Culture has been defined in many ways. One of them describes culture as a higher form of civilization. Civilization deals with the necessities of life, such as providing food and shelter. It meets so-called primary human needs. Culture builds on civilization. It takes the simple tools of daily life and embellishes them, using precious materials and artistic design. Some will object: A spade is a spade; it doesn't need to be a work of art to be useful. However, we like what is beautiful and precious for we have secondary as well as primary needs. In sum, culture is ultimately a labor of love. It speaks of gratuitousness and generosity, and tips the scale of human endeavor in favor of spiritual values.
This Taiwanese nativity is a fine illustration of culture building on civilization. It is made of bamboo, the woody grass of Bambusa, which is widely distributed chiefly in the tropics and subtropics. Young bamboo shoots are utilized for food. The stalks are used to manufacture cooking utensils, furniture, and structural framing. The hollow stems of this large woody plant are hard and durable. They lend themselves to carving and sculpting. This attractive little crèche was produced by the renowned Potzu studios. It is set against a bluish backdrop to highlight tone and structure of the bamboo. The figures with their flowing robes and hands folded in praise and thanksgiving intimate a spiritual climate of awe and joyous reverence. According to some interpreters, the gifts of the wise men - a ring, a flute, and a piece of fruit - symbolize the marriage (ring) between heaven (flute) and earth (piece of fruit) which came about in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
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