Category Archives: Cultural

The Cultural Dimension of Bowing in Dahn Yoga

Bowing is not a new phenomenon of culture in the modern or contemporary culture. It is one of the few cultural gestures that cut across more than four continents. It is a show of respect and courtesy. The person who bows will usually be the one on the humble end and meeting a an individual on the higher social status.

Showing respect and courtesy can come in various forms. This would differ from one society to another. The funny part of this is that some gestures may be conflicting in terms of what they mean. For example, beckoning would not be considered kind in Asia as it would in Africa. This is where bowing emerges as one of the unique cultural gestures that is known in most part of the world. It is cross cutting and has been understood as a good sign.

There are places where bowing may actually be considered in bad taste. In today’s world, those with no background of bowing would not appreciate bowing as a sign of strength. It may be considered as a sign of the submission and servitude. The essence is far from these assumptions. It is in fact a sign of strength and maturity. It is a sign of respect that is exuded by those who have matured and have nothing to lose. It also works magic in creating good relational capital.

A perfect traditional bowing involves both a bow and scratching of the right leg. This involves bending a little and lifting the right leg backwards. The left hand is then placed on the lower abdomen and the right hand lifted higher. Now this is a classical bowing that does not have to be between a servant and master relationship. It is a perfect thing to do for good buddies.

If you thought that this is a culture that is practiced only in the East or Asia, you will be forgiven for you ignorance. In fact, Europe is more known for this practice than the East. In Europe, bowing has been practiced mainly by the aristocrats. In the initial time, it was considered an act for the servant to their masters. But overtime it has become a show of respect. The women were originally expected to show this as a sign of respect to husbands, but later, the men are also seen doing this. It is not unique to see a man giving a flower to the woman while bowing.

Countries such as China, Korea and Japan or India have practiced bowing as part of the religious practices. This has an element of the worship and therefore emphasized among those in the religious centers. This religious aura has been taken to the social cycles too.

China Culture: Beijing Hutong

Entering the modernized Beijing, what interest people the most often are not those row upon row of sky rises, nor are the wide streets extending in all directions. What really attracts travelers are the deep and quiet winding Hutongs full of warm, beautiful Siheyuan, or quadrangles. Therefore, the ancient capital culture has been named as “Hutong culture” and “Siheyuan culture”, this indeed is not over said.

In the past, Beijing was largely formed by tens of thousands of Siheyuan that were aligned back-to-back, face-to-face, and side by side. For the convenience of coming in and out, a walking passage must be kept between each row of Siheyuan, this is what we call Hutong.

In the Yuan Dynasty, gaps between Beijing’s Hutongs were much wider. Therefore the descendants chose the open areas to construct more Siheyuan, created narrow passages between rows of Siheyuan courtyard houses, this resulted in massive small Hutongs among many well known big ones. Hence the proverb: “Famous Hutongs are 3600, nameless Hutongs exceeded number of ox hairs”.

Until 1949, there were 6074 well known streets and alleys in Beijing’s city areas. Out of which were 1330 Hutongs, 274 streets, 111 alleys, 85 Dao (small streets), 71 lanes, 37 roads. Traditionally, people classify all the small streets and alleys as Hutongs.

In Beijing, crisscross networked large and small Hutongs weaved the capital city with distinguished people and exquisite objects. Deep in the Hutongs are innumerable warm families, this is why ordinary Beijingers have special sentimental feelings towards Hutongs.

The narrowest Hutong in Beijing is the Qianshi (money market) Hutong in the Dashalan area of outside Qianmen, the narrowest space is merely 40 centimeters. There are also some winding deep Hutongs assumed zigzag shapes, like the Jiudaowan (nine-zigzag) originally at Beixinqiao (north new bridge), it actually had more than 20 zigzags, it was later divided into 5 Hutongs; There is another Hutong also named Jiudaowan outside Qianmen, it in fact has 13 zigzag turns. The name of Hutongs in Beijing is like an encyclopedia, it reflected the historical evolution and demonstrated the social characters and styles, it has been discovered as a hard to come by traveling resources in recent years.

Presently, those big worn-out courtyards in Beijing are being replaced by the modern buildings, the old Hutongs are also losing the base they once relied on to exist. But, to maintain Beijing’s ancient capital styles and features, many famous Hutongs have been reserved as the cultural relics, it preserved certain ancient colors for our emerging capital.

Now, Beijing’s Hutong culture development has already opened up a new travel program – visiting Hutongs. Foreign travelers from all over the world take Beijing’s old-fashioned pedicab as transportation, by pass the west line of Shuchangshahai, come to Gu Lou (the Drum Tower) through Yinding bridge, go up to Gu Lou to look down at Beijing’s old city areas and Hutongs that extend in all directions. They then go to the Houhai area, visit the city’s ancient Nanbeiguanfang Hutong, Daxiaojinshi (big and small golden lion), and Qianhoujing Hutong, walk in Siheyuan, chat with residents, get to know the life of ordinary Beijingers, go to the Gong Wang Fu (Mansion and Garden of Prince Gong in Qing Dynasty) to experience the living environment and Emperor’s gardens in the old times.

Beijing’s Hutong has a kind of eternal charm as a carrier of the ancient culture.