East is East, West is West - and never shall they meet. So goes the?
East is East, West is West - and never shall they meet. So goes the old axiom, but now - thanks to the effects of war, trade and travel - it no longer applies. Today, in many respects, there is little difference between the Occidental and the Oriental.
The Chinese perhaps as much as anyone have resisted the growing trend to adopt Western ways. While Chairman Mao Tse tung's Chinese women have managed to stifle what they regard as bourgeois influences, their sisters in Hong Kong have had no such qualms.
The traditional sam-fus (loose trouser suits) and the cheongsams have given way to mini-skirts, vivid pantsuits and sophisticated gowns. Only the old still believe in the traditional mode of Chinese dress.
This change has coincided with a remarkable boom that has made Hong Kong one of the world's leading producers of garments and textiles. In more than 1,500 factories throughout the British Colony, 70,000 workers are turning out clothes that will finish up in wardrobes anywhere from an African village to a Fifth Avenue salon. Some women spend a whole month making a dress worth to them one year's salary.
In the expensive dress shops, the prices used to be given only in American dollars because the customers were primarily foreign women. Now they are given in Hong Kong dollars because a growing number of Chinese are determined to keep up with both the Wongs and the Joneses.
Not only are Chinese women now wearing the same clothes as Western women but some of them are also copying their same vanities. At charm schools housewives study make-up, deportment, hair-styling and the other grooming courses which women from Sydney to San Francisco find so essential if they are to remain youthful and attractive.
Some of the older and more conservative Chinese men, who are opposed to any kind of drastic change, insist that Western clothing styles simply do not suit their wives and daughters. But the women persist.
Now that the Chinese women have come this far they are jumping on the women's liberation movement bandwagon - another Western influence. While they have managed to introduce a law that would ban that old Chinese male privilege of polygamy, they still trail a long way behind their mainland sisters who have enjoyed official equality for many years.