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How does a custom exist?

Popularity 1Viewed 696 times 2016-11-26 15:09 |System category:Life| custom

How does a custom exist?


Where there are human beings, there are customs. In other words, costums exist only among humans. That’s not the point that only humans have customs. On the opposite, animals have customs too. But the custom here refers only to human customs.


Speaking of custom, if the scenario human customs only exist among humans; it is tantamout to say that custom is created by human, otherwise, it wouldn’t exist. Now that it is created by human, how can it be created? Two main means as follow:


The first means is called the enforcement that custom is carried out by an authority or regime in a society, to make sure everyone else obeys. Custom is taken by a small group or a person to affect all the people in the place which the group or the person can control. It could be the custom that everyone is fond of, or it could also be the one everyone repels. Regardless of personal will, all lives are constrained to accept it. For example, when the minority ethnic named Man swept the Ming dynasty out of China and ruled the majority, the majority had to comply with one custom that everyone must let their hair grow and plait it when it is long enough. Those who didn't obey the custom were seen as criminals by the new empire. The custom was thus formed.


The advantage of this is that it is efficient, but if the custom was not truly accepted by the majority, it would go reversed when the empire collapes.


The second one is called willingness that a custom is formed by people’s will. In this, everyone follows it proactively. There is no need to force them to obey. How can this happen? How does it work? First of all, there must be a motive that drives them to obey the custom, a motive that could be derived from a good purpose or an evil intention. But even if it came from an evil intention, it would somehow bring some benefit to the people who apply it in one way or another. For example, foot-binding for women in feudal society of China can’t be called a good custom; however it was a fad for quite a long time. Even as a matter of fact, it was a comstom not forced by the authority. The benefit of this, from my perspective, is merely to attract or lure males by the small-shaped feet.  


To carry the custom forward, there must be someone who blazed the trail before more and more people saw the advantage and joined in. It depends on if they can take enough interest for the others to imitate. Not like the first means, once this trend takes place, it might be hard to get all people follow in a short time, but if it is good enough, it is only a matter of time to enlarge the influence of the custom and get all people involved eventially. Besides that, it would also be hard to stop or break the custom even after the trail-blazer died.


Which means are you in favor of?

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




Shake hands

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Comment Comment (3 comments)

Reply Report HailChina! 2016-11-30 20:10
Shaking hands is a stupid custom because most people do not wash their hands very well and they are covered in germs. It is far more sensible to bow or nod.

In my opinion there is no point in a government promoting a custom is the custom has no true benefit for society. I agree with Confucius that the law should not be required to promote upright citizens as long as they are given a good example from the rulers/elites. So I favour the second one. But it is only possible if a population has upright leaders.
Reply Report HailChina! 2016-11-30 20:13
"Willing obedience always beats forced obedience." - Xenophon.
Reply Report AndrewHLi 2016-12-1 23:45
HailChina!: Shaking hands is a stupid custom because most people do not wash their hands very well and they are covered in germs. It is far more sensible to bow o ...
First of all Thank you for your comment. That makes me feel what I have written has an effect. That means a lot to me.

Secondly, Many of your opinions are sensible to me as well, such as the shakeing hand issue. I find it is interesting that When you think in this way deeper, it will make what you have accustomed seem rediculous or wrong. Thanks to human intelligence.

Finally, I agree willing obedience outweighs the forced one.

Good thoughts!

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Recent comments

  • Time 2018-4-10 19:32

    we hold same point about time

  • How to Promote Chinese Culture 2017-11-6 13:25

    AndrewHLi: agreed
    You agree with him? Think again.
    Places where winter was extremely cold simply could not be settled by people subsisting on sowing and planting.

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