Good The Future Of Traditional Societies: Changing Asian Culture In China Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: China, Culture, Family, Music, Village, Politics, Tradition, World

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/10/03

Music, art, food, and family converge in special ways to create fond memories of celebrations like birthdays and mothers preparing uniquely tasty treats – reflective of different cultures. In Korea, the attentively prepared kimchi as portrayed in Kyung-sook Shin’s novel ‘Please Look After Mom’ is characterized by the author writing “A few days before everyone came down, she would make fresh kimchi, go to the market to buy beef, and stock up on extra toothpaste and toothbrushes” (“Please Look After Mom,” 1, Nobody Knows). This present era of globalization and human migration tilts from traditional ideas of filial piety, and the loving warmth of familiar close-family practices as well as community lynchpins. What has happened, or is happening in China regarding traditional societal culture? The answers form at once, both complex and simple explanations. Reading Shin’s international best seller offers a clue, of how most Asian societies may not have foreseen the prediction of this future trend that splits old from new. This essay focuses upon observations of why the Asian country of China seems headed in the future direction of losing its traditional society. What irretrievably fosters the shrinking of China’s traditional societies, in terms of culture?
There exist the obvious reasons. Elements such as global digitization of electronic communications and business, land development, increasing overlap of foreign investment deals, changing policy, and modernization in general. In the midst of shifting adjustments, music, the arts, and family correspond a starting point to begin to understand how traditional culture in China is being slowing carved away, from its foundational branch – and becoming something new. Each Asian culture has held interestingly unique feature that were pleasantly identified by each country, for example: (a) Korea’s kimchi food, (b) Japan’s origami/papermaking, (c) India’s Tibetan village, and (d) China’s artistic music traditions. Today it is any wonder that any non-Western society can successfully retain its traditional art forms, particularly in music.
While it is true that globalization’s unavoidably intrusive presence does not allow any society to escape its imposition, China has managed to retain its most deeply held principles as a traditional society overall. In other words, to the mind of this observer China will not lose the basic tenets and principles of integrity, harmony, and courtesy. In fact, in ‘China’s Traditional Cultural Values’ the article states that the country is influenced by “its national psychology and identity” and that this bent informs public policy, while retaining a Chinese core of tradition wrapped around “harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, and filial piety” (“China’s Traditional Cultural National Identity”). This is the good news. Overall, the Confucian philosophy appears to relentless retain an airtight grip on the country’s policy-making decisions. In other words, according to the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, respect and distinguishing right from wrong can inform its foreign relations.
In Africa-China dealings of trade investment, is devoid of any political conditions. The ideas underlying this foreign investment relationship of engagement execute or draft a respect for smaller, poorer countries. Beyond, however the macro-level of events, what is happening internally to China’s traditions within the smaller, more intimate venues of villages? According to New York Times writer Ian Johnson, with the help of Chinese researcher Mia Li, a great deal upheaval and traditional erosion is occurring. On the outskirts of Beijing every week or so, one can see the bright yellow, fresh-lime greens and reds of young musicians playing traditional drums and cymbals as a memorial to their village which was destroyed in 2009. Johnson portrays “they set up quickly, then play music that is almost never heard anymorethe steady drone of cars muffles the lyrics of love and betrayal, heroic deeds and kingdoms lost” (“In China, Once the Villages Gone”). In this hinterland of Beijing of the former village in “Lei Family Bridge” the 300 households was demolished to make way for a golf course. After it being torn down, residents (the artist musicians) were scattered into the living quarters of several housing projects locations. Therefore, they meet once or twice weekly under the bridge, although the young people’s interest in the practice is fast diminishing.
The leader of the former tiny village, 27-year-old Lei Peng, yearns to preserve the traditional music culture of the village because its sentimental and cultural value is so potent an endearing – reminiscent of his grandfather. Peng says when they play the music, his grandfather lives through the songs. Obviously, these types of societal traditions on the micro-scale of village life channels high probabilities of threatened extinction. One well-known and respected Chinese scholar, Jicai, says “Chinese culture had traditionally been rural-based,” and “Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone” (“In China, Once the Villages Gone”). You can easily witness the evidence thus far, particularly in the example of the ‘Lei Family Bridge’ community-village of musician artists being destroyed by the so-called progress of building a golf course in its place. At this juncture, one begins to weigh a balancing question in his or her mind. Is it possible to save the beauty of thousands-year traditions and still participate in the economy of globalized modern life? If so, how? If not, why? Nevertheless, the fact of the matter demonstrates that the example of a decimated village represents only a minute fraction of how modernization in China rapidly impacts a sad erasure of traditional societies.
The New York Times article cited above, continues to explain the reality of how vast the destruction of China’s village life is occurring – and with it, perhaps a loss of remembrance among the youth of how to carry cultural arts forward into the future. Despite the fact that China’s overall nationalistic beliefs of honor, respect, and filial piety may carry on, when villages are geographically shattered and smashed into oblivion it is impossible to retain any continuity of tradition. The future of China’s traditional societies on this level, ground zero for maintaining the beauty and song cultures of scores of villages, is bleak. For example, according to one article, back in 2000 “China had 3.7 million villages, according to research by Tianjin University,” and by the year 2010, “that figure had dropped to 2.6 million, a loss of about 300 villages a day” (“In China, Once the Villages Gone”). The shift pushed by economic development and modernistic land development protocol, severely impacts families and thereby any associated traditions of music, arts, song, or personally observed intimate practices each family unit may have enjoyed. It may be easy for outsiders to rationalize the changes, with a casual glance of uncaring attitudes. But, how would you feel if suddenly the government told your family it will need to bulldoze over your property, then assign you a housing project wherein your relatives would all be split up? See the problem?
China strives for economic growth within and under the auspices of international development. China is not to blame for this because every country has had to make stark adjustments to competing for resources, and trying to stay reasonably abreast of socio-political advances. Everything has changed. The world is certainly not the same as it was fifty years ago, and nobody wants to get left behind in the mad rush. Nobody wants to starve. Nevertheless, human arts and tradition reflect valuable qualities which cannot be measured in monetary labels. While China’s leadership understandably needs to reach goals of urbanization, factory production, and mutually beneficial joint venture projects (such as the newly built Land Rover Jaguar plant of Chery), the warmly regarded cultural, and colorful artistic preservation of traditional societies is important as well. Evicting tenants, obviously, dramatizes a reality all over the world. If you cannot pay, or an official urbanization project (gentrification?) happens then ‘poof’ you are out, and the wishes of a new set of luckier and richer folks are in. Hope beams on the horizon however, and here is why.
Lately Chinese scholars have recognized the vast richness of its village traditional heritage among the tiny, internal societies. A colossal project, supported by the government has begun, thankfully. My thought is that this endeavor will help thwart the Chinese attitude of calling someone a ‘farmer’ as an insult – equating the word with backward ignorance, only valuing the “elite practices like landscape painting, calligraphy, and court music” (“In China, Once the Villages Gone”). A quick sidebar to the issue, may illustrate further food for thought. The so-called hip-hop music culture stemming from black America’s youth has the seeds of its beginnings in neighborhood music tradition, which started as positive fun. Today, the beats and styles have permeated the entire world industry in movies, televised commercials, and copied (borrowed or stolen?) in many countries. Granted, the mass media and corporate takeover of the style has degenerated into disgraceful images but mention of this scenario strives to make two points: (1) Grassroots culture can be valuable, if the original tradition is preserved, and (2) No price can buy a true artistic tradition. I digress. Yet, it is wonderful that China’s government sees the value.
In conclusion, the government project has catalogued almost 10,000 traditionally cultural heritages. According to Johnson, these nationwide Chinese traditional cultures include “fragile traditional songs, dances, rituals, martial arts, cuisine, and theater. About 80 percent are rural,” and certain villages doomed for destruction in the past have been documented by concerned individuals (“In China, Once the Villages Gone”). The ones in Nanxian contained a community of woodblock printing artisans. When the children are led by their leader to weekly performances of traditional dance, drumming, song, and music weekly or biweekly, they must tread up a rather steep incline. They apply makeup in anticipation for the performance, seen here in the photo. {Photo courtesy of The New York Times}. The pilgrimage persists. Jonah Kessel reports, in a New York Times video, that traditional drummers desperately try to keep the tradition going by practicing but space is hard to come by, given the presence of new high-rise apartments. The residents consider the drumming as so much ‘noise.’ One young man, of the drummer artists, walks along in a deserted field where his village once stood, now devoid of its residents and making room for further development. He trudges along, wearing a tee-shirt of a black jazz musician, explaining “There is nothing we can do. My home was so big. Look, all this area was my home” (“Relocating Traditions in China”). The future of certain traditional societies in China may be in danger of disappearing forever. Only time will tell.
*{Arriving at Mount Miaofeng, on what used to be a great pilgrimage route, a girl dressed to perform at the temple there took a break from the trek uphill. Credit Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times}. Part of the drummer’s group effort to preserve the tradition, children bemoan the uphill journey with laughter.


Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. (2013). China’s traditional cultural values and
national identity [Data file]. Retrieved from
Johnson, I. (2014, February 1). In China, ‘once the villages are gone, the culture is gone’. The
New York Times. Retrieved from
Kessel, J.M. (2014, February 1). Relocating traditions in China. [Video]. The New York Times.
Retrieved from
Shin, K. (2011). Please Look After Mom. [Trans. Chi-Young Kim]. [Kindle DX version].
Retrieved from

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