The Study of Religion

What is Religion?

Merriam Webster defines religion as “a belief in a god or a group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group; a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” (Merriam Webster, 2016).  However, this is neither a complete nor accurate definition of religion.

Religion could be said to contain some or all of the following eight elements: belief system; community; central myths; ritual; ethics; characteristic emotional experiences; material expression; and sacredness. A belief system is where several beliefs about the universe and humans place in the world fit together to form a worldview. This belief system or worldview is shared by several people in a community, and its ideals are practiced by this community. Religions contain myths or stories about the creator of the universe or about the human helper the creator sent to Earth. It should be noted that myth does not necessarily mean the stories are untrue, just that they are a part of that specific religion. Religions contain rituals or ceremonies that are practiced by the community, such as baptism in Christianity. Religions provide rules or ethics about how people should act and how they should treat others. These rituals and ceremonies usually bring a characteristic emotional experience with them, such as awe, or inner peace, maybe even fear. Religions use material expressions, such as paintings, and statues to depict the lives of the deities or saints that form the religious belief system. Religions carry with a feeling of sacredness by using special clothing, different languages, or places, in the community to shares in this sacredness (Molloy, 2013). Regardless of what religion one believes in and follows, all religions have certain elements in common.

Patterns in World Religions

All religions are different, but all religions are also the same in some ways. All religions have three major patterns that can be seen across cultures, and those patterns are views of the world and life, focus on beliefs and practices, and views on males and females (Molloy, 2013).

All religions attempt to answer one of the most profound questions known to humankind – What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is our purpose?  How did the universe come into existence; will it ever end? How do we reach fulfillment or salvation? What is or should be our relationship with nature? What is or what should be our relationship with the sacred or the holy?  All religions answer these questions in different ways (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions define the sacred or “God” as transcendent, living in a realm beyond our ability to reach. Other religions represent sacred as being within humans and nature and can be experienced as energy or a feeling of peace. Sometimes it is seen as having personal attributes, much like humans, and sometimes it is viewed as an impersonal entity, who has not care about humans (Molloy, 2013).

Some religions see the creator of the universe as a personal, caring entity that has a master plan for the cosmos, and that he or she is guiding the world along on an ultimate path that leads to his or her ultimate goal for life. Other religions view the universe as eternal, having neither a beginning nor end. If the religion sees the universe as having been created by a creator, then that religion worships that creator. If, however, the religion views the universe as eternal, with no creator, then the universe becomes the center of that religion (Molloy, 2013).

The human attitude toward nature is also something all religions address. Some religions believe that nature was put here to be the tools for man. Some religions preach that nature is evil and must be overcome. Some religions say that nature is sacred and needs no alterations. And, some religions teach that nature is or was created by a divine being for humans to shape (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions time is considered linear, moving in a straight line from the beginning to the end; the end of everything as we know it. In these religions time is important because it is limited and unrepeatable. In other religions time is cylindrical, moving in an endless pattern of changes that repeat themselves over and over again on a grand scale. In these religions time is not so important, the universe is not moving towards an ultimate ending, and enjoying the present is more important than being concerned about the future (Molloy, 2013).

In some religions, humans have a purpose and are part of a great divine plan. Individual meaning comes from within and from the divine in the context of a great struggle between the forces of good and evil. In these religions human actions are of great importance and therefore, their actions are prescribed by a righteous moral code. In other religions, however, human life and their actions are not viewed as important, and the individual person is only part of a much larger reality. In these religions, humans are not seen as a small part of a larger plan; they are seen as part of a family, society, and the universe as a whole; placing more importance on how one may achieve harmony with the universe, as opposed to their individual salvation. Human action is not guided by a divine moral code, but by the family and society of the individual (Molloy, 2013).

Different Approaches to Studying Religions

            The study of religion was, at one time, divided among different academic fields. Fields such as psychology, theology, and philosophy would study different aspects of religions. Now, the study of religion is unified into one academic field, but all the different fields still study religion as part of their curriculum.

Psychology means soul study in Greek, and encompasses the study of human mental states, emotions, and behaviors. Psychology takes a special interest in religions because of its rich material in human experiences. Mythology is the study of myths, which is the study of religious stories, texts, and arts that reveal universal commonalities. Philosophy means the love of wisdom in Greek, and encompasses the study of human life and their purpose. Theology means the study of the divine in Greek, and encompasses the study of one particular religious belief, usually the religion of the theologies who is doing the studying in order to gain a deeper understanding of their own religion (Molloy, 2013).

Critical Issues in Studying Religion

The academic study of religion has, in the past, been carried out by individuals seeking to find further knowledge in their own religion. However, in recent decades, there has been a shift in this cycle where now people are wanting to study religion academically without promoting the beliefs of one religion over another. The great questions of religions were once studied as a philosophy course in colleges, while other aspects of religious beliefs were found scattered in such academic departments as anthropology, history, or psychology. The study of religion then was very fragmented, scattered all over the college campus, and no unified course could be found.

In the recent past, all of this has changed and now most campuses have a department for studying religion as a whole. However, the academic study of religion brings problems and questions, as well as clarity, insight, and answers. Some concerns include the rights and obligations that professionals hold towards the practitioners of each religion, the truthfulness of informants or interpreters, the objectivity of the professional, and how, and in what way do researchers change indigenous communities.

 

References

Molloy, M. (2013). Experiencing the world’s religions: Tradition, challenge, and change (6th

Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.merriam

webster.com/dictionary/religion

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Is World Peace Possible?

 

The world has had two world wars in recent history. World War I, which was fought between the Allies:  Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States, against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. World War I saw the destruction of over 38 million lives, including civilian and military personnel in the four short years it was waged from 1914 to 1918. The next big war in recent history was waged by Hitler, a notorious tyrant, from the years 1939 to 1945. It’s safe to say that the war started long before that in Germany, as veterans of World War I came home and looked to Hitler to lead them in the pursuit of the Third Reich. Hitler eventually took his message worldwide, trying to eliminate all Jewish people and other “impure” people from the face of the Earth. World War II saw the destruction of over 60 million people; however, some estimates place the number of lives lost could equal as many as 80 million. Today, many would call the war on terrorism a global war, and it has been being fought for about sixteen years and is still being fought today. These three examples of World Wars demonstrate that it is possible for the entire world to come together to accomplish a goal that they find necessary and for the good of the world. In this paper, I will discuss how the previous World Wars and wars in ancient history, can be used to demonstrate that a world built on global peace is just as possible as a world made on world wars.

Global Wars and their Impact

The age-old question of rather a war is a part of human evolution and, therefore, a human necessity is not an issue that we are going to concern ourselves with in this paper. Instead, we are going to skip ahead in history, from early war: unplanned tribal attacks, to more recent wars, involving planned attacks by military personnel. If we compare modern warfare to ancient Greece; we can see many similarities and many differences. One main similarity is that war is fought under the important notion of defending one’s home, and the military is made of civilians that arm themselves when their city-state is attacked (Bowden, 1995). However, war today is not fought only in defense of one’s nation, or in the hopes of expanding one’s territory. Global war today, and in the recent past, has been fought over resources, genocide, or terrorism, and the consequences have been much more devastating than in the past, with more people, and resources lost on both sides. With globalization comes the ability to defend countries half way around the world, and this can have far-reaching effects on all of the world.

The First World War in modern history, World War I, had far-reaching effects on many parts of the world. World War I saw the financial center of the world shift from England to the United States, as England consumed all of their credits on the global marketplace and became deeply indebted to the US. Shortly after the war, women worldwide gained the right to vote (where voting was allowed), and the working class people were given a higher social status than they had before the war. The United States, joining as they did, late in the War, suffered relatively minor losses and emerged as the great superpower of the world. The United States could be said to have benefitted the most from World War I, as it pushed forward industrialization. However, some argue that the United States was not prepared for this position of world leadership (Effects of World War One).

The end of World War I was the beginning, in Germany’s eyes, of World War II. Veterans from World War I, returned to Germany after the war to find an utterly defeated country; looking for a new leader to take them to glory and the Third Reich, and they found that leader in Hitler. Hitler became a Messiah to the World War I veterans, now called the Nazi’s, and they would have done anything to please him. Indeed, they did commit some of the most hideous war crimes upon humanity to please Hitler; following his orders blindly as he tried to eradicate any impure persons from Germany and the rest of the world (Redles, 2010).  Aside from almost complete genocide of the Jewish race, the effects of World War II on the world were also far-reaching, and some would argue that they are still being felt today.

One primary effect that is still being felt today was the dropping of the first atomic bombs, from the United States, devastating Japan. Indeed changing their DNA, so that their children and grandchildren are still seeing mutations today; mostly in the prevalence of leukemia found in the Japanese children (Center for Nuclear Studies, 2012). Germany, Japan, England, France, and Russia suffered immeasurably in lives lost and damage taken due to bombings during World War II, and world power shifted again, from England and France to Russia; making Russia one of two superpowers in the World along with the United States. In the United States, World War II stimulated the economy, and cemented the US as a superpower. Scientific discoveries, that were used to fight diseases during the war, would later be applied to benefit mankind; reducing the mortality rate and encouraging population growth. Other technological advancements, such as the development of the atomic bomb, would leave future wars more precarious, as now nuclear weapons were a possibility in every future war. While the development of nuclear weapons was a definite pitfall for the future of humanity, perhaps the biggest benefit to emerge from World War II was the creation of the United Nations. With the unification of the world’s superpowers, most considered the world to be entering a new era of peace (Effects of World War Two).

That new era of peace came to an abrupt end on September eleventh, 2001, when a group of terrorist attacked the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and killed over three thousand people (History Channel). The attacks on nine eleven caused, then President George W. Bush, to call a global war on terrorism, ending the hope of world peace, and creating a ripple effect of changes in the United States and worldwide. Since President Bush announced the global war on terror, the militia groups connected to or inspired by al-Qaeda, have increased as well as the number of attacks committed by the group, over twenty attacks that have killed over twenty people since 2001, and counting. Other terrorist groups have sprung up, accounting for more minor assaults, and more deaths worldwide; demonstrating that global terrorism is on the rise and not on the decline (BBC News, 2011). Perhaps, however, the global war on terrorism has caused the most internal change to the US and its citizens. It saw the decrease in personal privacy (with the government now able to pry by recording both phone conversations and internet history of everyday civilians), the militarization of the police force, and the formation of the National Security Administration, which now oversees all internal and foreign affairs, using recorded personal data disguised as intelligence to target civilians accused of ordinary crimes (Kane, 2013). Recently, with the attacks committed by ISIS, the global war on terrorism has increased the amount of discrimination toward Muslim people on US territory as well as globally. The global war on terrorism could easily be argued to have had the opposite effect of world peace, and may, in fact, be a significant contribution to a future World War; but that remains to be seen.

The Effects of World Peace

While it is safe to say that since the development of human communities and cities, as well as military arms, and the advancement of civilization, the world has never known peace. Some country, rather little or big, in human history, has always been at war. However, with the

Ending of World War I and the development of the United Nations, world peace could be a possibility in the future if the world’s governments and resources could be used to promote world peace instead of world war.

The United Nations (UN) was founded to foster global peace, prosperity, and justice, and since the time of its inception, it has prevented a third world war from breaking out; if one does not count the war on terrorism (United Nations, 2013). The UN could be said to have been tasked with an impossible mission; world peace has never existed, why would it now? Michael Mandelbaum, in his book entitled Ideas That Conquered the World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century compares the pursuit of world peace to the search for a cure for cancer; it is done slowly over time, taking small steps in the right direction with the hopeful development of a “cure” at the end of the road (Mandelbaum, 2004). However, despite these difficulties, Mandelbaum maintains hope for world peace, through democracy, global government, and free markets that, he says, is the key to world peace at the onset of the twenty-first century (Mandelbaum, 2004). As Dwight D. Eisenhower said of the UN, “ With all the defects, with all the failures we can check up on it, the UN still represents man’s best-organized hope to substitute the conference table for the battlefield” (Sharp, 2011).

US Motivations to Continue the War Effort

While the initial, official stated reason for the global war on terrorism has remained the same throughout the last fifteen years (national security, God’s will, and eliminating evil from the world), after the death of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, many people have begun to question the necessity of the War on Terrorism. Since the evidence suggests that the War on Terrorism has created more terrorists, not less, why does America continue to fight this war; does America need war?

Since America’s economic system is built on a brand of capitalism, where the rich get richer, and the crumbs are left for the rest of society, it is argued that America needs a war every four years, or so, to maintain its economic system. The legitimate causes of war were justified, to begin with in the eyes of the American public, however while they were blinded with hatred and with the war in the middle east, the government levied taxes upon the poorer citizens of the country to pay for the war, thereby increasing the pockets of the already rich suppliers of weapons and other military necessities (Pauwels, 2003). It would be safe to say that the war on terrorism has become a war designed to make corporate America richer while devastating “enemy countries.” The fight on terrorism is abstract enough that it is a war that can continually be fought, for many, many years, without a clear enemy in mind, increasing the pockets of the rich in corporate America, while further decreasing the wealth of the middle to poor class of America.

The War on Terrorism also provides the American government the excuse necessary to monitor and invade their citizens’ rights, it allows the police force of the American government to detain anyone, terrorist ties notwithstanding, in a prison without outside contact for three days, and increased world democracy; pushing their ideas upon every country in the world, rather they want it or not (Higgs, 2005). It may well be that America continues the war on terrorism to push further their ideas while gaining political power across the world. Regardless of the American government’s justification for the continued War on Terrorism, the costs, in human lives, economic and governmental structure ships across the world, and important civil and economic liberties in America, are genuine and detrimental to most countries involved in the War on Terrorism (Higgs, 2005).

US Motivations for World Peace

According to a Gallup International survey, which polled 66,000 people in sixty-five countries, America is seen as the biggest threat to world peace (Bulger, 2014). Since America has technically been involved in some war since 1940, one is forced to ask, does America have any motivations to pursue world peace? As the world’s great superpower, one could argue that America, more than any other countries has a responsibility to use their powers responsibly, pushing world peace instead of continuing to wage war after war; up to this point in recent history, which has not been the case. However, the founding fathers of America brought about the world’s most prosperous, free, and peaceful country in world history; it stands to reason that if they could do it, so can the current governmental powers in America (Lohman, 2013).  Could it be that the only motivations the US government has for world peace are the spread of democracy or the pushing of their ideals? Could it be that the only motivating factor the US has for the establishment of world peace is even more political power throughout the world? It could be.

Perhaps if the American government were more straight forward and honest in their dealings with both their citizens and foreign nationals and governments, the complete distrust of the United States by most countries in the world would diminish, and the American military could stand a chance of spreading a peaceful democracy across the world, eliminating world wars altogether. They would have to practice real democracy here at home, as well.

Peaceful Societies in History

The view is that generally friendly societies do not exist in human history; caveman supposedly fought with caveman, and today one country fights another, or a group of people fights another group of individuals, all in the name of “God” or “peace”, even though neither has been seen or heard from in Western civilizations since at least 1940. However, there have been peaceful societies throughout the history of humankind, who not only did not engage in war or warlike behavior with outside societies; they also did not promote fighting or violence even within their societies.

The Paliyan Society of South India, for example, is a relatively nonviolent civilization, that practices avoidance when dealing with violent situations or people (Gardner, 2000). A study of the literature composed of twenty-four other peaceful societies throughout the world shows much of the same thinking in regards to warfare or violence. Peaceful societies do not view violence in the same light as westernized nations. They believe that violence is not inevitable, that punishment and armed forces are not the answer to all conflicts, both internal and external, that political structures are not a necessity to prevent conflict, and that war is not the answer to world peace (Bonta, 1996).

Instead, peaceful societies throughout the world and in human history, have no record of violence. They rarely punish adults and have no prison system. Conflict is often viewed in a negative light, and outside interference by governmental forces are not sought after or approved, rather a conflict is with an outside society or within their society. Conflict is instead resolved through various other tactics, such as self-restraint, negotiation, separation or mobility, intervention, or humor (Bonta, 1996). These ulterior conflict resolution skills could be universally applied, promoting world peace instead of world war.

Conclusion

The examination of previous societies throughout world history that have implemented conflict resolution without the need for violence illustrates the world’s capacity for world peace; it is possible. The same forces it takes to push a country to war could be used to drive a country to peace. World War I set the United States up as the superpower in the world and World War II cemented that position, since then, the US has been in one way or another, and all under the guise of accomplishing world peace. If monies spent on war, some upwards of 450 trillion dollars, so far in the 21st Century, could be devoted to bringing democracy to developing countries instead of more destruction and human suffering, the world would be a superpower that indeed does promote peacefulness, democracy, and freedom. I have shown throughout this paper that the love of power and money is what keeps the world’s superpower at war, and in the words of William Ewart Gladstone, I will end this paper with the hope that world peace is achieved within my lifetime. “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace” (Gladstone, 1809-1898).

References

BBC News. (2011, September 9). After 9/11: Global effects of the ‘war on terror’. Retrieved from BBC News Magazine: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-14844727

Bonta, B. D. (1996, November). Conflict Resolution among Peaceful Societies: The Culture of Peacefulness. Journal of Peace Research, 33(4), 403-420. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.proxy-library.ashford.edu/stable/424566

Bowden, H. (2012). Hoplites and Homer: Warfare, hero cult, and the ideology of the polis. In D. J. Rich, J. Rich, & G. & Shipley, War and Society in the Greek World (pp. 45-63). Routledge. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/lib/ashford/reader.action?docID=10058291

Bulger, M. (2014). Is America the Greatest Threat to World Peace? . Retrieved from American Humanist Association: http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2014-01-is-america-the-greatest-threat-to-world-peace

Center for Nuclear Studies . (2012, Augest 9). Hiroshima and Nagasaki: The Long Term Health Effects. Retrieved from Columbia University: http://k1project.org/explore-health/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-the-long-term-health-effects

Effects of World War One. (n.d.). Retrieved from Suffolk County Community College : http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/westn/effectww1.html

Effects of World War Two. (n.d.). Retrieved from Suffolk County Community College : http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/westn/effectww2.html

Gardner, P. M. (2000, June). Respect and Nonviolence among Recently Sedentary Paliyan Foragers. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 6(2), 215-236. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.proxy-library.ashford.edu/stable/2660893

Gladstone, W. E. (1809-1898). Love of Power Quote.

Higgs, R. (2005, Spring). Benefits and Costs of the U.S. Government’s War Making. The Independant Review, 9(4). Retrieved from http://www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?a=534

History Channel. (n.d.). 9/11 Attacks. Retrieved from History.com: http://www.history.com/topics/9-11-attacks

Kane, A. (2013, Augest 6). 5 Ways the War on Terror Has Changed Your Life. Retrieved from Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/5-ways-war-terror-impacting-you

Lohman, W. (2013, June 4). Honoring America’s Superpower Responsibilities. Retrieved from Heritage: http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/2013/06/honoring-americas-superpower-responsibilities

Mandelbaum, M. (2004). Ideas That Conquered the World : Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century. New York, New York, US: Public Affairs. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/lib/ashford/reader.action?docID=10469157

Pauwels, J. R. (2003, April 30). Why America Needs War. Retrieved from Centre of Research for Globalization: http://www.globalresearch.ca/why-america-needs-war/5328631

Redles, D. (2010, Augest ). The nazi old guard: Identity formation during apocalyptic times. Nova Religio, 14(1), 24-44. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/docview/507891296/fulltextPDF/E3EC9549B8A0416DPQ/1?accountid=32521

Sharp, A. (2011). Consequences of Peace : The Versailles Settlement : Aftermath and Legacy 1919-2010. Haus Publishing. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/lib/ashford/reader.action?docID=10491535

United Nations. (2013). Working with the UN. Retrieved from United Nations Foundation: http://www.unfoundation.org/what-we-do/working-with-the-un/?referrer=https://www.google.com/

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).

Marriage

“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.

Conclusion

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.

 

 

References

Looking for love; modern marriage. (2012, June 09). The Economist, 50, 403. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1019706695?accountid=32521

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 http://www.jstor.org/stable/40927564

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

 

 

 

References

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

York, NY: Oxford University Press.