The Traditional in Modernity

Nina Solntseva
Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow

The Traditional in Modernity

47th Meeting of the PIAC, Cambridge 2004

The existence of traditional in the modernity is characteristic of the Altaic and also “non-Altaic” lands of the Far East and Southeast Asia. Even if the traditions have had been formed in the mist periods of history they are always present in modernity.

Naturally, the peoples inhabiting these lands are still true to the traditional morals and ethics which can be denoted by such Chinese words as li “etiquette” and xiao “respect”, which determine the behaviour of peoples in social life and at home.

The traditional elements are present in all spheres of life: in culture, in literature, architecture, art and so on. This phenomena in everyday life is represented for instance: in the tea ceremony, in wearing traditional clothes on special occasions, in using traditional furniture, etc. The stability of traditions in life of Mongolians, Kalmyks, Buryats and peoples of Southeast or Far East Asia is due to one and the same factor – to the widely spread special aesthetic tradition, fully revealed in the cognitive argumentation of traditions which enable the recipients to understand, learn, remember and follow these traditions.

The cognitive argumentation may be both verbal and non-verbal. The verbal cognitive argumentation is explicit in the system of examinations which existed for a long time and was used in preparing the officials in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and China. The verbal cognitive argumentation of traditions is also explicit in literature where existed a tradition of using lines or phrases of texts from the masterpieces of authors who lived earlier. This tradition used in Chinese literature was named by academician V. M. Alekseev as a tradition of imitation and the Buryat scholars V. Naidakov and C. Chagdurov, who analyzed “Geser”, named this tradition as aesthetic of sacred tradition. As a result of such traditions in the text of one author there were included the texts of another. Such an included text was named by Y.S. Stepanov an “intertext”. If to understand “text” as Y. S. Stepanov in a broad sense, the fact of inclusion of traditional elements into modernity may also be called a process of intertexting.

Architecture with traditional designs, paintings and sculptures with traditional motifs represent the non-verbal cognitive argumentation of traditions.