Introduction to Culture and Han People:
Culture: the art and other instances of human intellectual achievement regards as a whole – Oxford Dictionary. The above definition does not begin to suffice the complexities and depths that occur within a culture. A simple sentence or even an essay cannot define culture. The Han reading by Burton Pasternak shows the culture and ways of life of the Han people. The two groups of Han – pastoralists and farmers, have vastly different customs; yet meet their needs in their own unique ways. Pasternak’s work shows the Han’s day-to-day life, working, family, education and as well as their struggles. To help us further own understanding of what culture is specifically for the Han farmers by more than a definition, it can be categorized by what is shared, symbolic, integrated and learned within a culture. These features of culture can be found throughout the world and as well in Han reading. After reading about the Han farmers and their culture, it becomes evident that these four characteristics play a part in their everyday lives, whether they know it or not. The Han’s culture can be shown through what is shared/symbolic, integrated and learned. What is shared and symbolic to the Han farmers is very similar, therefor can be classified as one.
Han Culture is Shared/Symbolic People within the Han farming culture share ideas and symbols that are meaningful to them. Each culture has it’s own culturally specific activities and routines that have meaning to them and other people within the same culture. The Han farmers do not value materialistic things or wealth, but rather their family and land, which go hand in hand. Their land is everything to them, and without it they would not have a way of providing for their families. Family is how one farmer is able manage the work of the farm, without family the work could not be completed. These two things are essential to their life and ways of living. As defined in Barbra Millers textbook - a symbol is an object, word or action with a culturally defined meaning that stands for something else with which it has no necessary or natural relationship. A specific symbol that has meaning to the farmers is the dog. “On arrival in Middle Village, in our honor a dog was killed for us to eat” (Pg. 211) – said a researcher doing fieldwork in Mongol. The Han community demonstrates how cultures have symbols and meanings attached to animals, and what they do with them has a specific meaning. The use of symbols and values can be seen across the globe in every different culture. Whether we know it or not, our culture has meaningful ideas, values and symbols. When culture is shared and symbolic it provides a sense of belonging to all. Without this sense of belonging cultures would begin to fall apart.
Han Culture is Integrated Another aspect that holds all cultures together is what becomes integrated. Each culture has certain things – physical or abstract, that act as the “glue” of that culture. In the farming communities of the Han people, their glue is farming and family. Their culture and entire lives revolve around working on their farms. The reading shows how the Han people rely on farming; this is not just an occupation to them, but rather a way of life. “Their was of life is rooted in intensive farming. They transfer population pressure to land applying even more labor and attention to squeeze marginal increments out of limited land space.” (Pg. 205) The second major integrative aspect of the Han is family. Without family there would not be a way to farm. A good size family is mandatory to accomplish all the work that farming requires. Often children must drop out of school at a young age to help on the family farm. Education is not important to the Han, farming is. Without the use and help of family, farming would become impossible. And without farming the historic Han culture would begin to