Cultural Anthropology

Culture Loss Explained

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Culture loss happens when contemporary culture replaces traditional culture.  It is difficult to prevent culture loss as society continues to change. Individuals are not able to use traditional culture to adapt a new way of life.  Instead, they have to learn and adapt new culture of the society in order to survive.  As a result, traditional culture eventually will disappear.  To explain how society loses its culture, one must look into factors that lead to culture loss.


Invention replaces the old way of life.  Humans use their creative side to create something amazing to make life easier than before.  Also, they invent things to solve problems.  Invention of new technologies leads to a new way of life. For instance, when new technologies are invented, people will learn how to use those technologies to adapt a new way of life.  For instance, people used typewriters to type in the past.  Then, when computer was invented, workforces and schools started to use computer. As a result, people were strongly recommended knowing how to use computer instead.  Since then, computer has replaced typewriter.


Diffusion is borrowing ideas, traits, or things between cultures without firsthand contact.  For instance, most Chinese people who eat sushi have never been to Japan. However, people make contact through trade, intermarriage, and war. These ways of contacting and exchanging information and production increase the introduction of a new culture to other countries.  It also promotes changes in the world.  As changes take place in society, people will learn, adapt, and adopt an alternative culture in order to survive. As a result, traditional culture will die out. For instance, when globalization and industrialization were introduced to the world, they had replaced many agrarian and horticultural cultures.  Since then, many people have been moving to the cities to find to work.  They no longer live with their elders and relatives.  Instead, they leave their elders and relatives behind.

Stimulus Diffusion

Stimulus diffusion is when people use ideas or concepts from other culture to invent new ideas or concepts.  For instance, before the 4th century AD, Japan had no writing system.  During the 4th century AD, the Chinese writing system spread to Japan.  The Japanese recognized the Chinese writing system and adopted it.  They learned how to read Chinese.  For instance, highly educated Japanese scholars were able to read Classical Chinese.  Then, around 5th century AD, manyogana, a Japanese syllable, was introduced using Chinese characters to represent Japanese phonetic alphabets.  Later, manyogana gave rise to hiragana and katakana, Japanese writing system that contains four syllables.

The Japanese writing system today does not use lots of Chinese words.  The Japanese had created their writing system that is different from the Chinese writing system.  However, some Chinese words still remain in the Japanese writing system.  Besides using the Chinese writing system to create a different writing system, the Japanese also had built a civilization based on the influence of the Chinese culture.  As a result, contemporary civilization rose while the old civilization or culture slowly disappeared over the years.


Acculturation refers changes in a cultural pattern of an entire society when another culture diffuses in on a large scale. When that happens, the dominant culture replaces the traditional culture.  For instance, when the British Empire took over Hong Kong in 1842 and 1945, the Chinese had to learn British English and its cultures.  They also had to follow British laws and regulations.  In addition, the Chinese adopt Western customs, religions, clothes, and much more.  However, the Chinese culture still remains over the years. In contrast, traditional culture may be lost over the years as Hong Kong continues to experience modernization.


Transculturation is the process of cultural transformation on a smaller scale. It occurs when individuals move to another society and adopt the society’s cultural patterns.   By adopting the cultural patterns of their adopted country, they can communicate and form a bond with the indigenous people.  They can also integrate and accept the adopted cultural aspects as their own cultural aspects. Individuals have replaced their traditional cultures.  For instance, when immigrants immigrate to Japan, they learn not only how to speak Japanese, but also to learn its history, values, attitudes, and beliefs.  Immigrants also adapt and adopt Japanese cultural patterns as their own.  As a result, they can communicate and form a bond with the Japanese.

Another example of transculturation is the changing role of women in China.  Before 1900s, women were not highly valued in China. They were considered subordinate to men.  Women did not have access to any political or economic issues.  Also, their educational levels were lower than men.  Women had educational disadvantages than men in China.  In addition, women’s marriage was always arranged by their parents. Women were expected to be obedient and faithful to their husbands at all times.

Since 1949, women had higher social status in China than before.  The Chinese government provided women to have access to education and politics.  They also promoted and provided women to work in the workforce.  For instance, women mostly farmed or worked for the urban industries.  Women’s employment rate has risen since then.  Also, women could choose their husbands and get a divorce.  Chinese women have much more freedom and rights than before.  However, women in the workforce still need to be improved.


As society continues to change, cultural transformation and revolution will continue.  Lawmakers and politicians will continue to establish international and local laws and regulations.  In addition, people will make an effort to reduce ethnic, political, social, and economic conflicts.  They will adopt another culture, resist another culture, or create a new culture that fit in today’s society.  As a result, as society continues to changes, culture also will continue to change and losses.

More about this author: Maureen Leung

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