Asian Invasion

Manila Bulletin, November 18, 2015 | Go to article overview

Asian Invasion


Asia's cultural make-up fully matches the geographic complexity and richness of the word's largest continent. From Japan to Georgia, from Mongolia to Malaysia, Asia is home to more ethnic groups than any other major region. These groups have evolved over a very long time. Some of them developed in isolation, while others have complex histories of interaction and sharing, either through peaceful migration or military conquest.

Ethnic Dress and Change.The readily identifiable aspect of ethnic dress arises from a garment characteristic (such as its silhouette), a garment part (such as a collar or sleeve), accessories, or a textile pattern, any of which stems from the group's cultural heritage. Many people believe that ethnic dress does not change. In point of fact, however, change in dress does occur, because as human beings come into contact with other human beings, they borrow, exchange, and modify many cultural items, including items of dress. In addition, human beings create and conceive of new ways of making or decorating garments or accessories, and modifying their bodies. Even though changes occur and are apparent when garments and ensembles are viewed over time, many aspects of ethnic dress do remain stable, allowing them to be identifiable. In many parts of the world, ethnic dress is not worn on a daily basis; instead items are brought out for specific occasions, particularly holiday or ritual events, when a display of ethnic identity is a priority and a source of pride. When worn only in this way, ethnic dress may easily be viewed as ethnic costume, since it is not an aspect of everyday identity. - Joanne B. Eicher

China, India, and Indonesia--the first, second, and fourth most populous nations of the world-- are home to 40 percent of Earth's people, and in these three countries reside extraordinary numbers of ethnic groups. Language, a major measure of ethnicity, reveals in its diversity the range of a country's human wealth: Indonesia counts more than 700 languages, India over 400, and China more than 200. In China, at least 90 percent of the people consider themselves to be Han. …

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