Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chinese Pride


Last week, as we do every year, we went into the city to watch the Chinese New Year Parade.

We typically catch a train and make an afternoon of it.

My son seems to enjoy it, but it seems to be more important to me and my wife. My mother-in-law has of course seen it all before, and I get the feeling that she simply tags along just to get out of the house, rather than having a special connection to the event.

For me and my wife however, we both feel a sense of pride in this event, for different reasons of course.

We get to see the normal characters and events one expects on such a day, including the lion, the dragon, the fireworks and of course the dragon boat races.

For me however I get most enjoyment in watching the parade, where I see a procession of Chinese in many glorious outfits, all representing some unique group or ocassion, and many of whom seem to have come directly from China,  who walk with their chest out and their head high, and an obvious sense of pride in their heritage.

This is really lovely to watch.

The pride is contagious, and I also feel proud on behalf of my son and my wife.

This is a really important distiction between the Chinese in this country, and possibly around the world, and other ethnic groupings.

The Chinese seem to have a genuine desire to intergrate and fully engage in the country and community that they are part of.You in fact see a real over-representation of Chinese when you visit the local swimming pools, RSL clubs, children's sporting events, some entertainment venues and educational facilities. This is not necessarly the case with some other ethnic identities, so it seems that the Chinese really try and embrace all the opportunities in life that comes their way.

But importantly, they do not abandon their own identity or heritage in the process.

So rather than remain isolated in their own identity on the one hand, or lose their identity completely on the other, they seem to manage a balance which is both of best worlds.

I hope very much that my son will also adopt this view of the world, which I believe is not only healthy to the individual, but also a blessing to the broader community as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chinese Relations

I read a very interesting article in the newspaper today claiming that there is a growing number of Chinese men who believe that they have contracted HIV while visiting a prostitute.

According to the medical authorities, this is a psychological issue rather than a medical one, as none of the men tested had HIV or any other related illness.

An interesting reference was made that the symptoms experienced may be the result of the guilt associated with visiting a prostitute.

Its an interesting hypothesis which I don't necesserily buy, but the news article did trigger off memories for me of an association between Chinese women and Prostitution that I had been subjected to, unfortunately on too many ocassions, when I first started dating my wife.

Many years ago when I first started dating my wife, I have been on the wrong end of sarcastic and sometimes jokular wisecracks about the nature of my relationship.

These comments, which were at first a nuisance but later became a real irritation, included things like:

  • Did you pick her up from the brothel?
  • How much does it cost you for a happy ending? (aparently a term for paid sex)
  • How much does she cost per hour?

.............well, you get the picture.

These comments came exclusively from male colleagues, including doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

What I was not aware of at the time, but I learned the hard way, was that the Chinese had earned a reputation for monopolising prostitution, at least in Sydney.

After I became quite annoyned by one comment, my colleague, by way of explanation, showed me the personal ads section of the local community newspaper, and it seemed that up to 90% of all the ads for prostitutes were for "Asians" or "Chinese".

Not quite the reputation one would be proud of.

Now given my line of work, I have come into contact with prostitutes from time to time, due to their addictions. I have never however knowingly come into contact with a Chinese prostitute, and certainly not in my line of work.

So I suspect that unlike Australian-born prostitutes who live that life primarily because of their drug addiction, Chinese born prostitutes see it merely as a business, just another way of making money.

Now given my conservative Protestant upbringing, I don't know which is worse, but my heart tells me that at least a drug addict has no real control over their life.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Chinese New Year & the story of the Lion

Well, its that time of the year again, Chinese New Year.

We typically catch a train into the city and watch the procession through China town and into the main city street.

Tens of thousands of people gather to watch what I believe is a festival that is celebrated in more places and by more people than even Christmas. This says a lot about the influence of the Chinese globally.  

I always enjoy the sounds of the drums, the processions of the fabled dragons, and the myths behind the fearsome Lion.

Typically, the Lion is sent to visit all the Chinese restaurants in China town, to bring them good luck. This at first sounds quite strange given the fear that the Lion is supposed to instill in all who see him.

I think however the Lion represents a deep cultural pillar within the Chinese psyche, probably as a remnant of Confusionism, which places a lot of emphasis in the Yin and Yang of life.

In fact and as it was once explained to me, the Lion represents the very nature of life, which includes accepting the bad as well as the good.

The story goes something like this:

"Long long ago, a fearsome Lion used to terrorise a small village in China, a village that otherwise had plenty of rainfall and very healthy crops every year.

One day however the villagers got tired of the threats that the Lion imposed on their lives, and so they decided to get together and scare the Lion away with the sound of loud drums.

They did just this, and the Lion left from the proximity of the village.

However from the moment the Lion left, the village ceased getting any rainfall, and their crops failed every year.

In desperation, the villagers decided to do what they could to bring the Lion back, and offered gifts of food and meat in order to entice him back. Once the Lion came back, the rains began to fall again.

As a result, the villagers came to accept that for the good to come, some bad had to be accepted, and in many ways this goes to the heart of Chinese values."

I would like to think that my inter-cultural, inter racial marriage, in many regards, follows the same pattern of thinking. Although some issues are undoubtedly there, in order for us to enjoy the good, we have to also accept the not so good. It is as much a theme for marriage as it is for life.

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?