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Play and Leisure Activities in Asian Cultures

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Play and recreation play an essential role in the development of society as they not only reflect a society’s values and ethics but also provide an opportunity to engage in healthy and constructive activities. Besides play and leisure activities are considered as old as the modern history of the world can go back as play and leisure activities are often viewed as natural To individuals but also to provide a guide for a balanced lifestyle.

“Leisure should have a variety of functions to promote and maintain culture and ethnic traditions. Firstly, through leisure activities groups will pass on their cultural traditions from one generation to the next. Elders in Aboriginal culture also teach their children and grandchildren unique skills and the ‘old ways’ Using Leisure. Second, the use of peace as a renewal of cultural practice can also lead to healing so often referred to by Aboriginal people. Aboriginal communities are often inflicted with many addictions and negative behaviors that have threatened their actual survival. Leisure was used as a medium in which healing occurs, especially among the youth. Third, leisure activity can be used as an agent of the interface between one culture and another. For example, ice hockey in Canada is often used by Aboriginal people to enter and learn the rules of the dominant culture. Furthermore, these recreational practices are also a way of connecting between two cultures and as a result of this interaction, perceptions may be broken down. “(Welke and Reid) Historical evidence suggests that the sports and recreational activities are human activities which developed as men evolved with time. When describing a culture, it is also argued that whether the play and leisure practices should or should not become part of the culture. Culture is often described as the expression of human behavior in its different modes of living and thinking and its everyday activities; therefore, with that domain play, and leisure Also, practices are considered a part of the society. (Nakornye). However, as human evolution took place, the mode of play and leisure began to vary based on the various cultures and societies in which various human groups started to live. It was for this reason that the various cultures developed their own distinct kinds of play and leisure activities. This work will undertake to study the Play and leisure activities within Asian cultures; however, a theoretical context to define the role of play in leisure activities within a society and culture will be given before addressing the issue.


Play and Leisure Activities in Asian Cultures


Culture, Play, Leisure and Theory

It is often being argued that one of the challenges which are faced by the researchers is their inability to formulate a comprehensive theory regarding the development of the theoretical framework of play and Leisure that is ethnically based and takes into account different cultural as well as social variables into account. (Walker, Deng, and Dieser). This also happens because of the varying degree of cultural influences in individual cultures that influence play and leisure. While discussing the show and Leisure into researchers often considers the issue from various perspectives like play and Leisure from the perspective of women, children, males, women, etc., as Play and recreational activities continue to differ based on the age, sex and social status of the individuals involved.


Apart from this, the folklore is often taken into consideration as it is increasingly becoming a promising area of investigation into the various human attitudes and cultures. Therefore, the influence of mythology is great when formulating a theoretical framework for the play and leisure activities within the cultural context. From the psychological point of view, it is often believed that the folklore tends to define the interpersonal relationships among the players, therefore, play from the perspective of folklore help psychologists to under the development of social life of the adolescents within any culture and provide an ample opportunity to study human development from the perspective of the culture and ethics. 


Play and Leisure into Asian Cultures

From the primitive ways of playing and passing leisure activities to the new and modern video games playing on computer and Playstations, the play and leisure activities have altered in most of the Asian societies. However, to study the play and Leisure into Asian Culture, we must first start from the villages of the Asian cultures as they are considered as the most important centers of cultural activities, including play and Leisure.

Within Asian cultures, the games and leisure activities often concentrate on group dynamics as there is more stress on developing group coherence and reliance on developing a collective identity while playing games and engaging in leisure activities. Similarly, leisure and playing activities in the villages take place in the presence of the elders of the town where at the end of play or leisure activity, the elder(s) deliver a long folk story to the youngsters so that ancestral traditions pass through to the present generation and from them to the next and future generations to come. Further, it must also be noted that the games and leisure activities show strong sub-cultural tendencies within Asian cultures. Take an example of India where people belonging to the same community but different caste tend to develop strong rivalries among themselves during festivals and games competitions. It would, therefore, not be easy to discount the influence of culture onto the play and leisure activities within these cultures.


As discussed above, that village is the right grounds to study the play and recreational activities in Asian culture because towns have more strong cultural orientation, and primitive cultural values are still prevalent there. The increasing urbanization into Asian cities has diluted the demographics of those cities, thus rendering them a fine mix of the heterogeneous population from different cultures and sub-cultures. Because of this factor, a uniformed pattern of sports and recreational activities have not emerged. Cities, especially in India, Pakistan, Srilanka, and Bangladesh, are mostly concentrated with a population that likes to play cricket as their favorite sports. In contrast, other Asian countries, especially Arabs, tend to have inclinations towards football as their favorite sports.

Similarly, Far East nations show an entirely different inclination towards sports, which mostly involved sports activities involving athletic physical agility and mental presence such as Martial Arts and Karate. Due to the diversity of the region; therefore, there are different and varying degrees of sports and leisure activities, and hardly there is a uniform pattern in them. Countries that remained under imperialism tend to have consistent patterns in terms of play; however, countries that did not stay under imperialism tend to show different designs, unlike Europe, where football tends to dominate the scene in the almost whole region.


It must also be noted that the design of the festive activities within these cultures also takes place according to the local culture of the area where these festive activities tend to take place. The design and architecture of the living area are designed according to the local cultural traditions with a little bit or not variations take place from the way their ancestors performed these activities. In addition to the creation of the playing and leisure environments, the rules and procedures for such play and festive activities often took place in accordance with the cultural traditions of that region. “Evidence across virtually all societies shows consistently that it is the females who determine 80 percent or more of the time, where and when families spend time and resources at their fingertips. And if the family has children, although children may not decide where the family goes, they have a strong voice in where the family does not go for Leisure. Women and children are thought, sensing, manipulating their senses, behaving and perceiving the world and their perceptions differently from each other and quite different from men. Their leisure preferences and needs and how they experience environments are different from each other and men. Their brains are wired differently by nature as well as by nutrition (including local culture), and they have different abilities. And children vary among themselves, based on their developmental stages. “(White). However, studies also suggest that Asian cultures, as being more male-dominated in nature, tend to give less preference to women while deciding about the play and leisure activities. As discussed below that Asia having strong religious diversity tend to provide restricted access to women, especially to the play and leisure activities.

Religion, Play and Leisure Activities

It must be noted that Asia is a country having multi-ethnic and religious orientation. From having Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians in the majority, this continent provides a rich opportunity to study the play and leisure activities in their cultural orientation. However, because of the strong religious values of the majority of the population of the region, religion has a strong influence over the play and leisure activities in Asian Cultures.

Most of the Muslim countries in the region do not allow women to participate in games and other festive activities freely. Some Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, have strict religious rules and values which virtually restrict the participation of women into the playing activities at large scale. However, researchers have argued that the lack of the involvement of women in leisure activities is not only because of the religion but also it happens when women fail to identify themselves with a definite and proper culture. This argument is further strengthened by the fact that within some Asian cultures, marriages end to take place often out of families and clans thus after marriage, women tend to move from one subculture to another which may be one of the variables to restrict the participation of women into play and leisure activities in most of the Asian cultures especially India and Pakistan.


Studies on the Iranian women suggested that most of the women seldom took part in sports. In contrast, their recreational activities include watching TV, listening to the radio, and other family gatherings with little or no outdoor activities. (Arab-Moghaddam, Henderson, and Sheikholeslami). This kind of study strongly suggests that the play and recreational activities within some of the Asian cultures are not only restricted to all members of society, but they are more male-oriented. 


It is also because of the religion that we found marked differences between the play and the recreational activities of most of the Asian cultures. Asian cultures that are Muslim in their religious orientation explicitly disallow playing games involving speculative activities such as lottery, cards, and even trading on the stock exchange such as short selling of stocks. Because of faith these kinds of limitations disallow a number of things to take place. Likewise, Muslim countries do not allow drinking wine or any other liquid that intoxicates a individual during festival activities; however, in various Asian societies, these kinds of constraints or prohibitions are not enforced either by the government or society itself.


Shifting Patterns in Play and Leisure in Asian Culture

However, the way play and leisure took place within Asian cultures is changing despite the religious constraints and other male-dominated variables. Education, and information technology emerging. The sports activities on group dynamics dominated Asian cultures now tend to loosen their grip on the new generation as more and more emphasis is being placed on information technology to deliver play and leisure activities. Video games have now become a norm in almost every Asian culture where children especially tend to play with computers without involving any other human being as opposed to traditional Asian values.


Further, the growing urbanization in the region has shifted or first diluted the cultures and subcultures in part, giving rise to the decrease in the play and recreational activities as traditionally they took place in Asian society.


India is the world ‘s largest film producer watching films on cinema was possibly the nation’s most significant leisure activity; but, with the advent of satellite television, this pattern is also changing as pirated films are readily available. One can easily watch them on cable television services without paying the high price of going to cinema houses. Similarly, the theater is also on the decline mostly due to the technological shifts which have perhaps shifted the consumer patterns more radically than expected. Furthermore, Chinese theater is believed to have become too nationalistic in its orientation, thus restricting the emergence of any uniform patterns into recreational activities in the region.

Similarly, many Asian countries are including the play and recreational activities into their preschool education, thus formalizing the play and sports activities. However, this step seems to take out the cultural element from the show, and recreational activities as traditional touch in the sports and play may be lost. The play would only be limited to an activity to keep a balanced and healthy physical lifestyle and not as an activity which involves strong social as well as cultural values and become part of the upbringing of children within a particular cultural as well as social settings in which these sports and leisure activities evolved.


Asia, as a region, has strong diversity in terms of cultures and various ethnic patterns, and it is because of this reason that it is one of the wealthiest areas in terms of sports and leisure activities. Two variables primarily dominate play and leisure activities in Asia. One is a culture that is more prevalent in societies where religion does not have much significance in peoples’ lives. In contrast, the second variable is a religion, which is a stronger force even in the presence of cultural forces. Religion tends to shape the religious and Leisure activities in most of the Muslim countries in Asia, whereas culture has significance in other countries. 

Traditionally these activities took place in villages; however, with increasing urbanization, these patterns tend to shift and now play, and recreational activities are not approached in the way earlier generations in Asia tend to approach them.


Works Cited:
  • Arab-Moghaddam, Narges, , Karla A Henderson and Razieh Sheikholeslami. “Women’s Leisure and Constraints to Participation: Iranian Perspectives.” Journal of Leisure Research 39.1 (2007): 109+.
  • Nakornkhet, Kasem. “Cultures and Sports Preference.” Asian Folklore Studies 48.1 (1989): pp. 107-121.
  • Reid, Donald G. and Sue Welke. ” Leisure and Traditional Culture in First Nations Communities.” 1998. Journal of Leisurability. 23 May 2008 <http://adp.lin.ca/resource//html/Vol25/V25N1A5.HTM>.
  • Walker, Gordon J., Jinyang Deng and Rodney B Dieser. “Culture, Self-Construal, and Leisure Theory and Practice.” Journal of Leisure Research 37.1 (2005): 77+.
  • White, Randy. “The Role of Culture in Location-Based Leisure Design.” 2000. White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. 25 May 2008 <http://www.whitehutchinson.com/leisure/articles/57.shtml>.

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