How would it feel to see people topless on the streets in the heart of a city? In summer, a number of middle-aged men in Beijing show their bellies by taking off their tops for the reason that the weather is too hot. In response, the term “Beijing bikini” was coined with a negative view. People arguing individual freedom confronts the opposite position that the action lacks consideration for others. It should be noted that tradition can sometimes be shifted with the flow of time and may have to find gradual ways to make changes.
The act of showing one’s belly comes from the traditional belief of Chinese people that showing their bellies would bring them good luck. This is because the word “blessing” in Chinese means belly and good luck at the same time. Still, however, there are a lot of voices of complaints from citizens; in response, the Chinese government decided to impose fines against the act, saying that the phenomenon is uncivilized. Local governments of Tianjin, Shenyang and Jinan started to impose fines on people who do not wear their shirts in public from May.
While some responses are positive to the regulation, there is also some backlash against the situation where acts that have traditionally been considered as blessings are now perceived as uncivilized. In fact, Lao-tzu, one of the well-known philosophers of China, had a belief that not wearing clothes is the beginning of unity with nature, so he lived without clothes. Historical background as such made a traditional social atmosphere of not caring much about taking off one’s clothes.
However, as time changes, people’s perception transfers, which can make social norms and laws change accordingly. Tradition may no longer be recklessly considered at all times. Even if the action of exposing one’s stomach was considered as a blessing in the past, when a plethora of people in the present society are complaining about the phenomenon with new views on the action, the action needs to be regarded in another way.
Radical legal change and forceful acts are not effective ways because people who are very accustomed to traditional acts would go through harsh confusion. Every change requires some time to understand and adapt. Moreover, since this tradition is about dress which is considered to be related to one’s freedom, it is hard to legally regulate the act. Thus, steps such as education to promote the change in perception should precede legal actions. For instance, in the southwestern city of Handan in Hebei Province, the local government created an educational video that encourages people to wear tops. Efforts to disseminate educational videos introducing proper attire for various situations would be helpful.
Other than making efforts in education, direct warnings are also significant to achieve professional results. If not fines, giving verbal warnings to people who do not wear tops in the street would be one way. In fact, the Jinan government gives verbal warnings first and if the same people are caught once more, the police release the person’s name and picture to the public to raise awareness. It is important to bring about changes step by step starting from non-aggressive sanctions.
Respect in history and cultural background is essential to some extent. However, considering the voices of people complaining about the tradition, change is possibly needed to be put in action. The effective process of transition consists of gradual efforts and light warnings to improve awareness. Although the process of change seems tough, with efforts to understand both sides of tradition and current viewpoints, the new stream of times would melt into people’s lives with fewer contradictions.