Master's Thesis

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Faculty of social studies

Department of Sociology

Globalization and Chinese Spring Festival

Master's Thesis

Shuangping Xu

Supervisor: Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky, Ph.D.

UČO: 380537

Study Field: Sociology

Year of Enrollment: 2010 Brno, 2012

I hereby declare that this thesis I submit for assessment is entirely my own work and has not been taken from the work of others save to the extent that such work has been cited and acknowledged within the text of my work.

Date: Signature

I most want to acknowledge the one hundred seventy-eight informants who contributed to my research. I also owe great gratitude to my supervisor Professor Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky. Her knowledge, insight, attitude towards academics and teaching helped me gain new perspectives both on my academics and my life. The idea of this thesis is invoked from one of her lectures: transnational studies. From that time, I found myself very interested in cultural sociology and wanted to use what I had learned from the class to do some research on the development of Chinese culture. Dr. Jaworsky helped me to develop my topic in November 2011, and then gave me suggestions, recommended me resources, revised my outline, and guided me through the whole process of writing m thesis. I am grateful for her patience.

Many people have given me help more or less in my thesis writing. Michail Tsikerdekis and Wei Lai helped me to improve my analysis skill with SPSS. Ran Xueyu recommended me some good resources. Xiao Xiao, Li Hanwei, Cheng Jing, Tian Jing, Li Guangtian, Zhang Kun, Cao Qifeng and Wang Taihui contributed their own ideas and opinions in constructing my topic. My friends in Czech Republic and I shared happiness and bitterness of the thesis writing journey, and their support and care helped drive away boredom and fatigue in this long journey.

I must also thank my parents, they always asked about how my thesis was going on and pushed me forward. Their insight, courage, optimism and struggling spirit is a motivation for me.

Recent years have brought a decline in the traditional flavor of long-standing Chinese festivals, including the most influential Spring Festival. Conversely, the Western celebration of Christmas seems to be more welcomed than the Spring Festival. Despite the fact that there is much discussion about these two festivals in China, few scholars have carried out empirical research to analyse how Spring Festival has actually changed in the context of globalization and the spread of Christmas. Through conducting a survey as well as qualitative interviews with young people in Guiyang, China, I explore how the meaning and the celebration of Spring Festival has changed and whether such changes are related to the rise of Christmas in contemporary China.
The findings from my research reveal that Spring Festival is still very important for many Chinese young people. The rise of Christmas does not threaten Spring Festival. First, Spring Festival still retains its vitality but is understood and celebrated in some new ways. Second, the Western Christmas holiday has been glocalized since its arrival in China. Therefore, the claims of some scholars that the popularity of Christmas has made Spring Festival drop into decline are simply overstated.
Key Words:

Christmas, globalization, glocalization, Guiyang, modernization, Spring Festival, Westernization, young Chinese


Total Characters: 144624

Master's Thesis 1

Shuangping Xu 2

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Theoretical Context 6

1.1 "Tradition” in the Context of Globalization, Modernization and Westernization 6

1.2 The Processes of Globalization, Modernization and Westernization in China 9

1.3 Christmas and Glocalization 11

Chapter 2 Spring Festival and Christmas in China 13

2.1 Spring Festival in China 13

2.2 Christmas in China 15

2.3 The Relationship between the Two Festivals 18

2.4 The So-called Decline of Spring Festival 20

2.4.1 Dysfunction of Spring Festival 21

2.4.2 Festival Transformation and Social Construction 22

2.4.3 Mismatch between Festival Characters and Psychological Satisfaction 24

Chapter 3 Methodology and Methods 26

3.1 Research Design 26

3.2 Research Methodology 27

3.3 Research Methods 29

3.3.1. Survey 29

3.3.2 Interviews 31

3.3.3 Sampling Techniques 31

3.4 Data Analysis 33

Chapter 4 Spring Festival Preferences among Chinese Young People 34

4.1 The Role of Gender and Age 35

4.2 Basic Knowledge 40

4.3 Celebration Ways and Intentions 42

Chapter 5 Christmas among Young People in China 51

5.1 Basic Knowledge 51

5.2 Celebration Age 57

5.3 Celebration Ways and Intentions 60

Chapter 6 Conclusion 69

6.1 Summary 69

6.2 Implications 73

6.3 Limitations of the Study 75

6.4 Suggestions for Future Research 75

References 76

Name Index 79

Appendix 80

Appendix I 80

Appendix II 85


While many people around the world are dazed by alien things and cheer the "global village" built by globalization and modernization, some scholars have begun to criticize this phenomenon. They think the rise of Western culture through globalization and modernization has threatened traditional Chinese cultures.
With the development of globalization and Westernization, many Chinese people have welcomed Western culture with open arms and great passion. Not only is learning English a very important task for Chinese students, but many Western traditions and festivals have also become significant aspects of social life, especially for young people, who seem to worship and have blind faith in all things foreign. They might consider Western culture more advanced and consider those who follow it "cooler" and more "modern" than those who do not. To some degree, their attitude toward all foreign culture has had an influence on the preservation of traditional Chinese culture and festivals, for example, China’s most important festival – Spring Festival.

Some people think the flavor of Spring Festival has declined in recent years; conversely, Christmas seems to be more welcomed in China. They envision this shift as a Chinese cultural crisis. Many articles in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet have analyzed the reasons for this phenomenon and pointed out the importance of preserving the unique culture of the traditional Spring Festival. Mingmei Wang (2004)reports that the function of Spring Festival has been weakened since the development of the modern society. In the past, people had thought Spring Festival was a good chance to have a big meal and spend time with family, she argues. But now, with the improvement of living conditions, people can have great meals every day and they prefer to send wishes via SMS or call family members and friends rather than visit them in person. Meanwhile, the spread of Western festivals also intensifies the indifference of the Chinese toward traditional festivals. Not only do young people like western festivals, but middle-aged or old people have begun to participate in them as well (M. Wang 2004). Another analysis of Chinese traditional festivals (A. Wang 2006) encouraged cultural exchanges between China and other countries rather than building a cultural defense. Chinese traditional culture can develop though absorbing good things from western culture; for example, cultural glocalization1, which I will discuss further in a later section, is a good solution.

Some scholars go deeper into this topic through psychological and sociological perspectives. For example, Xiufen Zhang (2006) discusses how Spring Festival could change its traditional form into a more modern one, and what a good transition it could be. Xiufen Zhang (2006) thinks that the biggest problem the Chinese have in preserving their traditional culture is that the ways in which the traditional culture has been passed down have been discontinued. Xiaofang Wang (2006) calls for the preservation of traditional festivals as a type of non-material cultural heritage, considering it to be just as important as the material cultural heritage. Non-material cultural heritage includes the customs, tradition and folklore of a region, and material cultural heritage consists of antiques as well as natural and man-made cultural relics. For example, proposals and policies have been made for establishing the Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Lantern Festival as legal holidays so that people can have a chance to think about what are considered to be essential traditional values of the Chinese nation.

Despite the fact that "Christmas fever" has intrigued many social scientists and much research has been done, few have conducted actual empirical research and discussed Spring Festival and Christmas in contemporary China. Globalization and modernization do bring in many new ideas and lifestyles in China, and some scholars think the more foreign dazzling things the Chinese get from globalization, the more easily young people "lose themselves" and neglect their own traditions and cultures. Therefore, scholars call for Chinese people, especially the young people, to clarify the positions of Christmas and Spring Festival and keep a cool head when they face the “Christmas Fever” in China. Meanwhile, they argue, particular effort should be made to preserve a traditional culture which is rooted in more than 5000 years of history and represents national and cultural identity; it must be saved from eventual disappearance in such a global festival atmosphere.

In reality, what are the effects of globalization and Westernization on Spring Festival? In other words, how has Spring Festival changed in the context of globalization and the spread of Western festivals like Christmas? This overarching question raises several more specific and related questions: has Spring Festival weakened? Has the rise of the celebration of Christmas threatened the position of Spring Festival? Is it possible that Spring Festival retains its vitality but just in another way? What are the actual changes in how Spring Festival and Christmas are celebrated? How and why do young Chinese people celebrate Spring Festival and Christmas nowadays?

My research will address these questions. Therefore, the primary purpose of my research is to call scholars and policymakers to rethink the positions of Spring Festival and Christmas in China. I believe my findings can help people cultivate a deeper and more objective perspective on the relation between these two festivals.
When I first considered writing about festivals and noticed the empirical gap in existing research, I developed the idea of comparing young people's conceptions of Spring Festival and Christmas. It became clear during my review of the existing literature that people's perceptions of these two festivals needs to be investigated further. Combining quantitative and qualitative approaches provides an excellent opportunity to develop a thesis that addresses an important national cultural issue in a "real-world" way—an opportunity to put various perspectives on cultural and modernization theory into practice. This mix of methods increases the validity of my analysis and provides a deeper understanding of the study results to the reader.

My research focuses on the results of a thirty-question survey of young people, ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-five years old, in Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province in China. I also utilize data from qualitative interviews with twelve respondents who had completed the previous questionnaires. My findings provide a chance to explore the most representative Chinese and Western holidays, Spring Festival and Christmas, considering both how people celebrate these holidays, and the reasons why they celebrate them. This study will analyze the reasons behind the differing perspectives held by the young people of Guiyang regarding these two culturally important festivals.

The remainder of this thesis is organized as follows: The first chapter covers the theoretical context and briefly introduces the concept of "tradition" in the context of globalization, modernization, westernization and glocalization. The second chapter provides an introduction to Spring Festival and Christmas in China and outlines the scholarly debates concerning the relationship between these two festivals.
The third chapter puts forward my research questions and explains the methods and methodology of data collection and data analysis. The main body of the thesis is devoted to research findings and discussion. Chapter 4 is especially concerned with the perceptions of Spring Festival. Through my research, I discovered that many young people still prefer Spring Festival to Christmas. While they celebrate Spring Festival in new ways, they nevertheless maintain the old traditions of the holiday. Therefore, Spring Festival is still very important for young Chinese people. Chapter 5 focuses especially on perspectives of Christmas. My research shows that although Christmas is on the rise in China, there is nothing to suggest it wil take the position of Spring Festival. Thus, it is an exaggeration to claim that Christmas is threatening the supremacy of Spring Festival. Both chapters individually examine in depth the findings on these two festivals. The concluding chapter summarizes the findings, points out the limitations of the research and gives suggestions for further exploration of this topic.

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