Milwaukee Lantern II
a snapshot of China was taken today, it might capture a row of high-rise
buildings above a bustling city, or it might reveal the simple lives country
farmers continue to lead in huts. The way of life in China has pulled away from
the restrictions of tradition, yet has not completely embraced the modern
American lifestyle. Therefore, though Western methods are displacing the
original beliefs of Confucius and other Chinese philosophers, the basics of
traditional Chinese personality still remains and Chinese immigrants in the
United States have kept the traditions alive.
The Chinese people attach great
importance to relations between family members and relatives and deeply cherish
the love they have for each other. In the past, the Chinese lived in large
family units, with as many as 100 or more relatives living together. According
to Confucius, the ideal was "five generations under one roof." Though
the Chinese now live in smaller family units, usually only with parents and
children, they still remain in close proximity to their relatives.
Chinese-Americans in the United States are thousands of miles away from their
relatives in China, but they still maintain close contact with their relatives.
Many regularly visit China and bringing parents to the United States is not
uncommon. With both parents working during the day, grandparents usually look
after the house and the children.
Chinese families traditionally valued
sons far more than daughters, mainly because females could not continue the family
name or work to support the family. Today, though both girls and boys are
valued, some grandparents may still show slight hope for a grandson rather than
a granddaughter. Especially for children, family honor was and still is
emphasized greatly, for all members of the family are responsible for the
reputation of the family name. The Chinese family always comes in a unit and
the actions of individuals affect the entire family. Dedication to the family
leads to the subjugation of personal interests, desires, or goals.
According to Confucius, people have
obligations to one another based upon their relationship. Relationships include
those between ruler and subject, husband and wife, parents and children,
brothers and sisters, and friend and friend. Confucius stressed duty,
sincerity, loyalty, honor, filial piety, and respect. He believed that
maintaining harmonious relations as individuals led to a stable society.
Therefore, unlike Americans, who stress individualism, the Chinese are a
collective society with a need for group affiliation, whether to their family,
school, work group, or country.
In the United States, Chinese-Americans
also like to embrace group activity. For example, instead of going on vacation
by yourself or with only your family, you would travel with several families.
In order to maintain harmonious relationships with others, the Chinese act with
decorum and self-control to avoid causing anyone public embarrassment. They
also tend to suppress their own feelings for the good of the group and worry
more about the opinions of others.
The concept of ‘face’ roughly translates
as ‘honor’, ‘good reputation’ or ‘respect’, and reflects a person’s level of
status in the eyes of his or her peers. When someone feels embarrassed in front
of others, they ‘lose face’. ‘Giving face’ involves showing respect and
avoiding public embarrassment or awkwardness. In Chinese society, others always
come before you and your desires are always less important than the desires of
the Chinese are more likely to identify themselves by group affiliations (e.g.,
“I am a high school student”) than with personal descriptions (e.g., “I am
shy”). Also, unlike Americans, who like to ‘sell’ themselves to others, the
Chinese always describe themselves in more modest terms. They are never
‘outstanding’ or even ‘great’. They are merely ‘alright’, and everything they
achieve is just ‘ok’.
China has charged forward so rapidly
over the last few years, continuously improving its image for the world to see,
and the Chinese people are straining to catch up with their country’s long
strides. They are opening up their hearts and stretching out their arms to
welcome the ‘modern’ way of life. At the same time, it seems as if Confucius is
losing his firm grip of thousands of years on the Chinese people, because his
beliefs are obsolete. However, it is important to note that Confucius is not
just an old man who droned on and on about philosophy nor is he merely some
dead guy whose painting may still be hanging on the wall of someone’s grandpa’s
straw hut. Duty, sincerity, loyalty, honor, filial piety, and respect are a set
of values everyone in the world would agree is right. However, what is right
may not always be practiced, and what is practiced may not always be right.
Sometimes it’s better to slow down your footsteps to observe the world around
you and follow your heart rather than worry about what other people think.
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