Fashion as Material Culture
Fashion comes with various facets that include clothing, footwear, makeup, body piercing or accessories, which come in various forms. Mostly fashion goes with a particular time after which it becomes obsolete until it recurs again. Some of the products that we buy are both fashionable and material culture. The material culture involves those products that are recognized by other people of a certain ethnic group or religion. For the other people that recognizes those materials as of cultural or religions values uses they are just more than fashion. For the individuals who do not recognize those fashion materials as cultural or ethnic just uses them to improve their looks. Fashion may be conceptualized as a creation and attribution of the symbolic values to material culture. The material goods are expressed as values where the consumption of these goods communicates some messages to the relevance of the cultural background that the material is recognized. My personal object that I am going to use in my research is the Buddha Beads. I bought this material in NanShan Temple, in Hai Nan city in the Southern of China. The Buddha Beads constitute one object that is a fashion material but considered by Buddhism religion as an important necklace. It is mainly made of the sea green seaweed agate and has 108 beads. I pick this Buddha beads is it is base one the twelve Chinese zodiac signs. I wear it every day on my right wrist because I believe it has magic power to protect me.so it’s more about material has magic. This paper will discuss the tensions that could exist between my singularization and status of the Buddha Beads as a commodity since it is a precious object to me.
The Buddha Beads is very precious to me, and I mostly use it for fashion as material culture. One of the tension that exist by using the Buddha Beads as a fashion is because it is used in Buddhism religion to perform an important ritual known as the Mala. The Buddha Beads are used for prayers by the Buddhist, who keep repeating various prayers depending on the number of the bead. The Buddha Beads are used for counting mantras and the prayer repetitions by Buddhist. A full-length Buddha Beads consists of 108 beads with some three extra spacer beads. The three-holed special finishing bead is known as the guru bead, parent or mother bead, or the Buddha Bead. This is the bead that is used to end the prayer called mala by the Buddhist. Sometimes there are even other beads that divide the necklace into quadrants. Hence, those other beads are not counted as part of the Buddha Beads. The quadrants are very important since they mark where one should start. The first additional marker bead is placed mostly as number 21 on either side marking the 21 recitations. The next marker bead is found as number 54 (Appadurai, 1988, p.25). At the end is where we either find the Buddha Bead, tassel, or a tied knot that mark the end of the prayers. The mantras are usually spiritual syllables are repeated severally. One hold the Buddha Beads with his or her left hand and began his or her recitation at the guru bead. One is required to go clockwise all around the mala. The Buddha Beads is very precious since when I see it I recognize that there is a reason for the position of each and every bead. The Buddhist mala consists the symbol of flaws and impurities, which an individual ought to overcome in their lifetime. The Buddha Beads represent a formula that is 6*3*2*3 which equates to 108. 6 represents the number of senses that a human being has that include the sound, taste, sight, smell, touch, and thought. 3 represents the future, the past, and present times. 2 represents the condition of the heart, intention or mind that is either pure or impure. The last 3 represents “kleshia” or the disturbing emotional states of indifference, dislike, and like. The Buddha Beads is a fashion mala that has some representation of material culture.
The national fashion systems mainly consist of some complicated set of relationships that exist between the collaborators, consumers, creators, and cultural intermediaries (Attfield, 2000, p.9). Most of the fashion systems have expanded and evolved over time that becomes much larger and increasingly complex. However, those material culture objects remain imprinted by the culture and history of the locations or religions that they emanated from. In the tradition of the Buddhism religion, they recognized the use of Buddha Beads. Since I obtained the Buddha Beads from the NanShan Temple, it shows that the material was related to religion. Hence, the use of the material indicates a culture of prayer where the material is supposed to guide one in their prayers. The knots or guru beads at the end of the Buddha Beads is the one that indicate where one should begin his or her prayers. It is during meditation that one recites the syllables represented by every bead involving all the senses. The sense, time, condition of the heart, and kleshia are taken into consideration in the Buddha Beads. This means that it represents a human being as a whole when doing the mala. Regardless of how the Buddha Beads is decorated its primary meaning is known by the members of the Buddhism religion, which will always hold. There are some designers who use the Buddha Beads during their fashion shows, but it remain an important material culture to the Buddhist. I consider the material singularly as holy since its status is for prayers despite other use that we may instil in the materials. The Buddha Beads as a commodity is useful for fashion especially when it is decorated with various colors. When I was buying the Buddha Beads, I saw it very colorful since its beads have some black and white beads that are mixed to give a good-looking necklace. But as a material culture the same commodity is crucial for praying by Buddhist.
The Buddha Beads gives some internal conflict when one is using it for other purposes rather than for praying. We know that fashion mainly recognizes some material differently without first considering the meaning they portray. For fashion, when one uses an object in my case the Buddha Beads it may bring a good outlook that is liked by many. This may impress only the members who do not recognize the importance of that object to a particular religion, country, or history (Campbell, 1996, p.36). In fashion, people appreciate what they can see rather than the meaning of what they can see. This brings a lot of tension to the group of individuals who recognizes the meaning of the objects that are used in fashion. If one happens to use Buddha Beads for fashion, it may not impress the Buddhist who recognizes what it is. Buddhist take the Buddha Beads as an important praying material in their religion, which recognizes the interaction of one with his god. That is the reason they may not be impressed when they see the same object being used for fashion by someone who does not know its contribution to the Buddhism religion. The culture of people will always conflict with fashion as the Buddha Beads is used for both praying and fashion. In Buddhism, prayers are very essential for the human beings since it is the only way that one interacts with their god. The Buddha Beads is the object that help the Buddhist in recitations of the prayers.
My singularization of the Buddha Beads was a beautiful necklace made by sea green seaweed agate. That is why I liked it since it was impressive for one to wear and also to mark my visit in NanShan Temple. But its status as a commodity as a holy object created tension since even using it is impossible. For one to know how to use some material culture such as the Buddha Beads, one requires some teachings from the members of that religion. Particularly for someone belonging to another religion, using the Buddha Beads may sound difficult. But the same object can be used for fashion very easily since no one will question where one got the beads from. It just looks beautiful, and it will look good when on someone who does not know its meaning. But it brings a kind of tension when one recognizes that the same object is honored by another group of individuals. However, it might not affect someone who does not know the meaning, but once they recognize the meaning, they may end up not using it again. The tension that arises is that when someone else is using the object for prayer purposes another person is using a similar object for fashion purposes. In China, Buddhism is usually a religion that is respected and observed especially in the Southern part of the country. The Buddha Beads make me respect the Buddha religion and prevents me from using the object for other purposes since it might not auger well especially to the Buddhist who may notice. Religion beliefs are very strong and should be always observed when someone know their meaning. An object that is designed for use by a certain religion has some special specifications on it (Dant, 1999, p.24). For example, my Buddha Beads has 108 beads and there is a good reason for that number of the beads. Each and every bead is important where even its position matters and cannot be represented by another bead. The Buddhist use it for reciting the prayers starting from the guru bead going all around and going back to the same bead.
There are only some few religions in China that observe the intellectual rigor of the Buddhism materials as fashion. The tension created here is the use of various objects by common people in China, which are meant for use by the Buddhism religion. While other people know that they use those objects for fashion, Buddhist has very strong beliefs on the same materials. But Buddhism introduced its material culture to other people in China so that it can introduce other people to the religion. This makes other people to being attracted to their culture where some end up joining the religion (Healy, 2013, p.71). For instance, my singularity to Buddha Beads was just using for fashion but it has made me feel Buddhism as an organized religion. I did not know that the Buddha Beads was used for praying despite buying it from the temple. Though I knew that the object is very important in Buddhism. Therefore, getting to know some meaning of the 108 beads used for mala, has made me curious to know their syllables. But Buddha Beads as a commodity used for praying gives me some kind of tension since I do not even recognize how the material is put into use. Monks believe that money and other treasures like women are just there to keep one’s mind impure. It is essential for one to stay pure so that one can have a good relation with his or her creator. That is the reason Buddha Beads is important to help one stay pure and in good relation with their creator. In China, for one to have a Buddha Beads shows the power of prayer. The sacred power associated with the Buddha Beads creates an interesting insight into the nature of religion since it is honored (Hicks & Beaudry, 2010, p.49). This gives one tension of recognizing that a particular object should not just be used since it is an icon of some other thing. Hence, despite one using the Buddha Beads as a fashion, what keep ringing in their mind is the religious relation that is created by such an object. This may contribute to one lacking peace when wearing such materials since they are recognized in a different way in a particular culture or religion. This creates a reluctance in engaging the object with religion that result into tension. Buddha Beads is a selected group of objects that are found in the temple that have sacred power, which is only identified by the Buddhist. Nevertheless, one may use the object as a fashion artifact without forgetting its identification as a material or cultural object that deserves some kind of respect.
Different cultures or religions have different moral values that are expected to arise from them. When one realizes the meaning of a particular object from another religion or culture, there is a conflict of moral values that arises. That is what the Buddha Beads create in most of the Chinese who do not belong to Buddhism religion. For instance, in Buddhism meditation is very important before praying. It helps one to rethink and focus on their life through the prayers that follows. The moral beliefs of people are different since they are driven by cultural, ethnic or religious backgrounds that one belongs to (Jules Prown, 1982, p.134). The meditation is morally right with Buddhism but not with Muslim. This sense of moral conflicts makes one feel like mixed up when one have some objects from another religion that they do not use. Fashion may make one to go to an extent of using the object but knowing little about it. One’s understanding of how various object is perceived in its context add some value toward that object. Even the arrangement of some objects in our homes varies a lot if they are related to some religion. Something with some religious importance despite being used in the world of fashion remains holy and of religious values. It marks the moral values to be observed as long as one holds or is related to that religion. Though a Buddha Beads may hang on the neck of any person it just remains religious and of importance to the Buddhism religion. This is what sound more important especially when one uses it for fashion and as a material culture. This makes one feel in line and closes to their religion as well as being fashionable. There is no need for separating objects that are sacred to being of profane use. This creates tension since one is doing something against how it should be done with the knowledge of the same. Hence, for fashion purposes, the Buddha Beads may be used but its primary purpose should not be forgotten that it is used for prayers. The design of the object was done with a sole purpose of praying despite the various decorations that may be found in it (Miller, 1998, p.50). We have seen that even the number of beads are specifically foreseen not to reduce its role in religion. This means that any beads that do not have 108 beads may not be used for religion purposes. Since a Buddhist may not complete the recitations of their prayers once they are given the object.
It is clear that when the artifacts contradict the scriptural pronouncements, and its use is not religiously based, then there appear some convoluted explanations toward the object. Despite the Chinese society acceptance of the influence by the Buddhism religion, owning some items from the religion may be a show of a kind of betrayal in the society. For the Chinese, who does not understand the importance of Buddha Beads, they may partake it as a betrayal that create tension. There is nothing bad that makes one feel left out as being neglected by their own society. Whether being religion or cultural, one requires to be part of it. As fashion allow us to use other objects like the Buddha Beads one has the fear of being left out as an outcast where they are considered as betrayers of their own religion or culture (Wilson, 2003, p.97). But this kind of tension is cleared by the fact that the Chinese culture has come to recognize and accept Buddhism religion in the society. This makes it possible for Buddhism to brings and use various objects in China and, which are accepted being used in China. Having a Buddha Beads is accepted by one’s singularity of the object is what varies with the status as a commodity to the general public. The primary thing that brings conflicts is the interpretation by other people in the society. For example, one may use the Buddha Beads for fashion but other people interpret it as if one has become a Buddhist. This may bring tension for the Buddhist who may recognize one as being part of them while in reality one is not. This perception is very important since one is known for what he or she looks. The impact of objects in fashion as material culture affects one’s perception that may bring confusion. In China, Buddhism is a sign of decadence and is honored. Hence, even the materials that belong to the culture such as the Buddha Beads are honored as well. The Buddha Beads has some religious values and ideas and needs to be respected despite being used in fashion. This is because it’s meaning just remain the same whether used in fashion or as a material culture. The dualism of the Buddha Beads as a religious object and as a material culture in China is what brings some tension.
In conclusion, the tensions that could exist between my singularization and status of the Buddha Beads as a commodity as a precious object to me are evident. The first tension is that Buddha Beads are used for performing mala by Buddhist that create confusion when used in fashion. The fashion as material culture involves some cultural or religious things to be considered related to the use of the object. Also, using the Buddha Beads as a fashion object betrays the Buddha religion since it is a holy artifact. We have seen that it is involved in the prayers by the Buddhist who see every bead of the 108 beads being important and with a particular syllable. There are some internal conflicts between the Buddha Beads as being used for fashion and as a material culture by Buddhist. The moral values associated with Buddha Beads are depleted once the beads are used for other purposes rather than praying. The interpretation of the Buddha Beads in the world of fashion and as a material culture matters a lot to reduce or increase tension to the user. If a person uses the beads for religious purposes, he or she shows honors and respect for what the material was created for. But when an object is used for other purposes, it is a show of disrespect since some people might interpret it differently. This shows that the singularity of the Buddha Beads to me as a precious object creates tension for the same object as a commodity signifying the material culture of Buddhism.