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Should we respect tradition?

Popularity 11Viewed 13532 times 2016-9-4 17:54 |System category:Life| respect, anyway, about, blog

Should we respect tradition? By Sean Boyce 柏笑恩

It's been a long time since I wrote a blog for here. Life catches up with you and priorities get shifted about but anyway. 


So I actually just came back from Korea. I absolutely loved the country and in the process I learned a lot about it's history including the effect that Confucianism had on Korea. I have read a lot about confucianism having read the analects 论语already plus a few other books by commentators on confucian thought and ethics. There is this adherence to tradition that is a theme rife throughout confucianism and it got me talking to some of my Chinese friends. 

See, I was complaining about something in China (As I do) and debating the topic with some Chinese people when one of the people I was debating with said "You should respect our traditions, we respect yours." and I realised I had heard this a lot in China. We should respect Chinese traditions and culture, we should respect each others culture.

Does respect come for free? 

See what annoys me about this is the idea that traditions are inherently good. I don't believe so, I do not believe that traditions must be respect ed simply because they are traditions. Are we to just assume that any action lots of humans deem a tradition is to be respected? Don't be so silly, I bet you wouldn't be thinking the creating of eunuchs or Female genital mutilation is a traditional practice you would like carried out on you now is it?

 Even Chinese people understand that many of their own traditions in the past were flawed and so they were dropped:

Feet binding/lotus feet:


The practice of binding a young girls foot to prevent growth. The binding process often deformed the girls foot and was excruciatingly painful and most cases resulted in lifelong disabilities. 

Dog meat: 


A  tradition in parts of China that is now being heavily contested. All over China we are seeing activist groups opposing the practice of killing and eating dogs. 

The caging of a bad wife:

In ancient traditional Chinese culture, a man could cage his wife if she was deemed to be disobedient. It was within his right.


See, these practices have been dropped now. (or are in the process of being dropped). Why? Because not all tradition should be respected. We should question tradition to see if it is necessary. To see if it is proper and fair. The giving of red packets to the wives family....a tradition I disagree with, not only because its practice is not dissimilar to the buying of a piece of meat but also because of the pressures on modern Chinese families to buy house and cars. Many parents have been seen to even reject a marriage if the red packet is deemed to small, yet when I question it's practice, many Chinese find I am being offensive to them, their traditions or whatever. I am not, I am merely questioning a tradition. Is this such an offence?

As for respecting "our" traditions. I didn't ask you to respect my traditions, and in fact I believe a lot of British traditions are also a bit silly or a waste of time. My own culture has a heavy drinking tradition on big events that I disagree with somewhat. 

So please, don't blindly just believe that ALL TRADITIONS ARE GOOD. Instead try thinking actually, is it good or do we think it's good because everyone told us? Don't let blind "Love of China" mean that all things Chinese must be good. Remember, once upon a time feet binding was seen as a "good tradition", I wonder how many of you girls reading this would be willing to uphold this ancient Chinese tradition. 

Please feel free to join in the debate and leave comments below. If you wish to share this article please quote my name. 

请你们在下面写你们的想法。文明发表言论,转发注明出处

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


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Reply Report voice_cd 2016-9-5 10:14
thanks for sharing here, we have recommended it to the homepage.
Reply Report parcher 2016-9-5 11:02
The red envelope tradition has brought me nothing but headaches and a few arguments along the way in China. I see some giving 5000 rmb during birthdays and weddings I have been to, but to me that is just a bribe especially as most events have been work related. Imagine if one of your friends/employees drops 5k in an envelope, would you not feel obliged to treat him better than other employees like me who only gave 600rmb? I had a bust up over that incident when someone approached me and told me 600 was a disgrace, because someone in my postion should give much more...
The red envelope tradition was meant to help people pay for events like weddings yes, but folk should not be made to feel guilty or pressured in to giving large amounts especially if they cant afford it. i have also turned down requests from other employees who are celebrating something simply because of the reason they want me there......the red envelope......lol...
Reply Report seanboyce88 2016-9-5 15:17
voice_cd: thanks for sharing here, we have recommended it to the homepage.
Thank you!
Reply Report seanboyce88 2016-9-5 15:18
parcher: The red envelope tradition has brought me nothing but headaches and a few arguments along the way in China. I see some giving 5000 rmb during birthday ...
I completely agree and especially in work related events. How can people not understand that giving the boss money is essentially buying favour? It completely is a bribe and its infuriating the amount of people who won't question this practice "as it's a tradition"
Reply Report parcher 2016-9-5 17:50
seanboyce88: I completely agree and especially in work related events. How can people not understand that giving the boss money is essentially buying favour? It co ...
It can cause a lot of unnecessary problems for many. You mention the tradition of giving red packets to the wives family. This of course can be in to the 5 figure range where the groom has to borrow from family and friends putting enormous pressure on them. It would be interesting to hear some comments from Chinese members about this issue....
Reply Report seanboyce88 2016-9-6 01:53
parcher: It can cause a lot of unnecessary problems for many. You mention the tradition of giving red packets to the wives family. This of course can be in to  ...
I don't think I could do it personally. The old miser in me would be too stingy to part with that money just so I could marry someone haha
Reply Report zhanggli2010 2016-9-6 07:49
Rationally perceiving our traditions, instead of blindly accepting all of it will bring more positive and healthy elements to our modern life.
Blindly respecting and accepting the tradition without critical analysis, will surely give rise to many contradictions and potential harm.
Some traditions, such as the red packets, have been corrupting many aspects of our life and culture, especially when this packet is being used as a public bribery.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-9-6 15:26
Calling something a 'tradition' seems to be an attempt to stop a conversation rather than discuss if it still appropriate to do certain things.

so many times I have heard 'you don't understand, it is a tradition' as a refusal to stop doing something, or more often than not, and excuse to 'take offence'.
A senior university official I know took grave and childish offence at male colleagues declining alcohol at lunch, because they considered drinking alcohol at lunch an inappropriate thing to do during a work day.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2016-9-6 17:29
zhanggli2010: Rationally perceiving our traditions, instead of blindly accepting all of it will bring more positive and healthy elements to our modern life.
Blindl ...
completely agree
Reply Report seanboyce88 2016-9-6 17:32
BlondeAmber: Calling something a 'tradition' seems to be an attempt to stop a conversation rather than discuss if it still appropriate to do certain things.

so ma ...
I find debating many aspects of Chinese culture with Chinese people gets stopped with:

It's a tradition.

or the more common'

You aren't Chinese, you won't understand.

It grates on me. I am very curious what the Chinese who read this think but for the 300+ readers so far, only one Chinese person (I assume, apologies if I am wrong mr Zhang) has commented.
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-9-6 17:42
seanboyce88: I find debating many aspects of Chinese culture with Chinese people gets stopped with:

It's a tradition.

or the more common'

You aren't Chinese, yo ...
I find that while many Chinese people feel they can ask questions to non-Chinese, they avoid answering similar questions when asked.

There is no such thing as 'debate'.

When I am told 'you don't understand' I always respond with 'then help me understand - explain to me'
Yes, I want to understand but never receive a response.

'Why' always gets the conversation block 'no why'.
Many take offence at the request for an explanation.

Why ????  
Reply Report SuWen 2016-9-7 09:20
"don't blindly just believe that ALL TRADITIONS ARE GOOD"
yes, that's true, even though i do some business about Chinese tradition culture.
It likes that every coin has two sides.
in china, we have our own philosophy, Yin and Yang.
so, do what u think it is right, do not blindly  believe....
and in china some people lose their culture, what a pity, that's why i do my business.
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-9-8 11:05
Completely agree with everything, including BlondeAmber's comments - she's good like that, you know?  
The 'tradition' I've been pounding on recently is the maddening Chinese habit of discrimination: I'm not Chinese so I couldn't possibly do as Chinese do. Climb a mountain with a lightly loaded pack on my back? Impossible! I'm not used to it... thus my pack was wrested from me, much to my fury. How do Chinese people know what I am and am not used to???
"Make yourself at home!" the standard Chinese welcome. But when I make myself at home - helping with cleaning and cooking, I am promptly and loudly discouraged, and then led to the (tiny!) sofa so I can rest. Apparently I don't clean my house, so I shouldn't do it at others' homes??? Meanwhile, the other (Chinese) guests participated in cooking and washing dishes with gusto.
Environment: while enjoying a cookout, I was appalled to witness a group leave the park with their area strewn with refuse. As is my habit when enjoying the great outdoors, I started collecting trash so that our area would not look like pigs ate there, but was immediately discouraged from picking up any trash (the bag I was putting trash in was taken from me). "There are workers to clean up", I was told. But the trash from the group who had left as we were arriving was still there, 2 hours later, when we got ready to leave.
I was willing to tolerate these demeaning behaviors but, after 7 years, they are starting to wear on me. Why are we welcome to this country, if not to broaden Chinese horizons? If not to introduce progressive, environmentally friendly behaviors practiced elsewhere in the world? And why do we get invited along if we're only to be excluded/discriminated against because we're not Chinese?
Reply Report BlondeAmber 2016-9-8 14:16
teamkrejados: Completely agree with everything, including BlondeAmber's comments - she's good like that, you know?   
The 'tradition' I've been pounding on r ...
I laugh when TOLD that I must like shopping 'because I am a girl'.
Likewise concern is expressed if there is any distance to be walked, despite the fact I am a hiker and always wear suitable shoes for walking distances, even for work.
I dislike the 'fashion' high heeled shows that destroy feet and posture.
Surprise and wonder are expressed regularly when I can walk for hours.

And like yourself, I dislike the 'tussle'  over my bag, which I refuse to hand-over to anyone else.

I am constantly told to 'respect tradition' while I find mine are not being respected in return.
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-9-9 16:58
Nationalists always fear to face the flaws of their country, especially in front of a foreigner, Plus Chinese consider much value on face, you can't bend them to your attitudes , even if they are correct.

Talk to me next time, I.will tell you How bad Chinese traditions are.
Reply Report AndrewCraven 2016-9-9 21:30
By the way, Sorry for not responsing in time as I read it later But not meaned to shun away.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2016-9-11 17:56
AndrewCraven: Nationalists always fear to face the flaws of their country, especially in front of a foreigner, Plus Chinese consider much value on face, you can't b ...
maybe you should do a blog on chinese traditions from your perspective, it would be interesting to read
Reply Report RonJaDa 2016-9-18 07:54
I agree that traditions need to be challenged and not accepted, as has been stated a lot of "traditions" were just cleverly disguised excuses to cover up oppression and corruption in every part of the world.

However my opinion is that, there is a time, place and method.  Traditions and culture should be changed from within by people born to that culture. As travelers while respecting the culture of our host country we should display our culture and beliefs with out trampling on those of the citizens of the country we travel to.  If our behavior is good over time people will incorporate them in to their own.
Reply Report renhong 2017-1-18 14:36
Stick to follow the good traditions and abolish the bad traditions.

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  • Should we respect tradition? 2017-1-18 14:36

    Stick to follow the good traditions and abolish the bad traditions.

  • The A4 paper challenge, destroying China. 2016-12-31 00:45

    Why use such a provocative title? Destroying China, are you out of your mind?
    Body shaming, or fat shaming are terms originally from English-speaking countries like the US and Uk, right? I wonder if you have heard of the term "thigh gap", which is absolutely an American thing, or maybe a British thing as well. Would you also say that the US and UK are being destroyed? I bet you wouldn't.

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