Kuala Lumpur China Town

The China Town in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is beginning to lose parts of its culture as its coffee shops known as "kopitiams" have declined. (Wikimedia Commons/Jakub Michankow)

Traditions unite and can often define people. Many of the habits we form today may become traditions tomorrow. Unfortunately, we will lose some traditions along the way as societies modernize for the better or worse. 

All throughout the world, customs and ways of life are dissipating. A combination of factors including technological advancements, new work ethics and globalization have led to the decline of these traditions. In order to maintain our cherished traditions, we must not only remember ours but strive to learn the traditions of other cultures. Below are some cultural traditions whose popularity is on the decline.

Even countries with highly rich histories such as China are at risk of losing their traditions

China’s elaborate shadow puppetry, for instance, is increasingly depopularizingas youth lose interest. This form of puppetry, using leather or paper for its puppet silhouettes, involves dancing and singing. Puppeteers use rods to move the figures, often depicting historical plays and multi jointed. Much of the shadow puppetry spreads information on cultural values, norms and oral traditions. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, veteran puppeteer Wu Shengping said “only old people have interest now” and that this traditional culture “is fading away every second.” To tackle the deaths of these cultural traditions, China has ramped up its heritage conservation sites significantly.

Not all traditions dying off involve song and dance. 

The ancient Indian tradition of Pachai Kuthu from Tamil Nadu involves using needles to paint green art on one’s skin. Practiced by the Narikuravar tribe, many members use this old form of tattooing to import their  names and tribes onto their bodies with. Unfortunately, Pachai Kuthu has been losing business, according to Narikuravar sources speaking with The Hindu. Fewer visitors have been seeking Pachai Kuthu, threatening the tradition. Even though learning of Pachai Kuthu alone may not keep the tradition alive, at least we can remember it.

Sadly, some daily ways of life may be vanishing as well. The diverse, buzzing coffee shops of Kuala Lumpur, known as “kopitiams” or “kopi teams” are on the decline.  Offering a variety of foods and beverages including milo, coffee, kaya, eggs and toast, people use these coffeehouses to chat with friends, debate politics or simply enjoy their flavorsome meals. With the eagerness that people welcome the coffee shops, it may be hard to imagine their impending decline. Unfortunately, the rising gentrification of the Malaysian capital has left the kopitiams far and few between. Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, once sprawling with several of the coffee shops, now has only three formally registered in the area. If more people worldwide knew about the splendor that are kopitiams, the fate of these coffeehouses may have been brighter. 

Although progression of societies is inevitable and often positive, we must latch onto our traditions while also learning about other ones. If we disengage from  traditions, they will die off. In China, the art of Shadow Puppetry is declining in popularity because youth are increasingly interested. The ancient form of tattooing called  Pachai Kuthu is becoming less popular. As a result, the Narikuravar tribe is continuously losing business. With gentrification sweeping Kuala Lumpur, the coffeehouses known as kopitiams are dwindling. If we could strive to learn about other cultural traditions, we could keep the interest alive and maintain them.