May 26, 2021
21. What is the relationship between knowledge and culture?
Object 1: Mulberry Silk
Mulberry Silk is a fabric that originated from Neolithic China in 2700 BCE. It came from the filaments of the cocoon from silk worms. It was used in the production of clothes and fabric for furniture. It is an interesting object from TOK’s perspective because it showed the cultural importance to chinese people and how later it gave knowledge to other countries about this material. In Neolithic China, silk represented the growing economy and development of trading between the countries and a symbol of status. Sewing was a huge part of the culture before silk was discovered and only the royal family and the nobles were allowed to wear it. The status was recognised by the embroideries that were sown. It was a huge secret that Chinese kept for 1000 years since it was desired by a lot of nobles around the world. The discovery of silk is unknown, but in the legend a silkworm cocoon fell into the emperor’s wife’s tea and bloomed revealing a strong, soft thread. Silk was used for making clothes and material for furniture in China. It is interesting because the culture of sewing gave knowledge about how silk can be used in the industry. This highlights that the knowledge and the culture of doing something ( sewing) can be used to discover things that can change the whole world.
Also, the culture of making silk then led to trading and discovery of the silk. A lot of noble men wanted silk since it was something that represented high status and no one knew how to make it. So, by 130 BC China started trading with the West and the Silk Road began. By 140 BC India was the second largest producer of silk. It enriches the exhibition because it shows a strong connection between how somebody’s culture give knowledge to someone and this knowledge can be turned into a huge business industry.
Object 2: Yurta
Yurta is a traditional Kazakh house that is one of the greatest and oldest creations in central Asia. It has a shape of a white dome that is portable and easy to construct. They are important historic monuments that are symbols of Kazakhstan. It is interesting from TOK’s perspective because it shows how every structure and plan of the house represent the cultural background of people. For example, the shape of the house is round because it keeps the heat for a longer time. The top has a hole called “shanyrak” is used to get rid of the smoke, but also represents unity and family. Wooden sticks were placed on top of each other and tied together to represent the importance of family and teamwork that was present with nomads. As mentioned above, yurtas contain the knowledge of survival that the Kazakh tribes had to face. The structures represent survival skills of being protected from natural disasters. The shanyrak demonstrates the hard work each member of the family had to do in order to survive. This enriches the exhibition by demonstrating how the lifestyle of people can give an ability to learn and develop skills for creating new things.
Also they are interesting from TOK’s perspective because it shows how the lifestyle of one country can influence other countries about cultural objects. Kazakh people were inspired by the Andronovo tribes that lived in Kazakhstan during the bronze age. The idea of the yurt was passed down by the generation, but got modified due to climate change and gaining skills like sewing. When people think about Kazakhstan they always think about yurtas and horses which shows how the objects deeply relate to the history of the country. While Kazakhstan was not the first to come up with the idea of building yurtas, it brought a lot of attention. Countries like Uzbekistan who had a similar lifestyle got inspired. Until this day, yurtas are recognized by everyone since it is the national symbol of the country. Even though almost nobody lives there they are still placed in museums, kids are taught about them in school and they are used as entertainment monuments for tourists.
Object 3: Dombra
Dombra is a type of guitar in Central Asia. A lot of countries like Kazakhstan use it as a symbol of culture and art. It has a pear shaped bottom, a long thin neck and two strings. This is interesting from TOK’s perspective because it developed the art industry in Central Asia. Folk music is the main genre of music and in the past singing was the only contribution to it. Dombra was the first instrument that was created and has brought a revolution to the music industry. It added rhythm and made people realise that there is something else besides singing and people can create songs with singing and instruments. Nobody knows how the dombra was made, but the knowledge of playing it came from the nomads using rocks and surface to create rhythm. The design of the dombra allows people to play with the strings and the surface ( playing with rocks) to create melody.The way of how they play and paint national ornaments on the surface portray the nation’s culture and lifestyle. This enriches the exhibitions because the culture of doing something can lead to development of something. In addition, this is interesting from the TOK’s perspective because it inspired the creation of other instruments. For example, in the 18th century Russia had a close relationship with Asia and it created an instrument called balalaika. Balalaika is a type of a guitar that is similar to a dombra, but has a triangle shape with three strings. This shows that using one culture can influence the creation of other instruments. Dombra is used in all Central Asia countries, until this day, as a symbol of the art industry and folk music. Dombra shows the relationship between knowledge and culture because the culture of playing has given countries the knowledge about what kind of instruments could be made.