
    Last edited by yukio_michael; May 20, 2007 at 01:56.
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    Regular Member Silverbackman's Avatar
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    Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that East Asians (or any other group for that matter) shouldn't wear blue jeans or anything. Nor am I saying that other groups shouldn't adopt certain Western customs. Cultures adopting the customs of other cultures has been occurring for thousands of years. An example in the West would be many westerners adopting the Hanfu-style robe for bath and wear at night.
    What I'm bothered at is that many cultures (such as those of East Asia) seem to give up a lot of their original customs and as you stated reserve them to festivals. Other ways to see the traditional culture is in movies. But why did they have to go completely to movies, festivals, ect.? Moreover, why did East Asia have to give up their clothing style and architecture style in the 20th century all of a sudden? Why are East Asian values starting to mirror western values in political institutions. This includes the far more repressive nature of the West......such as the more Christian based morals when it comes to sex (well, at least politically-wise.....though this could be largely because of pressure from Western nations). Other areas that aren't necessarily harmful is having a mirror educational system......when in fact East Asia could probably do far better than the West in this area. Perhaps this is a bit hard to do considering the current globalist political situation.......but it still can be done.
    Another example of a civilization adopting Western (particularly unhealthy western attitudes) is India. India used to be a haven for sexual freedom.....where homosexuals were treated equally, sexual art wasn't taboo, ect. Now it is more prude than even the US, adopting the more anti-sex repressive laws that they inherited from the old British law system. This can easily be seen in their "sodomy" laws. WTF? And laws against kissing on the cheek in public? That sounds a lot like a law that was in effect in the West 50+ years ago.
    I have to say though that East Asia has done a better job than other regions in maintaining their cultural identity.......but a lot better can be done. And no that doesn't mean East Asians should walk around in straw hats and rickshaws........I would just like to see more authentic East Asian art and culture than some of the more western-washed cultural themes. And no it doesn't mean Japanese should walk around with katanas or whatever. It doesn't have to be that extreme.....though walking around with a katana would make a great fashion statement.

    And you have to admit the teachings of Confucianism and Taoism are filled with far better wisdom for China than the communist manifesto and the writings of Mao (which were influenced by Marx's writing).

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    Koyaniskatsi yukio_michael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    An example in the West would be many westerners adopting the Hanfu-style robe for bath and wear at night.
    I think this is a highly exaggerated example... I mean, If you are speaking about robes, I don't think that it's correct to assume that they are influenced directly by hanfu styles... It's just that some things, much like many ideas, happen independently... the cloth & style are completely different.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    What I'm bothered at is that many cultures (such as those of East Asia) seem to give up a lot of their original customs and as you stated reserve them to festivals.
    Yes, this is because they are not living int 1480AD any longer... progress in culture and social mores pushes a group of people to discard older aspects of their society and concentrate on new ones. You are isolating Asians in this aspect, but it happens throughout the world.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    Other ways to see the traditional culture is in movies. But why did they have to go completely to movies, festivals, ect.? Moreover, why did East Asia have to give up their clothing style and architecture style in the 20th century all of a sudden?
    Societies change, people change, you can't expect, or expect of them what you are supposing... We live in one WORLD, and despite what people think, and perhaps I am a dreamer when I suppose this, we are one people, one group of people, human beings, who populate this planet, and we are all influenced by one another--- Japan's progress, Japan's place in this world would not be what it is, were it not for the abandonment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, an isolationist tyrany that kept Japan ignorant from outside views... Why did they give up their clothing styles? This is fairly easy to answer... time, in oh say, the past 100 years, the clothing styles of the United States have changed drastically... It is perhaps slower for Asian nations, but, this still, is not a defamation against their waning culture.... Things change.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    Why are East Asian values starting to mirror western values in political institutions. This includes the far more repressive nature of the West......such as the more Christian based morals when it comes to sex (well, at least politically-wise.....though this could be largely because of pressure from Western nations).
    I can't speak for all of East Asia, but as far as Japan is concerned, I really don't think you understand East-Asian sexual mores, or values. I would say that the opposite of what you say is true... I'm no expert on China, perhaps any of our Chinese or resident members can chime in... but for Japan, I think you are incorrect in your assumptions on their so called westernized mores.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    Other areas that aren't necessarily harmful is having a mirror educational system......when in fact East Asia could probably do far better than the West in this area. Perhaps this is a bit hard to do considering the current globalist political situation.......but it still can be done.
    The Japanese adopted a more Western educational system during the Meji restoration phase. Regardless, it's a pretty horrible education system, but that has nothing to do with it's adoption from western traditions... This has been spoken of in other threads, so I'll not go into a long explanation about the educational system... I think our member Ewok could do this subject great justice...


    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    Another example of a civilization adopting Western (particularly unhealthy western attitudes) is India. India used to be a haven for sexual freedom.....where homosexuals were treated equally, sexual art wasn't taboo, ect. Now it is more prude than even the US, adopting the more anti-sex repressive laws that they inherited from the old British law system.
    I'm not familiar with India, though I have friends and relatives who have lived there for some time... I can't say that these laws were "adopted" from colonial rule, I don't know for certain, so I can't comment on the history of India's sodomy laws... I'll bow out on this one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    I have to say though that East Asia has done a better job than other regions in maintaining their cultural identity.......but a lot better can be done.
    Better than Viet Nam, better than Cambodia, better than Malaysia? By your standards, I do not know... but again, I don't think this is something anyone but the countries involved need to be concerned about. There is a great history of tyrannies being institutionalized into colony states, but by and large, Asia & China have been free of these types of institutions... You should look at places like South Africa, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, & the death squads trained there for more evident examples of Westernized tyrany.


    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    though walking around with a katana would make a great fashion statement.
    The statement would most likely be, I am insane, please arrest me, as I'm carrying a weapon outside of a proper method of containment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    And you have to admit the teachings of Confucianism and Taoism are filled with far better wisdom for China than the communist manifesto and the writings of Mao (which were influenced by Marx's writing).
    What you are talking about here, these two examples, are so far distant in their relationship that it doesn't even merit an argument about how different they are. You are comparing an ideological political movement to vague so called, religous ideals... they are completely and 100% different in both motive and substance.

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    Sister Earth Goldiegirl's Avatar
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    Maybe some Americans want more traditional countries that have had a long history to stay that way and not change because the USA has a short history (not including the native american culture here) and it's been a mix of all different cultures and countries. I am just guessing here, but perhaps it is like culture envy because as Americans our history and culture is not as established in length of time. I hope this makes some sense. Personally speaking we all move towards modernization and sometimes that gets confused with westernization.
    I hope life isn't a big joke, because I don't get it. ~Jack Handey

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    Koyaniskatsi yukio_michael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldiegirl View Post
    I am just guessing here, but perhaps it is like culture envy because as Americans our history and culture is not as established in length of time. I hope this makes some sense. Personally speaking we all move towards modernization and sometimes that gets confused with westernization.
    I think what you say about culture envy is true... I think in some people there is this aspect, where many people in the United States, though descendants of those in other nations feel that their lives and histories are fractured, and as such, look to societies with long standing, and ancient histories as models of perfection.

    I don't think that there is anything wrong with admiring another country's cultural history. I feel it's a shame when one ignores ones own cultural history, however brief it may be, at the praise of another.

    This is often common forum fodder here, it's not uncommon at all, so perhaps others are avoiding this thread out of boredom, out of a displeasure of saying the same thing again and again...

    At the core of the argument however is the idea that one wishes that another country more perfectly fit their image of that country, that said country more adopted their own antiquities (and if you've visited Japan, as I know you have Goldiegirl), you'll see that these antiquities are woven through society like threads, and though the traditions are not say, a chord or a rope that binds the nation, they are as I've said, these threads, which permeate the culture and bind it together by one mindset.

    I hope this all makes sense.

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    Sister Earth Goldiegirl's Avatar
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    Yep, I agree. I love Japan for it's antiquity, the same for all of Europe and the Middle East. I love the USA and it's history. A lot sure has happened in a short time.

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    Koyaniskatsi yukio_michael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goldiegirl View Post
    Yep, I agree. I love Japan for it's antiquity, the same for all of Europe and the Middle East. I love the USA and it's history. A lot sure has happened in a short time.
    The United States enjoys a sort of history that is unrivaled in the world... it is, evolving constantly... look how far the country has come from the Civil rights movements of the 50's to now...

    We've created things that have been an important influence on world culture, disco, techno (real techo... Dutch Baka will have to back me up on this), house music, Jazz, Delta Blues, Blues, Rhythm & Blues, and basically, Rock and Roll...

    I wonder what the world would be like without Chuck Berry & Little Richard? Without the Stax record label & Booker T & the MGs, without Howlin' Woolf?

    These are isolated examples, but our goals as society should be to share culture and enjoy our differences, rather than disparage our own differences...

    Maybe, one day.

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    Regular Member Elizabeth van Kampen's Avatar
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    There is nothing wrong with wanting to be "westernized", but honestly.....it's getting quite annoying now. It seems every culture in the world wants to be "westernized" (whatever that exactly means). There is nothing wrong with adopting some technology or customs of another civilization......people have been doing this for thousands of years. But now it seems like the latest craze for nations to become western.

    Siverbackman,

    Westernized stands for Amecianized I guess?
    Also in Europe we are americanized, at least many of our countries in Europe are.
    And I agree with you that it is a pity that we are all going to lose a lot of our own cultures.

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    yukio_michael talked about how "westernization" hadn't hurt Japanese culture all that much. I think this view can't be applied to many other East Asian countries at all. Japan as far as I know is one of the very very few countries that have been most successsful in keeping their own traditional culture. Japan takes pride in their own culture, while many other East-Asians cultures admire the West.

    It is easy to find someone wearing kimono in Japan, walking around the city, going to Disley, festivals, etc. However, in China or many other East Asian cities, You wouldn't be able to spot any ordinary people wearing their traditional clothings at all, no matter, how long you look.

    For some countries(cities), e.g. Hong Kong, adopting an English name is fashionable, whereas having only Chinese name(or name in whatever his native language is), is seen as old-fashioned. As far as I know, very very few Japanese have English name, Japanese people would think that their Japanese names are just as good as, if not better than English names, however this is not the case in some other East Asian countries.

    I have been to Japan a few times, I really admire how Japanese can keep in touch with its tradition and cultures that much, and as the same time able to "modernise" the country. The tradition aspects and the modern (e.g. business) practices in Japan are intertwined together. (Sort of remind me of the pyramid in Louvre) However, in many other countries, areas, "modernization/westernization" tends to destroy their own traditions.

    Another point is that, I am not saying if this is a good thing or not, but the fact is that the English language skills of Japanese people is far lower than many of its neighbouring countries. And language and culture are pretty much related.

    Lastly, the differences between mordernization, and westernization has to be remembered, and these two words shouldn't be used interchangeably. While the former is pretty much inevitable, the later is not.

    Linked to the above point is that, e.g. jeans, are adopted in other countries might simply because they are convenient, not because those countries feverishly admire the west. Even if completely separated from the west, these countries might develope jeans eventually. The west was simply able to develop jeans a bit earlier than other countries.

    Also, I totally Silverbackman who in effect said that China worships the West simply because it is a communist country. In fact, the Chinese communism is very different from the western, e.g. Russian communism. All of the ideologies e.g. Capitalism,Socialism,Liberalism etc. have been amply discussed and written in the West in the past centuries because the social and political conditions in the West allowed it. The policy of a country just happen to coincide with one of the variants of these various ideologies is almost inevitable, whether the policy itself is influenced by those ideologies ot not (though probably they are). This doesn't necessarily mean that the country is being "westernized"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elizabeth van Kampen View Post
    Siverbackman,
    Westernized stands for Amecianized I guess?
    Also in Europe we are americanized, at least many of our countries in Europe are.
    And I agree with you that it is a pity that we are all going to lose a lot of our own cultures.
    Amecianized ~?exactly!

    now there is a trend so called "vintage" in China .

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    Sister Earth Goldiegirl's Avatar
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    America is Europeanized, Middle Easternized, Africanized, Asianized. What is Americanized? I think everyone needs to realize that modernization is NOT Americanization. Countries evolve. The world is not static. In America, we too long for the "good ole days". There is even a outdoor museum called "Old World Wisconsin" where you can walk through houses, stores, chruches and schools that have been preserved so we can see our history. The Japanese will have to decide for themselves where they want to go as a country. I think they do a great job, but that is as an outsider looking in. Although Japan is super modern when I am there I can say it is not American.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Silverbackman View Post
    There is nothing wrong with wanting to be "westernized", but honestly.....it's getting quite annoying now.
    I believe this thread you have started and the arguments you have given score higher on the annoyance scale than the current "westernization" of countries.

    For people who are not interested in reading my post, but do like to know what my standpoint on this matter is, please skip to the last paragraph.

    First off, I would like to say that Communism is a political ideology, and Taoism and Confucianism are not. You're comparing apples with horses.

    Anyway, as others have said before, the world is not a cultural museum that has to preserve its heritage. The world consists of people, groups, nation states, political regions etc. that are increasingly intertwining because of globalization. You're saying that some countries are "losing their identity" but isn't it so that countries are just evolving!?

    You might hate all the modern apartment blocks in Japan all you want, but notice that these kind of buildings are very efficient to build. Sure, you can go and try to build wooden 5 story old-fashioned Japanese houses, but this kind of operation will be very expensive. Too expensive for any common man to pay anyway.

    Also, notice that although it all looks the same, actually they are not. I can tell whether an apartment block is Japanese or Dutch, by just looking at it for half a second. Both have distinct styles because of many factors: weather, geography, personal preferences, local laws and regulations etc. Heck, I can even tell the difference between a Dutch one and a Belgian one if I must, honestly.

    So in this case, what you call Westernization, I would like to call overall modernization.. And a lack of "taking a good look".

    And I don't understand your clothing style argument either. Let's start with the business suits. I don't know in what field you are working/studying, but business is about communication. And as you might know, this can be verbal or non-verbal. Verbal communication is tricky, but can be accomplished if both parties speak the same language, know the jargon of their field, and respect each other. It is essential though, any interference in the communication might damage the business relation.

    Anyway, there is also non-verbal communication which is not only about what gestures you use, but also how you present yourself. And yes, clothes do matter. "The West" starting using suits a long time ago, and other countries adopted it too. So what!? Their aim was to be taken seriously by all other parties. There is something called etiquette to which you have to conform in order to be taken seriously, like it or not. If you don't conform, that is going to interfere with the communication negatively.

    And about other clothes like jeans and t-shirts.. Well I guess they're so popular because those people want to wear them, right? Do you blame them for wanting something they want to wear?! Where there is demand, there will be a supply. If you want to prevent that, go and implement fierce state control.. Hey, sounds like communism!!

    Besides, there are still some aspects with regard to clothing that are different. I mean, many Japanese girls wear short skirts in the winter whereas in "western" countries it's often worn during summer months. I have no preference about in which season I would like to see short skirts so I'm totally fine with it, but I find it a very funny observation.

    By the way, how do you react towards "western" people who wear Japanese clothes in their spare time? Should they stick to their cultural heritage too? How about them American J-Rock fans dressing up like their Japanese idols? Would you rather have them wear clothes like any domestic rock star?

    To cut a long story short, culture evolves, like it or not. Where there is international communication, there will be international adaptation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by leonmarino View Post
    To cut a long story short, culture evolves, like it or not. Where there is international communication, there will be international adaptation.

    I agree with this opinion
    lena

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    Regular Member Silverbackman's Avatar
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    Just to clarify a couple things........

    While Daoism and Confucianism can be considered a religion, they can also be considered political philosophies, because they have plenty of political philosophy within them. Likewise, while Marxism is often seen as primarily a political movement, it does have a religious philosophy which is of course rejection of religion as the "opium of the masses" as Marx put it. Even Mao's communism ultimately originated in the West, because Marx is the father of communism. Now as an atheist myself, I have no problems with this but many Chinese Taoists and Confucianists were put to death for adhering to their philosophies, both of which taught different politics of their own. Chinese communism destroyed China's traditional more advanced culture in place of some collectivist anti-freedom philosophy.

    And why did the Chinese have to give up their clothing and architecture styles? Like I said, East Asian Architectural styles are not impractical in the modern age. All they have to use is different materials (substitute steel for wood). And hanfu clothing was used well into the modern age before the Qing invaded so they aren't impractical.

    The CPC screwed everything up. If the KMT won the civil war China would be a superpower today with their entire culture preserved.

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