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Cultural Syncretism

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The legacies of cultural syncretism in Africa, and the Americas have been compared and contrasted with the resistance to cultural change Westerners encounter in China and India. The cultural factors that caused these different outcomes are discussed. This discussion is followed by the legacies that the differences in types of encounters and degrees of cultural change that are left today. Next the differences in the Americas regarding modern culture had syncretism not occurred are listed. Finally the differences in China or India are mentioned if cultural syncretism had been successful.

Cultural Syncretism
Throughout history cultural syncretism occurred in some societies, but not in others. This occurrence or lack thereof changed the way these societies were shaped. Looking back Western Europe was becoming a power house by attempting to dominate other nations around them. This domination was successful in some areas of the globe, but not the other. Many research look to understand why. When the Westerners landed in Africa, the Americas, China, and India there were just one of two outcomes: syncretism and rejection.

Compare and Contrast the Legacies of Cultural Syncretism
Cultural syncretism came more easily within Africa and the Americas, than it did to China and India from the Westerners. In both Africa and the Americas there were many different tribes present thus causing a weakening of the people as opposed to China, India, and the Westerners who had created nations (Sayre, 2009). For example even though the Aztec tribe was large in numbers they had created many enemies by waging war on neighboring villages. This was done to retain individuals for their sacrificial rituals, which naturally their neighbors did not approve of. As a result when the Spanish launched an attack on the Aztecs the other tribes were more than happy to help the foreigners out (Sayre, 2009). If these tribes had been united as one, then they would have been able to fight together to ward off the invaders. Another element that led to the cultural syncretism of Africa and the Americas had to do with the fact that neither group held advanced weaponry. The Spanish for example had come with gunpowder, cannons, and muskets to overtake the native peoples (Sayre, 2009).

The diseases that the Westerns carried unintentionally wiped the natives out, because they did not have as advanced of an immune system. They were also easily tricked by the invaders who used their myths and legends against them to gain their trust. In the Americas, specifically the Aztecs were quite advanced in comparison to other natives that explorers had encountered. Another city by the name of Teotihuacán was actually comparable to Constantinople and was laid out in grid (Sayre, 2009). These cities were easier converted into the Westerners’ beliefs, because they were so similar but also so young. It appears that the natives may have believed that the Westerners were more superior, because of their advancements over their cultures. On the other hand China and India had resisted the invasions of the Westerners. Both countries had believed that their culture was superior over that of the Westerns’, which made it difficult to convert them to their ways (Sayre, 2009). China and India had much richer backgrounds and had advanced more rapidly than cultures in Africa and the Americas.

The cultures of China and India had a deeper history whereas the cultures in Africa and the Americas were just beginning to assert themselves. China and India held other forms of resistance to the invading Westerners. They had large populations that allowed them to fight back rather than being overtaken. Not only were the populations in these nations large, but they were all united unlike in Africa and the Americas. This provided these nations with the cultural mass to be able to push back rather than submit to the Westerners’ forces. These nation’s cultures were strong maybe even stronger than that of the Westerns, because of their deep routed history and their unity. In China in particular the nation had just taken back their country from the rule of the Mongols. The Chinese despised foreign rule and made every effort possible in an attempt to avoid the same situation in the future. The new ruler of China order that the Great Wall of China be built and created a large army as well as a navy to ward off invaders by land and sea (Sayre, 2010). This created a strong military that would have also been able to fight off the Western invaders should they have gotten too close or the Chinese felt threatened by them.

Cultural Factors
There are several factors regarding cultural differences between West Africa, the Americas, China, and India that played a role in cultural syncretism. This is especially true of the Americas and Africa, which was resisted by the population of Asia and India from the arrival of the Europeans (Sayre, 2009). All of these factors hold important cultural beliefs that were inherited. The Chinese held their own superiority of inheritance while resisting the influences of the Mongolians, and during this time the Chinese would have rather been isolated than pursue any influences. Rituals that were performed in West Africa were the heart of their culture and this is why there is a difference between the Westerner and non-Westerners process of thinking (Sayre, 2009). In the 16th century cultural differences started to paint a bigger picture of the differences during the Age of Encounter.

Europe played a big role in the transformations of the cultures of West Africa, and the Americas, but not for China and India. Social integrity and the identity of culture were threatened once Europe started its voyages. Both the Americas and Africa were greatly affected by the encounters with Europe. The unthreatened was China and India who were able to uphold their cultural traditions and remain unaffected by foreign encounters. Europeans longed for silks and spices and began a mission to set out for other trade routes. Europeans were very intellectual, which was a power possessed allowing them to create relations with military tactics. They were also sufficient with managing their finances and trade markets. It became evident with the occurrence of separation among civilizations because some were not able to keep up with the market trend (Sayre, 2009).

Legacies that the Different Encounters and Degrees of Cultural Change Left Today The different types of encounters as well as the varying degrees of cultural change between the Americans and Africans, and the Chinese and Indians have left behind a number of legacies. The most influential and perhaps the worldliest known are the influences of religion and slavery. Christopher Columbus transformed the religion of the Tainos to Catholicism and then enslaved them leaving less than 500 survivors, which made it hard for Bohemians to prove their descent from the Tainos (Sayre, 2009).

From this slavery they adapted into the Catholic teachings, and eventually left a legacy of blended Christian and African beliefs. The Portuguese were surprised to see the thriving cultures in West Africa also known as Sahel. Predominantly Islamic Christianity was pushed on the African people. Because of the testimonial, life after death and heaven it was received very well. Christianity began being taught amongst the teaching of Islam. The West Africans already had their war prisoners, and criminals enslaved. Human exploitation is something that the Portuguese also partook in. When the opportunity arose to purchase these slaves it became a never ending run on slave ships up the middle passage to the Americas, The slaves were brought to work the sugar fields in Brazil.

India had passion for the arts, and not the exploitation of people. They encouraged arts and used paintings for trade. They had a religious toleration put in place by Akbar. He believed “a synthesis of the world’s surpassed the teachings of any one of them.” (Sayers, 2013) China remained a secluded country. They had been at peace for 660 years after resisting the Mongol forces. The Tang dynasty restored the Chinese trade route known as the Silk Road. Although they allowed trading they were particular of who came into their country. They were a very secure society.

When the Portuguese came to Africa the presence of power, struggle, abuse of power, and slavery were already issues. When approached with making profit off of there down falls the African people and the influencers benefited greatly. With India on the other hand there was more of an order and appreciation for other things besides domination, and power. When the Portuguese saw that the china and India were not going to be influenced they turned their attention elsewhere.

If Cultural Syncretism had not occurred in The Americas and Africa As a result from early encounters of Natives and Africans, there are legacies that still hold true today. It was from these encounters that the Natives incorporated African cultural traditions amongst themselves. In modern day setting the African language can still be recognized. Attributes of these legacies such as food, music, and architecture are a result of such encounters. These legacies have been very influential amongst the African civilization as well as the American civilizations. Even though early encounters with Natives and Africans were anything but pleasant, it was a different story for China, India, and the Westerners. Natives and Africans faced cultural changes as a result of these encounters, while India and China resisted such influences (AIU, 2012). India and China stood strong for their cultures’ traditions and beliefs.

Early encounters of integration amongst different cultures that syncretized together have led to integration in modern day. For instance the United States of America has several different cultures that integrate together, while making acceptance of one another’s ethnicity. Cultural syncretism is the unification of cultural tradition (Sayre, 2010). If not for syncretism from a political view in the Americas the United States may not be what it is today. Being a stable system of laws and regulations that hold an equal value amongst all ethnicities and or religions would probably not exist today. Governments would be in separate divisions, such as the days of segregation. Different divisions would govern a certain ethnicity. In the 19th century the Native Americans and Africans were refused from having any influence on political issues of that time. We would not be able to say, “America, land of the free”, if syncretism did not occur. If Cultural Syncretism had occurred in China and India

Western civilization had tremendous impact on other cultures of the world. This effect is known as syncretism. Syncretism is the attempt to blend or merge contradictory beliefs or traditions, thus creating a unity of respect and a comprehensive understanding of other beliefs and practices (Webster’s Dictionary). This concept is meticulous and takes several years to truly embrace the different beliefs. Some cultures and communities embrace syncretism, while others resist the change. In particular the Chinese and Indian cultures were able to resist the influences of Western Europe. If China and India were to have been influenced by the Western European and a syncretism occurred, then the development of the modern world would have been different. It is speculated that China and India would have become world power houses much as they are today, but they would have become so much sooner. Furthermore as concluded from the Rise of Western Dominance, other effects of syncretism between Western Europe, China, and India would have been in the areas of religion, moral, entertainment, economy and politics.

For example, in the early 1800s privet British company managed the government’s affairs and began constructing India’s social order to reflect British values. They also had depended on Indian princes to support them, so they also had to abide by Indian customs and rules (Rise of Western Dominance). This was a small reflection of syncretism. It is now clear that syncretism has occurred either because societies were essentially too young and new to fight back. They were vulnerable and most times did not see any outsiders as those that did not fall subject to syncretism did. Their newness of their cultures led them to be weak and naïve. The Chinese on the other hand were no stranger to outside evasions or attacks.


AIU. (2012). Social structue. Retrieved from https://mycampus.aiu-online.com/pages/ MainFrame.aspx?ContentFrame=/Home/Pages/Default.aspx
Boeree, G. (n.d.) Early Chinese and Indian History. Retrieved from http://webspace.ship.edu/ cgboer/chinaindiahistory.html
Rise of Western Dominance. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.historyhaven.com/APWH/ unit%204/Rise%20of%20Western%20Dominance.htm
Sayre, H. M. (2009). Discovering the Humanities. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Syncretism. (n.d.). Webster’s Online Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definitions/syncretism?cx=partner-p

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