No place for neg­a­tive tra­di­tional cul­ture

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

There is no rea­son not to pop­u­lar­ize tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture and make the young gen­er­a­tion aware of the pre­cious cul­tural gems passed on to us by our an­ces­tors. But since ev­ery civ­i­liza­tion and cul­ture has pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive el­e­ments, dis­tinc­tion should be made be­tween th­ese op­pos­ing el­e­ments while pro­mot­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture.

Not all re­gions of China, how­ever, have been able to make this dis­tinc­tion. In a move to pro­mote clean gov­er­nance, au­thor­i­ties in­Huai’an, Jiangsu prov­ince, re­cently held an ex­hi­bi­tion of some an­cient tools of tor­ture, in­clud­ing the bar­baric “tiger stool” and “breast clip”, with vivid de­scrip­tions, ex­pos­ing their poor un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of tra­di­tional cul­ture.

In Dong­guan, Guang­dong prov­ince, lo­cal of­fi­cials have or­ga­nized classes on “fe­male ethics”, where women are ad­vised not to re­act or strike back when scolded or phys­i­cally as­saulted. They are also ad­vised to re­sign to their fate, and never seek di­vorce, even if their mar­i­tal life be­comes un­bear­able— which is akin to putting the old Chi­nese pa­tri­ar­chal so­ci­ety’s prej­u­di­cial moral shack­les on women. In Lu’an, An­hui prov­ince, the lo­cal pub­lic­ity depart­ment has launched a cam­paign to pro­mote “24 Fil­ial Piety Sto­ries”, one of which, set in an­cient times, is about a poor man who in­tends to bury his lit­tle son in or­der to save food for his starv­ing mother.

Old Chi­nese sto­ries on “fil­ial piety” and wives’ un­con­di­tional love for and tol­er­ance to­ward hus­bands are the prod­ucts of the spe­cific his­tor­i­cal con­di­tions of the times and, in most cases, have no place in mod­ern so­ci­ety.

At a Septem­ber sym­po­sium to com­mem­o­rate the 2,565th birth an­niver­sary of Con­fu­cius, the top leader Xi Jin­ping said tra­di­tional cul­ture rep­re­sents the ide­o­log­i­cal roots that a coun­try must in­herit and pop­u­lar­ize, for with­out it we would be de­prived of a spir­i­tual life­line. But he also said ef­forts should be made to cre­atively de­velop and trans­form tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture to fa­cil­i­tate its in­te­gra­tion into mod­ern so­ci­ety. In fact, Xi and other lead­ers have ex­pressed sim­i­lar views on many oc­ca­sions.

One can rule a coun­try well if he/she knows half of the Analects (of Con­fu­cius) and fol­lows its teach­ings, goes an old Chi­nese say­ing, high­light­ing the rich­ness and prac­ti­cal­ity of the thoughts of the great philoso­pher and his dis­ci­ples con­tained in the book. The Analects and Con­fu­cian­ism, the core of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, have laid the ide­o­log­i­cal and moral foun­da­tion of Chi­nese so­ci­ety.

With top lead­ers re-em­pha­siz­ing the im­por­tance of tra­di­tional cul­ture, it’s no sur­prise to see a re­newed en­thu­si­asm among peo­ple across the coun­try to study and learn from “na­tional cul­ture”. Some col­leges and univer­si­ties have even started spe­cial grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate cour­ses for the sub­ject, and a few­pri­mary and mid­dle schools have in­tro­duced newteach­ing ma­te­ri­als in their classes. Also, a num­ber of in­sti­tutes on “tra­di­tional cul­ture” stud­ies have been set up, and old-style home schools teach­ing stu­dents an­cient Chi­nese adages such as the Three-Character Primer, which nearly dis­ap­peared after the found­ing of NewChina, have re-emerged.

The re­newed zeal among peo­ple to study “na­tional cul­ture” will help China de­velop and carry for­ward its tra­di­tional cul­ture, es­pe­cially at a time when tra­di­tional cul­ture has been ex­ten­sively re­placed by other sub­jects in schools. Many have com­plained that many Chi­nese peo­ple, es­pe­cially youths, have poor knowl­edge of the coun­try’s cul­ture or tra­di­tions de­spite be­ing tech­nol­ogy and fash­ion savvy.

With­out the re­vival of tra­di­tional cul­ture, China can­not re­al­ize the aim of boost­ing its soft power and de­vel­op­ing it­self into a cul­tural power. Tra­di­tional cul­ture of­fers China a fer­tile soil to de­velop and pros­per as a na­tion. Some ethics nur­tured in this cul­tural soil, such as loy­alty, am­i­ca­bil­ity, love for oth­ers, tol­er­ance, and sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and shame, along with the ex­em­plary lit­er­ary works, have helped Chi­nese peo­ple be­come bet­ter hu­man be­ings and made the coun­try an im­por­tant ac­tor on the global cul­tural stage.

“If you be­lieve ev­ery­thing you read, bet­ter not read”, saidMen­cius, another Chi­nese philoso­pher. So, while pop­u­lar­iz­ing tra­di­tional cul­ture, we should use the strong, vir­tu­ous ones as ex­am­ple and mer­ci­lessly dis­card the neg­a­tive ones. The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. wuy­ixue@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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