Monday, August 27, 2007

Different Aspects Of Culture

One of the things that make us, people special is that although we are the same species but we are different from each other because of our diverse cultures. Culture has been call “the way of life for an entire society.” As such, in includes manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, arts and norms of behaviour such as law and morality. (Quoted from wikipedia.) So, I am going to write about some different cultures, some which can be found in Malaysia’s multicultural society (or more specifically from Sarawak) and also those overseas.

Firstly, I will start with the Chinese culture. There are many ethnic groups in the Chinese community. Most of the traditional cultural identity can be distinguished from the family name. In Sarawak, most of the Chinese are from the Foochow (Fuzhou) Chinese especially at Sibu which originated from eastern part of the Fujian Province. Our dialect is Foochowhua. Although there are various ethnic groups in the Chinese community, we all share a standard Mandarin language, strong family values, respect to our elders and celebrations like Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival and Lunar New Year) which begins on first day in the first lunar month in the Chinese Calender and ends on the 15th day, called the Lantern Festival and many others including the Mooncake Festival and Dumpling Festival. In all the occasions, it is a must that all the family members will come from afar to sit together on the same table or under the same roof for a family reunion dinner. The Chinese community also has many superstitions and traditional beliefs that must be observed during festivals such as no sweeping during first day of Chinese New Year. The color red is liberally used in all decorations. “Ang pows” are given to juniors and children by the married and elders.

Chinese arts include Chinese Folk Art, lyrical, visual art, Chinese music, performance art and architecture. Famous Folk Arts include Chinese Paper Cutting (created since Cai Lun invented paper!), Chinese Paper Folding, Glove Puppetry, Chinese Shadow Theatre and knots. We also have performance arts like the Chinese Opera, Dragon Dance and Lion Dance whereas Visual arts include Chinese ceramic pottery, Chinese ink painting and beautiful Chinese calligraphy. Traditional Chinese music instruments include silk string instruments like Guqin, Se, Suzheng, Pipa and Konghou which are to be plucked and Erhu, Jinghu, Banhu and Zhonghu which are bowed. Instruments made also made from bamboo which are mainly woodwind instruments like Dizi, Ziao, Panxiao, Chi and Bawu.

In Sarawak, the Iban are the native people. The Iban were traditionally animst
, however, the majority are now Christian, and many continue to observe both Christian and traditional ceremonies, particularly at marriage or festival times. Significant festivals include the rice harvesting festival Gawai Dayak, the main festival for the Ibans. Other minor but significant Iban festivals incluide the bird festival Gawai Burong and the spirit festival Gawai Antu. The Gawai Dayak festival is celebrated every year on the 1st of June, at the end of the harvest season. On this day, the Ibans get together to celebrate, often visiting each other. The Iban traditional dance, the ngajat, is performed with the accompaniment of the taboh and gendang, the name of the Ibans' traditional music. Pua kumbu, the Iban traditional cloth, would be used to decorate houses. Tuak, which is originally made of rice, is a wine, would be served to guests. Nowadays, the are various kinds of tuak such the ones made of ingredients like sugar cane, ginger and corn as an alternative to rice. The Iban have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung esembles- percussion ensembles composed of large hanging, suspended or held, bossed/knobbed gongs which act as drone without any accompanying melodic instrument. The typical Iban agung ensemble will include a set of engkerumungs, a tawak , a bendai and also a set of ketebung. Iban as well as the Kayan also played an instrument resembling the lute called 'Sapek'. The Sapek is the official musical intstrument for the Malaysian state of Sarawak. An Iban traditional music is called the taboh.

Another culture which I found interesting was the Japanese culture. The Japanese speak Japanese and it is also their national language. The Japanese language has always played a significant role in Japanese culture. Spoken mainly in Japan but also in some Japanese emigrant communities around the world. Japanese is written with a combination of three different types of scripts: Chinese characters
Kanji, and two syllabic scripts, Hiragana and Katakana. Painting has been an art in Japan for a very long time: the brush is a traditional writing tool, and the extension of that to its use as an artist's tool was probably natural. The flowing, brush-drawn Japanese language lends itself to complicated calligraphy. Ukiyo-e ( "pictures of the floating world", Ukiyo-e) is a genre of wood block prints that exemplifies the characteristics of pre-Meiji Japanese art. The widespread popularity of ukiyo-e prints lead to their recognition as a very Japanese artform, which in turn has led to significant modern mimicry of ukiyo-e stylings in advertisements, posters, and other art including manga. Another famous Japanese art is the “Ikebana” is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It has gained widespread international fame for its focus on harmony, color use, rhythm, and elegantly simple design. It is an art centered greatly on expressing the seasons, and is meant to act as a symbol to something greater than the flower itself. Many Japanese women entering into a third party marriage learn Ikebana to be a more appealing and well-rounded lady. Ikebana is widely practiced in Japan today, as well as around the world. The Japanese word kimono means "something one wears" and they are the traditional garments of Japan. Originally, the word kimono was used for all types of clothing, but eventually, it came to refer specifically to the full-length garment or "long-wear", that is still worn today on special occasions by women, men, and children. It is often known as wakufu which means "Japanese clothes". Kimono come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes. Men mainly wear darker or more muted colors, while women tend to wear brighter colors and pastels, and often with complicated abstract or floral patterns. The summer kimono which are lighter are called yukata. Through a long culinary past, the Japanese have developed a sophisticated and refined cuisine highly sensitive to the change of seasons. Modern Japanese enjoy a variety of traditional Japanese food, including the staples of rice and miso soup, as well as many seafood dishes like sushi and sashimi.

To summarize, the different aspects of culture makes the world a more wonderful and interesting place to live in. Just like the Malaysian snack “rojak”, the more variety of things you put in, the tastier it becomes!


Anonymous said...

I loved reading your account of culture. In the future you should post your cultural events on, its a comprehensive database of over 1,000 events across more than 30 ethnicities in the U.S. It really is a great platform which connects cultures and ethnicities.


Anonymous said...

Very good article. I enjoyed reading this very much.

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