Cultural Influence in Shaping Human Body

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Effects that Culture have made on the physical changes of the human beings.

Name: Wong Hiu Ying
Student ID: 08253457d
Date: 30th September, 2008
Effects that culture have made on the physical changes of the human being.

Culture is one of the representative characteristics that reflecting the norms of activities of human within a certain area, namely the society. There’s no single modified definition of culture, however, by referring to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO (2002) (1)“culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs.” In simple words, any activity within a society can be regarded as one of the cultural elements. Culture is important in our daily life as it can explain the rationales of the activities, and in other way, culture also has strong influences and effects over the modification on the physical changes of the human bodies.

Cultures are different in times and areas. First of all, time is a prerequisite for cultural development, as time allows culture to assimilate and differentiate. Secondly, there are other factors that affect the differences in culture, for examples religion, civilization, geographical differences in landscapes…etc. These factors are relatively stable over times, unless there is radical geographical change or political struggle. Thirdly, in modern times, cultures in the world undergoes rapid changes with newly developed ideas and the styles of lives have changed, for examples working in urban society, contact between different culture and the technological developments, these changes of culture made significant effects on the changes of human bodies physically. Each factor would be explained in the following.

Time is important in changing the culture and thus owes the influences in physical body changes. As culture reflects the modes of activities of a society, that is there’re time sense in the nature of culture itself. In a particular period of time, the mode of society is like that, and with time passes by, the mode of activities changes as the influential factors are growing stronger in modifying the culture with time, for example religion, technology level and educational level…etc. Some culture elements are eliminated and some are kept, the remaining ones gradually become parts of the tradition. Thus, differences appear within a culture, even within the some region or place. The different duration of cultures can affect human body both individually and racially. There are plenty of evidences that showing the transient culture changed the human body physically in an unnatural way in many regions in the past centuries. In 16-18th century France, women and men wore corsets (2), which gird the torso and shape the bodies according to the fashion of the day. Most often it has been used for cinching the waist and supporting the breasts. However, the corsets modified the human bodies in fatal ways including broken ribs, injuries of internal organs or even difficulties in breathing. Also in China, women foot- binding (3) was a prevailing trend in the early Qing Dynasty, as small foot meant wealthy, high status and elegance. Similarly, foot binding distorted and contorted the foot of the ladies and brought them continuous tortures and pains. In the Pre-WWI periods, these practices had been banned by governments because of the disastrous changes of the human bodies.

Compare to the short duration of some practices that affect only the people in particular time period, old traditions have a more significant on the physical changes of human beings. For example, the Chinese hold the value of fatness representing good fortune of the family. So most Chinese families prefer fat than...
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