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Thesis: Tradition in modern times



Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!

My name is David. I’m very glad to join you with the discussion of “tradition in modern times and my topic is “Why don’t we make modern and tradition friends”.

I went to Britain on the school exchange program last summer. Till now I can still remember the feeling I got when we landed back on China. There was something twisting my heart, making me extremely uncomfortable. Later I found out it was the grim and cold modern buildings along the way back to school. Tall as they were, they looked expressionless. Shining as they were, they looked so unreal.

However, when I was walking down the streets of London or Liverpool, what I saw was the ancient buildings gracefully stretching themselves out in front of me, yet leaving no sign of conflicting with the roadsters that roared down the street. On recollecting the marvelous scene, it occurs to me that modern and tradition aren’t born to be enemies. Then I can’t stop wondering why they are so incompatible in China. Old buildings are cruelly replaced by skyscrapers; Peking opera’s popularity is never to beat that of the casually made idol TV series. In a word, new things can’t wait to displace the old. It’s wired, isn’t it? Modernization should not be simple replacement but development after all.

I didn’t get the answer that could orientate me out of my confusion until I went to Australia this winter. As the highlighted part of the tour, we went to see the traditional performance of the aborigines. During the show, one of the aborigines slightly injured his knee due to the exceedingly passionate primitive dance, forcing him to totter down from the stage when the show was over. What was shocking was that no one in the audience seemed to have been aware of this. They applauded. They cheered. Yet they still left their seats without even a glance at him. If any, the emotion in their eyes was like watching the monkeys in the zoo. I couldn’t feel more sympathetic to him and when passing him I whispered: ”are your knees ok?” Surprisingly, he seemed too thrilled to speak anything. He only uttered: “wha??ah!......ya……” with bubbling laughter in the end of the series of simple words. “Take care” I said to him. He immediately replied “Yeah!”, clapping me on the back.

I felt warmth. Yet I also felt a chill. The answer then jumped out itself: like the pitiless tourists, we labeled ourselves as modern citizens. Meanwhile we took up the mask of arrogance which prevented us from taking a good look at tradition. That gave no chance of interaction between tradition and modern, thereby making them the seemingly incompatible enemies.

Such attitude is horribly dangerous. With the label “modern”, we are always trying to put us in the highest point of the mountain of history. Yet we have forgotten that without the stones of tradition under our foot, we may easily fall down from it. The hazardous consequences have actually been shown by Charlie Chaplin in his famous silent film Modern Times. It vividly describes how the factory workers become(时态?) the salves of the crazy modern machines and how the humanity is lamentably trampled in the process. The ignorance of tradition will just lead us to nihility like the modern buildings that severely twisted my heart.

So why don’t we modern citizens take off the unreasonable sense of superiority and try to make friends with tradition?

Modern and tradition can actually be such a pair of close friends that modern designers can get their cues from the traditional Chinese cheongsam. Modern and tradition can actually be such a pair of close friends that modern musicians are able to use modern technology to give an excellent performance of the classic music of Bach. Modern and tradition can actually be such a pair of close friends that even foreign students in the modern world are eager to discover the practical value of Confucianism. Modern and tradition can actually be such a pair of close friends that the spirit of Tao, or Taoism, is still attracting our dear chemistry teacher Mr. Hu Lieyang and is well combined with his ways of teaching.

Don’t hesitate to listen to what tradition is saying. You will find it more agreeable than you ever expected.



Hi everyone! It’s funny that I’m gonna say something about this topic cos I’m sorta a traditional guy in this modern era. In fact, my worldview and my way of thinking are pretty modern, or even kinda ultramodern. To me, many traditional notions suck, such as those about sex and etiquette. But still I often wish I could live in the old days cos I prefer the past lifestyle. It’s more romantic. I’d like to talk about something you’ve probably read in the newspaper. A couple of weeks ago, a painting by the Norwegian modernist Edvard Munch was sold for nearly 120 million dollars. I guess many have experienced that when seeing paintings by modern artists, we know they’re big names like Picasso or Dali, but we would feel their works are not beautiful, or even sometimes we dunno what they painted at all. Maybe many have asked, why are they drawing like this? Are they crazy? Personally, I have a deep interest in art so I’ve read a lot about it. Based on my knowledge, not all the modern artists are playing a joke on us. Some of them are truly mad.

It seems we’re embracing the modern art and all things tagged as modern for modern’s sake, but not necessarily modern is better than traditional. In fact, our nation is now facing a big conflict between traditional culture and modern Western culture, which is also true in a lot of Eastern countries with a long history. I’ll talk about a Turkish writer named Orhan Pamuk. He was born and lived most of his life in Istanbul, Turkey, a city and a country facing even bigger challenge than us. Let’s see this challenge through Pamuk’s books. For example, My Name Is Red is about the conflict between painters with two different styles, which represent tradition and modernity respectively. In another book named Istanbul, Pamuk laments over the past times and old buildings that no longer exist. I’m sorry the same thing is also happening around us.

Personally, I’m interested in design and architecture. I really enjoy traveling a lot, and though I haven’t been to many places, I’ve seen pictures of many cities and buildings there. I’ve noticed something interesting but very problematic – those most traditional countries including China are trying to replace time-honored architectures with modern ones. In contrast, Europe, the place where contemporary architecture originated, is holding fast to its traditional buildings and other historical and cultural relics.

This makes me sad. In our surroundings, how many buildings are there still containing the memory of one or several generations? And how many are there having witnessed the rise and fall of this city and the love and hate of people on this land? We are like children holding a pile of antiques, but anxious when seeing others playing electric toys, so we’re casting our antiques aside. I’m sad. I doubt when I wanna write my own Istanbul or Prague, is there still a bridge or a train station I could recall sweetly?

But whenever I think of this, my sorrow never lasts long cos it always reminds me of an advertisement, in which the mother says “traditional Chinese medicine is good” and then the wife says “western medicine makes a quick fix.” In the ad the final solution is to combine both. This seems reasonable in settling conflict between tradition and modernity. Yet, I wish some tradition could remain intact cos to me and everybody who loves Western culture, we would feel proud if we can not only appreciate Western culture, but also have our own culture and tradition appreciated by others. And also, our next generations could know the history of the people here. So, let’s start saving and keeping our tradition in modern times.




The night before I was heading for school, I was going through my old garments, when a suddenly necklace dropped out of my closet. It looked peculiar yet inexpensive, with some curiously shaped stones on it, evoking memories of my first stepping on western ChinaTibet. On arriving in Tibet, I found the place far more advanced than I once imagined. Tibet used to be famous for its unique traditions. Local residents grazed to earn a living, enjoyed a feast of charqui and milk, worshiped at the shrine, and hospitably presented a hada to the guests. However, after several years of Western Development, tourism there has boomed and it turned the residents’ life upside down. Covering the living expense becomes the priority in what the locals demand. Not long after that, they discovered that their sacred traditions have provided them with an easy access to make a living. The more frequent exposure to the luxury lifestyle on the east coast there was, the stronger the desire for a higher living standard grew. This can partly explain why I found Tibet full of retailers instead of a mysterious and sacred place. Locals were almost everywhere around you, making a living by squeezing money out of tourists. Practically everything related to Tibetan culture from accessories to prayer wheels are sold in the fairs. I can hardly see the appealing traditions I was expected but a picture of a dull metropolitan.

This also happened in many cases, varying from the development of Yellow Emperor’s birthplace to the changes of where Cao Xueqin’s hometown. Our generation has been very fortunate to witness the historic transformation of China that had made so many changes in the past several years. Indeed, thanks to the new technology, we are reaching a new era when the old traditions and the modern cultures rise and fall together. We saw that many of our traditions embracing the modern times and vise versa But then sometimes I’m thinking, is this integration really helpful to the traditions that has thousands of years’ history?

Take my experience in Tibet as an example, from the perspective of the locals, the crudely-made accessories are the least expected to be successful in the business called tourism, yet the tradition behind the accessories brings them through. In modern times, under the pressure of covering expense, traditions are no longer their deeply buried beliefs but an essential step taken to raise the price of the accessories. This contributes to the loss in persistence in tradition and the increase in greediness. When self-interests overcome the persistence, there is no doubt that the tradition will die out. This reminds me of a saying, the old soldiers never die, they just fade away. So as the tradition. Also, as a visitor, unlike before I traveled to Tibet, when I was so obsessed with the attractive culture and traditions, my passion was nowhere to be found as the necklace I bought was replaced by other things of higher quality. That’s because the new value of the modern society has secretly changed my attitudes towards tradition. I paid much more attention to the necklace itself than to the traditional elements it possessed. This is pretty common among the tourists nowadays. We overlook the most significant task--- understanding the tradition, on the opposite, we simply define travel as a combination of watching, shopping and eating. As time goes by, we will be left with nothing but a great pile of useless souvenirs.

It may be harder to practice than to speak. But I will keep the true value of the necklace deeply in my mind. The world may not be the best place, but with the spirit we share, we won’t be lost wherever we go.



Distinguished guests and honorable judges:

Good afternoon. I’m so honored to deliver my speech on the topic “tradition in modern times” here, and I would like to start with sharing my personal feelings with all of you.

Last year’s Qingming Festival I went to visit my grandparents in a country village. My grandma and my aunt made some Qingming dumplings for every member of the family. We sat around the table, enjoying the home-made delicacy in the clear spring.

Suddenly I felt so touched by the scene. As I’ve been used to the noisy and bustling city, hardly did I recall my carefree childhood there. Grandpa was taking care of the vegetables and Grandma was cooking. I was playing with the small insects or chasing the chickens. So peaceful and restful.

It’s a traditional lifestyle which, almost forgotten by modern city residents, but somehow still exists in our deepest memories. Tradition may come out in various patterns such as festivals or customs, the core of it, however, is a sense of belonging that constantly reminds us of whom we are and where we come from.

Living in the multicultural world, we are all rich in material. Due to the challenges of modernization, the decline of tradition is, to some degree, inevitable. Modern civilization has equipped us with critical and logical thinking and a wide knowledge of science, and has certainly improved our living standard. But, I have to say, at the same time it tends to make everyone the same, deprive of us some unique characters that distinguish us from anyone else, and weaken our identification as part of a united nation. That’s just how exactly tradition works with people.

Just imagine, my dear friends, how do we feel when we see our birthplace – the beautiful country – being replaced by factories? Do we often feel at a loss when we try to put aside the digital devices and stay away from the Internet?

Only then do we realize the power of tradition and the essential role it plays. It makes us rich in spirit. And no matter how our lifestyle changes, how the technology advances, the core of tradition won’t be easily reshaped. It’s the root. It’s the belongingness. It’s not about the way we solve problems, but the way we see ourselves and reflect on our lives. Tradition in modern times serves as a reminder. It will never fade as we hear the familiar accent of our town, or recognize the same yellow faces and black eyes as ours, wherever we are.

Therefore, we should take pride in our identity as Chinese, because we’ve inherited many traditional virtues from our ancestors. We are diligent and modest. We respect the old and care for the young. We are always ready to help others. What’s more, we share the same dream with great thinkers along the history – to create a harmonious society. Now it’s our duty to carry forward and further develop them, and pass them down. Let the tradition of China unite us as a whole, and let us show the value of the tradition of in today’s modern world.

That’s all of my speech. Thank you very much for listening to me.



From time to time, I receive postcards from places I’ve never heard of. They are from the most legendary figure of all my friends. He’s from Spain but ever since his graduation from college, he’s always been traveling. He’s like the little boy in The Alchemist, traveling to a country, stopping a while to make some money in order to start the next journey. When I asked him what attracted him to do all this, his answer was – the people. The people are always the most beautiful. They are the greatest treasure of any country, he said. Indeed, as I interpret it, people are the inheritors and embodiment of a country’s age-old tradition and carriers of all that tradition to modern times. Different and developed as the world may be, tradition has never been far away from us. It’s around and inside ourselves.

Some might wonder – why not discuss the tradition of spring festival, of all sorts of Chinese handicrafts and performing arts, etc.? They are the traditions endangered by modernization. Well, surely that’s true. On TV and in newspapers, we often hear about campaigns aimed at saving one or another tradition. However, just as Tagore wrote in his short poem, happiness and the beautiful scenery always seem to be on the other side of the river; we’re always attaching merits and happiness to the other side of life we do not possess. Those handicrafts and performing arts are disappearing exactly because people who make those handicrafts long for a modern life and have abandoned them while we living a modern life are desperately trying to save what they have abandoned. We tend to feel in the way that what we have lost or are currently losing is more important than what we have, but sometimes we do fail to question and recognize why and for what we are saving them.

Are we keeping the traditions alive solely because we want them to continue existing? Or are we saving them in order that we could boast about our varied traditions and sell them as souvenirs or tourist attractions? If the answer is yes, if we are doing this merely for those purposes, it would be such a boring and silly thing to do. What’s truly worth preserving is the value behind them – hard work, appreciation for beauty, strong family attachment, simple wisdom – those are the real traditions we should save and it’s the loss of those qualities that will lead to the extinction of the traditional art, crafts and way of doing things. The tradition resides not on any specific item, but it resides in our heart, as the principles we hold and the values we inherit from our ancestors and from their thousands of years of learning about life.

That is why tradition and modernization do not always stand on the opposite. That is why the advent of modern times does not necessarily mean the wipeout of all traditions and that is also why the greatest tradition is carried on by everyone and displayed in every day we live, including our current lifestyle of tests, which probably remains as the most vigorous Chinese tradition in modern times. Last year, when faced with the choice of getting to college without the college entrance exam, many of us resisted the temptation, determined to pursue our dream with an entire year of unremitting efforts. This is our tradition of hard work and perseverance. But even with loads of homework, one or two tests every single day and tremendous pressure, we haven’t become slaves to the test grades. We still argue against the correct answer given and we still make fun of the most serious tests. This is our tradition of independence, integrity and optimism.

Ladies and gentlemen, every choice we make, everything we do can be a reflection of the tradition deeply rooted in our heart. Every person is the living tradition of the country’s long history. Or in my friend’s words, the people are always the most beautiful. They are the greatest treasure of any country. As long as we keep practicing the values passed down from generations ago, our tradition won’t possibly die out in modern times. Our tradition is here, in our heart. It’s the best place for it. Keep it safe and pass it on.



Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

It’s my great honor to be in company of you on this special occasion just after the cultural festival of which the theme was ‘our land and our people’.

Yes, tradition is important.

It’s the mainstream nowadays that our tradition should be preserved. When it comes to reason, pure and simple, we are Chinese, the nation distinguished from all other human brothers and sisters due to our marvelous civilization and long-lasting history. The tradition, which reflects Chinese civilization and culture from all perspectives, has been breeding this nation like Mother River for the last 5000 years. It’s hard to imagine, without tradition, the nation could survive and even thrive after countless pain and suffer, dust and tear, and still take pride in the identity as the descendents of dragon.

The tradition makes our nation different.

However, situation changes. Given the harsh impact of globalization, we are amazed to find that while we embrace the stylish western culture, the destiny of tradition changes. The Chinese characters were simplified and modified; the traditional costumes rarely show off their charm. Teenagers might be familiar with the origin of Christmas, yet take traditional festivals granted only as public holidays.

Our tradition is diminishing in modern times by external culture aggression.

That’s a shame. Forgetting our tradition means betray. If we don’t response bravely and promptly, it would not be strange that all typical and authentic Chinese die out, but Chinese with no cultural identity remain. The fate of tradition will be the duplicate of the nation itself.

Such tragedy should be avoidable. In history, this nation has been under threat of invasion, but it survives. Our land could be conquered and stolen, our mind might be monitored and transformed, our people were enslaved under the regime of dictatorship, but the tradition remained, as the source of self-recognition, supporting the nation’s confidence and maintaining the society. It reminds me of Chopin and his masterpieces renowned as ‘cannon in the flower’. Under the dictatorship of Nazi, those dissents and patriots who listened to his work knew if the spirit of a nation survives, so will the nation itself. That’s the same as the tradition.

Therefore, the tradition should be recognized again in our everyday life and re-gain its irreplaceable position in modern times.

Moreover, tradition could do more.

In our times, what we are enjoying is the tremendous material prosperity, thanks to the blooming economics in recent decades. We should be satisfied with convenient traffic, modern accommodation, comfort life and diversified entertainment, yet we are not. Indeed. We are struggling to survive in this competitive world, exhaust ourselves in daily hectic life and pain for greed and intolerance. The previous moral standards collapse, but the new is far off being erected. It’s astonishing and pathetic to admit that we are suffering a spiritual crisis, the biggest challenge in phase, when the tradition dwindles.

Then let the tradition do its job, to alleviate social agony and solve the issues. Take the tradition of drinking tea for instance. A cup of tea will just calm nervous down and lessen pressure in hustling city. Tasting tea is also the process for concentration and the stimulation helps to clear the messy mind, relax mentally in an artistic way. The pure and fresh taste while traveling down the throat, will clean the spirit contaminated by greed and intolerance, compensate for the side-effects of modern life. All these represent the culture and conventional wisdom, while the tradition itself is tangible. So adorable and feasible it is to cultivate our mind with tradition in this impetuous world.

Therefore, when the tradition is labeled dwindling, I would say, its spring time would come soon. If we inherit the tradition and modify it for the tendency of times, tradition in modern times, not only will survive, but flourish and sparkle the flame of development.



Honorable judges, ladies and gentlemen, my fellow classmates and my dearest friends:

I’m so grateful todayfor this puts an end to the sleepless nights I hadworrying about my speech.

The worry was increased when I learned this news. According to previous censuses, China’s sex ratio has been seriously unbalanced since 1980s due to the tradition of preferring sons. It is estimated that by 2020, China will have 30 million more men than women of marriageable age, an equal number of half the population of the U.K. What’s worse, some men will break the traditional faith, seeking other women, and of course there are lesbians and celibates. Have a sense of crisis, boys!

So you see, a departure from tradition is more harmful than an out-of-date one. But how should we comprehend tradition in modern times?

Tradition holds up a nation. The Jews are miserable. They were deprived of land, lives and liberty. They drifted around for over two thousand years, but their culture was never assimilated; their spirit was never subdued; their tradition was never forgotten. Teachers and scholars were particularly honored for they transmitted Jewish knowledge and wisdom to the youth. A line in psalm, the Bible, goes like this:’ if I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth…’ That’s why so many shining stars in our history are Jewish, Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Pablo Picasso, Franz Kafka, Steven Spielberg and Jesus Christ, to name a few. As Winston Churchill put it:’ A love for tradition never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.’

Tradition sophisticates a society. It is transmitted from generation to generation. At all times, it is in the process of accumulating wisdom and experience of our ancestors. It is the product of history and group memory, a product that serves as a signpost when we are lost; gives us a warning when we are about to drift off course; and reminds us of the lessons before history repeats itself. In a word, ’traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening’. However, China has a bad tradition that has overshadowed many good traditions. That is: Officials rewrite history. They covered a great many customs, thoughts, deeds and beliefs that are crucial to our history. How many of us are really familiar with our motherland in the latest one hundred years? History can be covered, but memory is immortal. Seek historical truths. Seek group memory. As long as the memory is alive, tradition will never die.

Tradition awaits individuals. A man is to a society what a cell is to a body, so is the relation between individual tradition and the ‘big’ tradition. A body has a variety of cells, renewing all the time. By that analogy, tradition is personalized rather than unitized, changeable rather than stable. Everyone has his own small traditions. Establishing them means renewing and developing the ‘big’ ones. Therefore, all of us have the power to start an ideal tradition through individual effort. What we say or do today might not be recorded or remembered, but it will be incorporated into the big tradition in the future.

We are in a transitional period right now, exciting and exhilarating, sometimes disappointing and discouraging, but always challenging. It is easy for us to forget: Who are we? Where are we from? And where are we going? So, let's preserve national tradition, we won’t lose our way; let's seek social tradition, we will find glorious yet hidden paths; let's establish our own tradition, we, as the new generation of China, will create a better society, a better tradition and a new civilization!

Thank you all! Thank you!



The world is one with conflicts. For centuries humans have been so concerned about the conflicts between tradition and modernity that we failed to realize that tradition itself is a paradox in modern times. We have long been told the importance of preserving the traditions. But the world has undergone so enormous a change that some ancient traditions, even equally valuable, seem to contradict each other in modern times.

Today Chinese students are almost obsessed with studying abroad. The trend is somehow in accordance with the time-honored conviction that a decent education is the key to a decent life. But think about the much-quoted saying by Confucius, "Don't stray far from home when your parents are alive". Youngsters' leaving home may seem selfish and unfilial.

Another characteristic example concerns the traditional festival. Tradition holds that we burn paper money to commemorate the dead in Qingming Festival, which continues to this day as a demonstration of respect for the ancestors. However, this unenvironmental-friendly way of worship results in a great amount of air pollution, which actually violates our forefathers' belief to live harmoniously with our mother nature.

The dilemma is this: following one tradition can simultaneously be breaking another. Accordingly, we are now and then confronted with the hard choice of which traditions to hand down and thus tradition appears to be somewhat burdensome. But with just a little more consideration, we may surprisingly realize that what bothered us are actually choices nowhere near necessary. Preserving traditions is never the matter of which one to follow, but how to capture the very essence of them so as to adapt them to the modern society. The key to resolving the paradox in tradition lies in modernity.

There is an unnoticed but excellent example to illustrate my point. With summer coming round, many girls around me are thinking about putting their earrings on. This is what I am going to talk about: ear-piercing. Seemingly trendy and fashionable, ear-piercing actually has a history of more than 3000 years in china. Throughout its history, the painful practice was always dogged by controversy. Some perceived it as a symbol of beauty, while others were strongly opposed to it, believing human body was endowed by parents and thereby damaging it could be disrespect for life and for parents. Fortunately, modern technology has made piercing safer, easier and almost painless, without any physical harm done. It is the modern wisdom that allowed us to both share the idea to pursue beauty with the ancient Chinese and hold on to the long-established belief to value human body.

This is exactly how different traditions harmonize in modern times. What we need is creative solution rather than blind imitation, rational disputation rather than pointless quarrel, an eye for beauty rather than a sharp tongue for criticism.

Also, the modern world has become more tolerant to embrace diversity than the traditional one. You may prefer to keep your ears unpierced, and you can enjoy showing off the twelve earrings you are wearing as well. You may continue sending "money" to those in heaven, and you can simply put a bouquet of chrysanthemums in front of the grave. You may have already excitedly received offers from your dream universities abroad, and you can also be stubborn enough to stay, striking for only one single exam, just like all the students in ancient china, just like us.

There is surely more to tradition than ancient customs and believes. The real meaning of tradition in modern times is to look back to history and truly understand what we were and why we are here. Our ancestors have passed down the wisdom to appreciate the world, and modern people should wiser to appreciate the paradox in it.

And always remember this: what we do about tradition will finally become part of modernity; the modernity today is to become the tradition tomorrow.

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