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Mahatma Gandhi said, “No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive” (Yadav 2012). When culture is held as exclusive to one specific group it eventually fades away. However, when it is shared and intermingled with other groups or societies, a culture can sustain indefinitely. There is no better example of this sentiment than Monsoon Asia. Despite diversity in location, ecosystems, nationality, religion, and history, the people that inhabit this region of the world share a multitude of common cultural patterns.
Culture can be defined a few different ways. One definition of culture is in reference to being cultured; meaning that one is well versed and knowledgeable about a society’s philosophies, art, and history. Another definition, and the one used for the purpose of this paper, is that culture is the common held beliefs, values, philosophies, and expression through various artistic mediums of a specific group or society of people. Culture can change or remain the same through history. For example, American culture is illustrated through our music, films, art, and even our ardent demand for human rights. There are many differences in our culture today compared to the 1800’s, such as the requirement of civil rights, art, and religious expectations; but there are also many things that have not changed in our culture, like the prominence of Christianity and the importance of family.
Monsoon Asia is noted as being all area south of the Uriel Mountains, and east of Afghanistan. The area’s name comes from the typical weather patterns that occur in the region, specifically the periods of extreme rainfall. The region holds many nations, various climates, and a variety of religions. It is also home to more that half the world’s population. The population levels rely upon the area’s rich agricultural success for sustainability; and because of the unusually high agricultural returns, the population continues to flourish.
Monsoon Asia holds the most agriculturally productive areas on Earth (Murphy & Stapleton 2014). Agriculture holds a great deal of significance to the people of the region for many reasons. Most importantly, it is what sustains the population’s food supply. Agricultural work is more critical for many inhabitants of the region due to religious reason. Several religions observe a concept called ahimsa, such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Ahimsa refers to the idea that one is not to harm any living thing (Britannica 2018). While vegetarianism in not required (except for in Jainism), many believe that killing animals for food purposes violates the idea of ahimsa.
Agricultural practices permeate throughout the entire region despite the differences in countries, economies, and religions. Because the population of Monsoon Asia is so high, increased agricultural productivity is necessary for sustainability in all areas. Additionally, religion practices are not confined to one single area. For example, Buddhism is practiced in China, Korea, Japan, and India. This means that many different areas engage in the same practice of ahimsa and encouraged vegetarianism.
Many villages are designed for agricultural support. For example, the layout of villages is much different than the layout of western agricultural towns; houses are established close together instead of being spaced out (Murphy & Stapleton 2014). The close proximity provides agricultural workers and their families with a support system to ensure better outcomes and productivity. Additionally, extended family networks were somewhat encouraged by marrying outside of one’s own community (Murphy & Stapleton 2014). This provided not only a deterrent to inbreeding, but produced more geographic resources for agricultural purposes.
Monsoon Asia houses a significant portion of the entire world’s population. This is because of a perpetual cause and effect relationship between population and agricultural practices. Agriculture was historically prosperous, which contributed to increased population growth; and, increased populations required even more returns on agricultural yields (Murphy & Stapleton 2014). The overall climate and geographic features of the region contributed to better agricultural yield. As agricultural practice flourished, more people were required for work in to reach full growth and harvest potential. This relationship is noted across many different areas such as in Vietnam, China, and Japan.
Historically, women have held a submissive role in comparison to men in Monsoon Asia. This is noted in a variety of different cultures and countries. One of the most likely causes for this is in relation to religion. Many religions were patriarchal, noting that men were the more dominant or more important of the sexes. Examples of this can be seen in regard to both Buddhism and Jainism; in which initially, women were not even permitted to be devotees. While some sects of Buddhism now believe that women can achieve moksha, others do not. Both Jainism and Mahayana Buddhism attest that women can only work towards rebirth as a man in future lives (Gunasekara 2017). Other religions such as Confucianism laid out specific feminine duties and roles, such as filial piety and duties to their child rearing (Yao 2002). These ideas often illustrated the feminine gender as weaker, or as distracting from the righteous path.
The importance of education is evident in many different cultures across Monsoon Asia. When discussing education in this context we do not necessarily mean typical academic education. Educational practices include academic education, but also religious education and life skills education. For example, as shown in the documentary Around the World in 80 Religions: Far East, we are shown that adolescent boys spend time in a Buddhist monastery for the purpose of learning how to be monks; at the time when they leave they are considered to be better members of society (2009). Historically, education was important as it reflected upon the person’s family (Murphy & Stapleton 2014). If a person was educated and successful, then their family was also considered to be successful.
Importance of the Past
The inhabitants of Monsoon Asia have a heightened respect for the past in comparison to western cultures. In many ways this is related to religion. Several Asian religions assert reincarnation beliefs; and in this comes a different level of awareness and consideration for past lives to the extent that it can affect the present life. Another important part of Monsoon Asia’s respect for the past can be seen in Japanese Shinto. In this religion ancestor worship is common. Additionally, the past is preserved in Asian culture more so than in western culture. For example, Confucianism asserted that a sage was not to create anything new, but instead was to pass along ancient heritage; and that this was a high responsibility (Ryckmans 2008). This is illustrated through the continued use of herbal medications, the concepts of yin and yang, and adherence to ancient traditions.
If it is true that variety is the spice of life, then Monsoon Asia must be the prime example of this sentiment. Various religions, languages, countries, geographies, and cultures provide unmatched uniqueness. There is even noted diversity within the nations of this area; such as the intermingling of religions in India. In the same breath though, we must acknowledge the presence of common cultural themes in the region. Concepts such as the importance of agriculture, the past, family, and education, as well as the common roles of women, are what allow this diverse region to continue to flourish and prosper.
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