Marriage in Traditional Chinese Culture

Marriage is considered a high priority in all cultures around the world, however, different cultures practice marriage and genetic kinship in a variety of ways. Most cultures practice patrilineal lines of descent, where inheritance is passed down from father to son, and where the wife goes to live with her husband in his family home. Some cultures practice matrilineal lines of descent, where inheritance is passed down from mother to daughter, and husband move to live with the wife’s family after marriage. Some societies allow for more than one wife, polygyny, and even fewer societies enable the marriage of one wife too many husbands, also known as polyandry. Very few cultures are monogamous, and even fewer cultures allow marriage for love.  In this paper, I will discuss the marriage practice of the traditional Chinese people. I will show how marriage shaped a young woman’s life and required her to live in an environment where her needs were not entirely met.

Chinese Society

Traditional Chinese society was characterized by the worship of family ancestors, specifically, the male line of descent. Patrilineal descent played an enormous role in the lives of both women and men. Men were highly valued and often women had no familial power until she gave birth to a son. In fact, because Chinese culture was an agrarian society, in which men were responsible for the cultivated of food by the plow, women were often confined to the home, unless the family was poor, in which case women were sent to the field (Stockard, 2002). One sign of wealth, in traditional Chinese culture, was that one’s wife had wrapped feet, indicated that they did not have to work in the field.

Like many agrarian societies, traditional Chinese society was also characterized by male dominance. while being able to stay home and take care of children may sound like a dream to some American women, in traditional Chinese societies, women often lived with and had to contend with the maneuverings of her mother in law, and, sometimes, many sisters in-laws. Because women in traditional Chinese cultures had very little value, they were born outside of their father’s descent line, and therefore only gained secure access to the afterlife once they had been wed (Stockard, 2002). So even daughters who passed away due to sickness were likely to haunt their father’s home in the form of ghosts until a ghost wedding could be performed, in which a groom married a ghost, took her incense burner to his home, and then married a living girl (Pasternak, 1997).


“Patrilineal kinship in traditional Chinese society was a powerful influence on marriage practice and was one of the key factors shaping the meaning of marriage for husbands, their wives, and families” (Stockard, 2002, p. 44). Marriage in traditional Chinese’s culture had more to do with political and economic power than it did with love, in fact, love was never a consideration. Chinese societies, especially rural societies, were often exogamy in nature, and there were strict rules against marrying anyone with the same surname. In rural China, sometimes marrying someone from the same village would have been impossible, as everyone in the village had the same surname. Endogamy was highly frowned upon, and exogamy ensured that the bride would be moved away from her own family once she was married (Stockard, 2002).

Primary marriages began in traditional China when the parents employed a matchmaker, who knew the available sons and daughters within a market area of rural China, her job was to match who could marry whom based on ancestral lines and surnames (Stockard, 2002). “In Chinese society, marriage between a man and a woman with the same surname – the outward sign of kinship identity was forbidden by law and in custom and considered incestuous” (Stockard, 2002, p. 46). And, although a daughter inherited her father’s surname, lineage, and clan, she was technically not a part of either.

Once the matchmaker has identified two possible marriage partners, she suggests the name to the families and both families reputations are highly scrutinized by the other. The personal reputation of both individuals was also highly scrutinized, but only the reputation of the bride was considered relevant to the marriage (Stockard, 2002). Families of daughters often took great pains to limit contact between her and members of the opposite sex for her entire life (Pasternak, 1997), and any hint of a scandal on her part could make her unmarriageable by Chinese standards (Stockard, 2002).

Since marriage in traditional Chinese culture was mostly based on political or economic value, matchmakers were often charged with finding a partner from the same social class. Parents often strived to have a match that would bring them political or economic power. Once that all had been accomplished, the horoscopes of the two individuals would be compared to see if there were going to be any obstacles to the marriage (Stockard, 2002). If the horoscopes matched, the negotiations over the amount the families would exchange began.

“Bridewealth and dowry were fundamental features of the major form of marriage” (Stockard, 2002, p. 47). Father’s in both families, worked hard to negotiate the amount of wealth that was to be exchanged, creating the most advantageous position for his family. The groom’s family paid a large of amount of cash, the bride wealth, and in return, the bride’s family spent that money on a dowry and other individual items, usually household items, that were agreed upon by the fathers of both families (Stockard, 2002). After the agreement had been reached, the family of the bride would parade her, in a red sedan chair, through the streets, with much pomp and fanfare, displaying the items of the dowry from the bride’s village to the groom’s village.

The bride’s arrival at the groom’s home is the first time the marriage partners have met, and often it is a period of sadness or disappointment for both the bride and the groom. The groom, because his wishes for a young, lean, aesthetically pleasing woman has been dashed by his mother, and the bride because she has to leave her family, village, and friends behind, and embark on a new lonely existence, that will be emphasized in the days to come, until she can bear her new husband a son (Stockard, 2002). In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death in rural China among young people ages fifteen to thirty-four, with females committing suicide more often than males, in some places, as much as three times as higher (Zhang, 2010). While it hasn’t be proven that marriage has anything to do with these suicides, it has been proven that marriage is not a protective barrier against suicide for these young women, as it is in Western societies (Zhang, 2010).

The marriage ceremony started with the parade through the streets but is wrapped up once the groom lifts the bride’s veil and reveals her face. The bride and groom then kneel before the family altar, bowing their heads to the ground several times. Following that brief ceremony, there is a grand feast commencing the marriage (Stockard, 2002). Three days after the wedding festivities the bride would return home for a brief visit with her family. After the new bride leaves her family’s home, she may not see them again, except in celebration, such as a wedding or in mourning, such as at a funeral (Stockard, 2002).

Family Life

Life for the young bride changed dramatically at the time of her marriage. Since traditional Chinese societies practiced patrilocal residence, the wife moved to a new village, leaving her family, and friends behind, to marry a man she had never met, and to live in a home that may or may not have sisters-in-laws she had never met as well. From this moment on, her entire life was lived to serve her mother in law, she would be required, as the newest bride, to perform the worst of the household chores, and she would be subject to abuse from her mother in law, who chastise her or beat her if she did not do the jobs well enough or quick enough (Pasternak, 1997). Her nights were not much better, as her husband was likely to abuse her as well, not only physically if she displeased him, but often forcing his unwanted sexual attentions upon her as well (Pasternak, 1997).

Marriage was mainly designed to ensure the continuation of the groom’s male descent line, and the only way the new bride could gain a footing in her new household is to give birth to a son. All eyes in the family, and indeed, in some cases, the entire village, were on her as they waited for her to fulfill her obligation of producing a male heir. The sooner she gives birth to a son, the sooner she will be able to start convincing her husband to break off from the family and make a home of their own. Without a son to continue the family line, her husband may opt to marry another girl, which would only cause more problems in the extended family home.

Relationships between mother in laws and daughters in law in traditional Chinese culture has usually been one marked by strife and conflict. In fact, all the women in the family may fight, causing strife among the brothers as well (Stockard, 2002).  As each new wife set about trying to establish a place for herself in her new family, she often employed such tactics as gaining her husband’s ear and a place in his heart. The young bride would do this so that her husband would support her and look out for her best interests, in a place where she had no say or power over her own destiny. Once the new bride had children, she would use the children to vie for position in her new family, especially if that child was a son, by creating strong emotional ties between her new husband, his parents, and her children (Stockard, 2002). Wives often watch carefully to see which of the grandchildren was receiving better treatment and would cause problems with their husbands if their child was receiving worse treatment than another.

While it is best for the mother to keep all of her sons together, under the same roof, wives often pressed their husbands for the division of the family household. In a patrilineal society, property passed from father to son, with adult sons enjoying equal rights to the family land (Pasternak, 1997). A wife who is dissatisfied with the decisions of her father in law, in relations to how the grandchildren are educated, or treated, in general, will become, what the Chinese call a “ghost pillow” (Pasternak, 1997). In bed, at night, she will press her husband to the division of the household. If she succeeds, then she and her uterine family will move to another spot of the family land, and begin to fend for themselves. Curiously, extended families were found more often in wealthy families than in poor families, a fact that may reflect that sometimes men were required to practice matrilocal residence, where the groom moves in with the bride’s family, not very popular among the Chinese, but it did happen (Pasternak, 1997).

Modernization of Chinese Culture

Modernization of culture means for that culture to transition from one of traditional values and morals to one of more modern values and morals. Along with those values and morals comes a new way of living, most of the time causing an upheaval in widely held, superstitions, behavior, and beliefs.  Today, China is dealing with many changes, as the country attempts to become more westernized.

Today, young people of marriageable age meet at a marriage market, and views on marriage range from hoping to find a partner at the market to wishing for parents to arrange a marriage, to young females preferring to stay single (Looking for love; modern marriage, 2012). Arranged marriages were officially banned in the 1950’s; however, some parents still believe in that traditional belief, and so do their children. It is a belief that is still practiced by some to this day.

Young women have seen an increase in socio-economic freedoms, and with it has come the right to choose one’s husband. Since that freedom has been enjoyed, so has the option of remaining single, and of being extremely picky when choosing a husband (Looking for love; modern marriage, 2012). Online dating sites have become immensely popular in modern China, and often young women will marry a man from far away, leaving their families behind.


Young women in ancient China were often not afforded many privileges and were kept out of all political and social hierarchies; with the males of the society having dominance even in the after-life. As one can plainly see, young women were not offered much chance of advancement, they could not own land or property, and were in fact, considered the property of one male or another throughout their entire lives. Today, however, young women are afforded much more freedom, in not only their options for work outside the home but also for their choice in husbands. One can see that more and more Chinese women are becoming educated and moving out of their countries to pursue greener fields elsewhere.




Looking for love; modern marriage. (2012, June 09). The Economist, 50, 403. Retrieved from

Pasternak, E. E. (1997). Sex, Gender, and Kinship A Cross-Cultural Perspective. New Jersey, US: Prentice Hall.

Stockard, J. E. (2002). Marriage in Culture. Belmont: Earl McPeek.

Zhang, J. (2010). Marriage and Suicide among Chinese Rural Young Women. Social Forces, 89(1). Retrieved from

Ancient Egypt

The Neolithic Revolution, also called the Neolithic Demographic Transition (NDT), or the Agriculture Revolution began about eleven thousand years ago with a worldwide population explosion, and the beginnings of farming and civilization as we know it (Feder, 2014. Pg. 296). The Neolithic Revolution was not a sudden development, but rather a slow process that began again and again by many different civilizations in both the old and new world. Around ten thousand years ago the archeological records shows evidence of domesticated goats, and instead of wild wheat, lentils, peas, and beans, there is evidence of domesticated plants as well. While agriculture was not the cause of civilization, it was a catalyst that provided people with the necessary ingredients to expand their efforts in directions that had nothing to do with food; i.e. a food surplus. In this paper, I will discuss the effects of the Neolithic revolution upon the ancient Egyptians.

Ancient Egypt

Egypt was located in ancient history in the same place it is now, in Northern Africa, in the Nile Valley, along the Nile River. It was a haven in the middle of a desert, and that haven helped the ancient Egyptians to become a successful civilization about five thousand six hundred years ago (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356). During that time in history, the archeological record in Amratian/Nagada I and Omari A shows a shift in subsistence focus, and homes; a concentration is shown in domesticated animals and plants, as well as more permanent structures made of mud-brick instead of thatch (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356).

Around five thousand four hundred years ago the archeological record in Egypt, more specifically in Late Gerzean times, shows an increase in social stratification in the form of differentiated burials (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356). Leaders of this time frame would have objects made of imported raw materials buried with their elite class of citizens. At about five thousand three hundred years ago, one family came to rule in Egypt, in both the north and south. Cities like Hierakonpolis, were likened to city-states and were ruled by individuals called “chieftain-kings” (Feder, 2014. Pg. 357).

Hierakonpolis and the Neolithic Revolution

Hierakonpolis is a small Neolithic village located on the west bank of the Nile River six thousand years ago. Pottery is its main export, and ceramics from Hierakonpolis can be found up and down the length of the Nile River. The archeological record indicates that in Hierakonpolis, an elite class of citizens arose due to the manufacturing of ceramics. These leaders were buried in brick-lined tombs set into the bedrock, as opposed to the rest of the cities inhabitants, who were buried in a far less elaborate fashion (Feder, 2014. Pg. 357).

Evidence shows that after 5500 B.P., due to local climate change, possibly because of local deforestation, irrigation canals were built, possibly in response to the need to fire the kilns. During this time, the tombs of the elite class became larger, and more elaborate, indicating a boom in business. By 5100 B. P., small villages surrounding Hierakonpolis were abandoned and the inhabitants had moved to the larger city, making it larger still. Fortifications around Hierakonpolis were reinforced, and the tombs of the growing elite became even more elaborate (Feder, 2014. Pg. 357).

Characteristics of Civilization

Civilization can be a deceptive word, as it implies that anyone living in anything other than a developed country isn’t civilized. However, when anthropologist talk about civilization, they are talking about the hallmarks of society as we know it today. They are looking for certain characteristics that brought people together and helped them to develop into cities with opportunities besides food gathering. These characteristics are found in every civilization in ancient history as well as today, and include; food surplus, large, dense populations, social stratification, a formal government, labor specialization, record keeping, and monumental works (Feder, 2014). Ancient Egypt had all of these characteristics, and was considered a civilization or class society, especially at its peak, or at the time of the great pyramids, and Pharaohs. However, before Egypt could reach that point, certain attributes of civilization had to happen.

The first step to forming any city is a food surplus. Without agriculture that provides a city with a food surplus, every citizen must rely on hunting and gathering food for their own family, which prevents them from pursuing other interests (Feder, 2014. Pg. 345). In ancient Egypt, that food surplus can be traced back to five thousand, seven hundred and fifty years ago, as mentioned earlier, in Hierakonpolis (Feder, 2014. Pg. 356). With the unification of the villages surrounding Hierakonpolis, came the need to develop a record keeping system, better known as hieroglyphs.

A record keeping system is a hallmark of civilization as anthropologist define it. A record keeping system allowed the ruling class to keep track of resources, labor, and history by recording it in a manner that is beneficial to them. Without the ability to keep track of resources, it is highly unlikely that civilization would have developed at all (Feder, 2014. Pg. 348). The earliest record of Egyptian writing, or hieroglyphs, is about five thousand two hundred years ago. Hieroglyphs, or picture writing, is the most well-known of the ancient writing systems. The pictures can represent entire words, spoken sounds, or the meaning of the signs that precede them (Feder, 2014. Pg. 358). Record keeping provides a means for the ruling class to control information, and the pharaohs of ancient Egypt took advantage of that fact, often exploiting it for their own benefit (Feder, 2014. Pg. 358). With the record keeping abilities of the ruling class came the ability to control and manipulate others, which led to the social stratification that we see in ancient Egypt, but is still present in most civilizations today.

Social stratification in a complex society is a division of its citizens into levels, or strata, that defines one’s role in life. It is the position into which one is born, and can rarely be achieved through the development of useful skills. Social stratification defines what one can expect in life; one’s destiny. Monumental works are the symbols of the ruling classes in socially stratified societies, and one can see many monumental works dating from ancient Egypt (Feder, 2014. Pg. 346). The social stratification of the ancient Egyptians can be broken down as follows; at the pinnacle lies the god-king, or the pharaoh, next, and second in command, comes the small coterie of priests and nobles below whom rest less powerful, but still important, people who are scribes and artisans. These people, the top of the pyramid, are supported by a large phalanx of soldiers and merchants. However, the largest group, and lowest strata, is the group that supports them all at the top; slaves, farmers, workers, and pheasants, without whom the social hierarchy and the pyramids it built, could not be maintained (Feder, 2014. Pg. 347).

Collapse of Egypt

Egypt didn’t really collapse, as today one can still travel there and see the magnificent monumental works, or burial chambers of the Pharaohs Khufu, his son Khafre, and his grandson Menkaure (Feder, 2014. Pg. 364). However, over time, many of thousands of years, Egypt adapted and changed to better suit the time period it was in. During Egypt’s thirty-one dynasties, the archeological record clearly shows a pattern of political and economic domination by strong pharaohs, and times of decline where Egypt was ruled by local administrators or foreigners (Feder, 2014. Pg. 363). Today one can travel to Egypt and see the remains of this once great civilization, that is considered to be one of the first civilizations on Earth.


Although the archeological records show that people were gathering in large groups well before the development of agriculture, true civilization was unattainable until the development of agriculture, and a food surplus that would support mass amounts of people, while those people pursued other avenues such as engineering, medicine, religion, etc. With the development of agriculture, and the ability to organize labor groups came the need to keep track of those resources, which developed writing, and the ability to keep track of history and tell stories. Along with all of those abilities came social stratification which gave certain people, especially in ancient Egypt, the ability to gain wealth and prestige. Ancient Egyptians look upon their ruler as a god, and treated him as such, while the rest of their society worked to provide him and his ruling government with the luxuries they became accustomed too, and which followed them into the afterlife.






Feder, K. L. (2013). The past in perspective: An introduction to human prehistory (6th ed.). New

York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Black Hills National Forest, SD. 

This magical place was discovered in the Black Hills National Forest, SD.  My husband and I took a few minutes to meditate here, before continuing our hike.

Photography is a passion of mine. I took the above and below pictures of Aspen Trees, in the Black Hill National Forest, SD.

This tiny waterfall was perfect.

This picture of the fallen log covered in mushrooms and pine needles, reminds me of Christmas.

via Photo Challenge: Textures

Versatile Blogger Award

I was extremely shocked and surprised to open my notifications this morning and find a nomination for Versatile Blogger! I feel very honored and would like to give a huge THANK YOU to My Writers Voice at  Thank you very much Sir! May the Universe rain blessings down upon you!

Rules for the nominations:
• Thank the person who nominated you.
• Nominate up to 15 bloggers for this award and inform them.
• Share seven facts about yourself.
• Put the logo of Versatile Blogger in your post and display the rules also.

Seven Facts about Me:

  1. I am in my third year of college, where I am studying Cultural Anthropology, with double minors in Sociology and Psychology.
  2. I am a mother of four beautiful, intelligent, amazing children, who are my whole life.
  3. Four years ago, I met the man of my dreams, and I feel like I have been living in a fairy tale ever since.
  4. I served in the U.S. Military for two years, and was honorably discharged.
  5. I love writing, and have been writing since I was a child.  I love exploring ALL aspects of our beautiful world – no topic is off-limits.
  6. I love helping people. I especially love helping people put the past behind them, and live in the moment, being happy.
  7. My childhood was toxic, and to this day, I have only the family I make for myself. My friends are everything to me, because they are my family.

Here are my nominees for Versatile Blogger:

  1. Slavic Girl @ 
  2. Fighting for a Future @
  3. Brett Little @
  4. Up into the Clouds @ 
  5. Dose of Do @
  6. Voices Inside of Me @ 
  7. Ponderella @


Ancient House

Our “new” washer is a piece of $hi* too, I think, as I walk down two flights of stairs, to the broken machine.

The vacuum barely works, and I crawl around on my knees, trying to keep the floors clean.

The dishes are backing up in the sink, a whole days worth, and there’s a leak in the pipes,that makes the room stink.

The smell of garbage permeates from the cabinet in the corner, it’s old and needs to be replaced, just like me. 

Our toothbrushes need to be wrapped in plastic, to avoid the mold that grows in the bathroom, due to a lack of ventilation.

In this ancient house, that needs renovation, I feel like I’m suffocating.

via Daily Prompt: Toothbrush

Life in the Universe

Life on Earth

Scientists learn about past life on Earth by studying fossils buried deep in the Earth’s crust. Fossils are created when dead organisms fall to the bottom of a body of water, and over the course of many millions of years, sediment piles up on top of that dead organism, creating fossils buried deep in rocks. The rocks or sediments create fossils that are later revealed by tectonic plate activity or erosion (Voit, 2015).

Determining the age of these fossils is how scientist determine how long life has existed on Earth. The relative age of fossils is easy to determine, the deeper a fossil is buried, and the older it is. However, radiometric dating confirms the relative age of fossils, giving a precise age for fossils found buried deep under water (Voit, 2015). The geological time scale is a measurement of intervals here on Earth, and its helps divide the four and a half billion years into more manageable eras for scientists.

The further back on the geological time scale scientist look the harder it is to identify fossils. The reason for that is because older rocks are harder to find than younger rocks, when older rocks are found, they have often gone through transformation caused by heat and pressure, that would have destroyed any fossil evidence, and third because nearly all life prior to a few hundred million years ago all life on Earth was microscopic and microscopic fossils are harder to identify (Voit, 2015). However, despite the difficulties in finding old rocks, geologists have found evidence in rocks called stromatolites, that suggests life started around three and a half billion years ago, and that older, more microscopic, simpler, single cell life evolved even earlier than that (Voit, 2015).

Fossil evidence of life before three and a half billion years ago is not likely to be found. However, the oldest sedimentary rock found on Earth, on the island of Akilia, near Greenland, are cut through with volcanic rock that radiometric dating dates back to 3.85 billion years ago, suggesting that the sediment is even older (Voit, 2015). The carbon isotopes in these rocks suggest that they may once have held living organisms. Carbon has two stable isotopes, carbon-12 and carbon-13. Living organisms incorporate carbon-12 more easily than carbon-13. All fossils have a lower fraction of carbon-13 than rocks that contain no fossils. Therefore, scientists conclude that these rocks, found on Akilia, must have, 3.85 billion years ago, contained life, and not only did it contain life, but that life must have been pretty widespread because the chances of Scientist’s finding the evidence otherwise, is highly unlikely (Voit, 2015). Due to this evidence of early life, scientists believe that life probably arose pretty easily here on Earth.

The Genesis of Life

Fossil records prove that life has gone through many changes in the last 3.85 billion years. These changes can be described as the theory of evolution, first put on paper by Charles Darwin in 1859 (Voit, 2015). Although the theory of evolution has gone through some major religious battles since it was first published, it is a fact that evolution occurred on Earth. Evolution simply means to change with time, and fossil records indicate that life has changed many times over the years.

Darwin built his proof for the theory of evolution around two undeniable facts and one inescapable conclusion.  Fact 1: overproduction and competition for survival. Any localized population of a species has the potential to produce far more offspring than the local environment can support with resources such as food and shelter. This overproduction leads to a competition for survival among the individuals of the population (Voit, 2015). Fact 2: individual variation. Individuals in a population of any species vary in many heritable traits (traits passed from parents to offspring). No two individuals are exactly alike, and some individuals possess traits that make them better able to compete for food and other vital resources (Voit, 2015). The inescapable conclusion: unequal reproductive success. In the struggle for survival, those individuals whose traits best enable them to survive and reproduce will, on average, leave the largest number of offspring that in turn survive to reproduce. Therefore, in any local environment, heritable traits that enhance survival and successful reproduction will become progressively more common in succeeding generations (Voit, 2015).

Natural Selection

Darwin called the unequal reproductive success of some species over others natural selection. Natural selection is when traits that give an advantage to the species is selected over less advantageous traits. Over time, natural selection can help individuals of a species become better able to compete for scarce resources. If enough small individual variations accumulate, natural selection can even give rise to an entirely new species (Voit, 2015).

DNA provides scientists with the ability to discover how life has changed on a molecular level. Living organisms reproduce by copying DNA and passing this DNA onto its children. A molecule of DNA consists of two long strands wound together in the spiral shape known as a double helix. The instructions for assembling a living organism are written in the precise order of four chemical bases (abbreviated A, T, G, and C for the first letters of their chemical names) that make up the interlocking portions of the DNA “zipper.” These bases pair up in a way that ensures that both strands of a DNA molecule contain the same genetic information (Voit, 2015).

Evolution occurs because the transfer of genetic information from one generation to the next is not always perfect. An organism’s DNA may occasionally be altered by copying errors or by external influences, such as ultraviolet light from the Sun or exposure to toxic or radioactive chemicals. Any change in an organism’s DNA is called a mutation. Many mutations are lethal, killing the cell in which the mutation occurs. Some, however, may improve a cell’s ability to survive and reproduce. The cell then passes on this improvement to its offspring (Voit, 2015).

Three and a Half Billion Years of Evolution

Earth began about four and a half billion years, the moon formed soon after that, and the Earth developed its first ocean about 4.3 billion years ago. Scientists believe that oceans are where life first developed. Once life took hold, about 3.85 billion years ago, evolution quickly changed it so that the hardiest of the species stayed and continued to evolve. However, despite the quick hold of evolution, living organisms remained single-celled for about a billion years after life took hold (Voit, 2015).  Once oxygen took hold on the surface, and an atmosphere developed, evolution brought life out of the ocean.

Nearly all the oxygen in our atmosphere was originally released through photosynthesis by single-celled organisms known as cyanobacteria. Fossil evidence indicates that cyanobacteria were producing oxygen through photosynthesis by at least 2.7 billion years ago, and possibly for hundreds of millions of years before that (Voit, 2015). Oxygen took hundreds of millions of years to accumulate in the Earth’s atmosphere, reaching levels humans could breathe only a few hundred million years ago (Voit, 2015).

While today we think of oxygen as a necessity of life, in truth, oxygen was probably poisonous to most life on Earth before about two billion years, and remains poisonous to some micro-organism today. Oxygen probably provided tremendous pressure for the evolutionary process to excel, and was probably a major contributor to complex life of plants and animals (Voit, 2015). (Life on Earth)

About 542 million years ago, or an age known as the Cambrian period, evolution changed animal life from primitive microbes into the basic body type we still see on Earth today. This evolutionary process occurred in a relatively short time frame, and is often referred to as the Cambrian explosion (Voit, 2015).

Early dinosaurs and mammals evolved about 225 to 250 million years ago, but dinosaurs proved more evolutionarily successful and ruled the Earth for over a 100 million years. The catastrophe that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, paved the way for larger mammals and ultimately for us humans (Voit, 2015). Humans only arose on the scene about a few million years ago, or after 99.9 percent of Earth’s history had already occurred. The history humans have of technology has only been about 99.99999 percent of Earth’s history (Voit, 2015).

Possibility of Life in the Universe

Scientists have made some predictions about the requirements for life in the Universe. The first necessity of life is that a planet reside in the habitable zone of its star. Once the requirement is met, scientists have determined that life has only three basic requirements: A source of nutrients (atoms and molecules) from which to build living cells, energy to fuel the activities of life, whether from sunlight, from chemical reactions, or from the heat of Earth itself, and liquid water (Voit, 2015). Liquid water is the only requirement that is not common in the universe. (Potential Habitable Planets)

Habitability also requires an atmosphere and a climate that remains stable over long periods of time. Other planets must be at least as large as Earth and have ongoing volcanism and plate tectonics (Voit, 2015). A global magnetic field is also necessary for a planet to maintain a habitable surface over long periods of time (Voit, 2015). Based on everything we have discussed so far, life should be abundant in the universe.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life

The search for intelligent life in the universe is known as SETI or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The Drake Equation summarizes the factors that determine the number of civilizations in our galaxy that we could potentially communicate with (Voit, 2015). The number of habitable planets in the galaxy by the fraction of habitable planets that actually have life, by the fraction of planets where civilization has had time to evolve, by the number of planets that actually have a civilization now, and not millions or billions of years in the past (Voit, 2015). Scientists do not actually know any of the values for the Drake equation, but it is a way to organize their thoughts.

Most SETI research facilities use large radio telescopes to search for radio signals in space being transmitted from alien worlds (Voit, 2015). Humanity has been broadcasting strong radio signals into space since about the 1950’s, and scientist reason that if any intelligent life has developed out there, that they would communicate much the same way that we do. Essentially, any civilization out there that could pick up our signals could watch television ads from the 1950’s, that civilization would have to be no more than sixty light years away however, and have much stronger telescopes than humans currently have at their disposal (Voit, 2015).

Humans have attempted to send signals out into space for any intelligent life that could pick it up, but so far we have not made too many attempts, and nothing we have sent out would have traveled far enough to reach another civilization. The signal sent out in 1974 will not reach M13, the star it was sent out to, for another 25,000 years, and then another 25,000 years for an answer to reach us, if there is intelligent life on M13 (Voit, 2015).


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Shintoism is an ancient Japanese religion that is still practiced today in Japan. Shinto can be translated as meaning “the way of the gods,” and those gods in Shintoism are called the Kami. There are many Kami’s, and they are usually related to natural elements, such as the Sun, the Moon, the forests, the rivers, and the mountains. Shinto is a nature religion, with elements of ancestral worship, as Shintoists believe that loved ones who have passed away become Kami as well, and they, much like the Chinese, will have shrines dedicated to certain Kami, including loved ones (Molloy, 2013).

Shintoism is not a religion that has a sacred text, but it is a religion that preaches that there is not one moralistic God who gives commands, but rather that humans are essentially good, and so is this earth, and life in general. Shintoists believe that this Earth is the heavenly realm that most religions preach one can only reach through death. Shintoists believe that individuals should strive to live up to the expectations that are placed on them in this “heavenly realm” here on Earth (Molloy, 2013).

With this heavenly realm in mind, Shintoists believe that cleanliness is at the core of those expectations. One should strive to keep one’s body, mind, house, clothes, etc. as clean as possible, and when they become dirty they must be washed and blessed by a Shinto priest. This cleanliness also applies to one’s character, and Shintoist are expected to keep one’s reputation “clean” by having sincerity. Humans maintain their sincerity by repaying debts, fulfilling obligations, and apologizing for misdeeds (Molloy, 2013).

Today, Shinto temples can be found throughout Japan. Shinto practitioners visit these temples to pray for the health and wellbeing of their family members, for success, and for good health for their selves. The priests of the Shinto temples can be found saying blessings over those praying, while waving a white wand of paper streamers. White is very important in Shinto as it represents the cleanliness and purity of the Kami. The priests, who perform the blessings, and they perform many throughout Japan, include blessings to drive out evil spirits in cars, can always be found wearing white and carrying those white wands (Molloy, 2013).

In the Shinto religion, New Years is a very important celebration, and Shinto practitioners will clean their houses from top to bottom, and adorn the front door with a kadomatsu or entry pine, symbolizing human virtue. During the New Year’s celebration, which takes several days, individuals visit family members, eating special rice balls called mochi, which is adorned with tangerines, signifying wealth and fertility, and the planting of rice in the spring. The whole holiday is representative of cleansing and the renewal of life (Molloy, 2013).

Traditional Shinto practices once put great importance upon the changing of the seasons, especially in regards to the planting and harvesting of rice. These traditional practices are becoming less important in the modern land of Japan, but there are still practices seen in Japan that can be linked to these traditional practices. One such practice is the finding of small shrines found in forests, fields, and mountains. One may find many practices related to the purification elements of water, as even individual practitioners will wash their hands with water before entering a temple. Individuals can also still be found practices the ancient art of misogi, where an individual stand under a waterfall, letting the water purify his mind and body. The practitioner must perform a series of calisthenics and deep breathing exercise before entering the waterfall, and be cleansed with a bit of salt. Misogi combines the ritual element of cleanliness and the Shinto ideal of self-discipline (Molloy, 2013).




Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and

Change (6th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.