Sunday, January 17, 2010

You Can't Buy Chinese Culture

You can't buy culture. Chinese culture is changing every day. You can't get it at Chinese school on Saturday's or Chinese dance classes on Thursday's after school. You can't get it by celebrating the Moon Festival, Chinese New Year or even by eating "authentic" Chinese food once a week with chopsticks. The fact of the matter is unless you are Chinese you can't teach your child Chinese culture. Freakin' Fantastic! Now what?!?!?!





This is what we do...... We have incorporated the Moon Festival, and Chinese New Year into the many different holidays and traditions that we celebrate since getting married. We attend our local Chinese association events which are usually part of Chinese holiday celebrations. I am hoping to enroll Sophie in Chinese dance classes next year. ( we have decided not to enroll her in Chinese language school. Read this account of an adoptee's experience with Chinese school when she was younger). I am trying to get some recipes that are from Datong to at least make those a part of our holiday dinners. But the bottom line is that when she is with other Chinese kids, who have Chinese parents, and have grown up in Chinese families.... she really won't be any better off if we didn't do much about Chinese culture to begin with. By making the effort we are giving her an opportunity to get to know some easily accessible parts of Chinese culture....and I suppose these are the ones I can write a checks for.

13 comments:

Johnny said...

I have to say that I had to agree with the video. I was nodding my head at his points (all the while the voice in my head was singing "White-Guilt, White-Guilt"). As a person who left Taiwan at 4 and returned at 13, my cousins were giggling at me as I spoke the native tongue. My mother explained that I was speaking Taiwanese with a Southern Drawl.

That's y'all to you, my cuz.

I was from there, but I'm not longer "of there".

t~ said...

LOL! Get that check book out baby!

Heather said...

Lillie's actually asking for Chinese lessons - I found one nearby where there are different classes for kids with parents who speak Mandarin and parents who do not... hoping that helps with some of the issues raised in the blog you linked. Sigh. We can do the best we can, but yeah, we're not Chinese.

Lindsay said...

I'd agree too: we can't teach our children to be what we ourselves are not. All we can do is not ignore their first culture and heritage, no matter where our children are from. Hannah lost her birth culture and Romani language the moment her birth mother took the decision to relinquish her. I cannot teach her to be Romani any more than you can teach Sophie to be Chinese.

But I think it is important too to understand we are not respsonsible for that loss. Life in an orphanage would have given your child Chinese language (though not perhaps her birth parents' dialect or language) and a superficial understanding of her birth culture. She would not have experienced it on a deep level, but more from the position of an outsider. In the same way I understand how & why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, but I have no understanding of how it resonates with you emotionally. I cannot, unless it is part of my life's experiences.

As with so many things, all we can do is our best to help our children build a sense of identity which honors their birth culture without making them feel as if they don't belong in their adoptive family.

A Beautiful Mess said...

"all we can do is our best to help our children build a sense of identity which honors their birth culture without making them feel as if they don't belong in their adoptive family."

perfectly said Lidnsay!

a Tonggu Momma said...

I just had a conversation last week about this very topic! About a dozen Chinese foreign exchange students will be attending a CNY celebration hosted by our local FCC next month. And I had to explain to these teens that - not only would it not be authentically Chinese, but that it wouldn't even be authentically Chinese-American - more China-adoptive-families authentic. We asked for their input in the planning stages and also extra grace, as some things might not be culturally sensitive or will be just plain weird to them (for example, the hundreds of girls running around wearing qi paos). But we're doing our best... and there will be lion dancers. The teens all told me not to worry so much. Heh. They've haven't been yet.

Kris said...

ditto lindsay who always has the best way of stating the truth with eloquence.

The Gang's Momma! said...

Lindsey's comments are great - so thought provoking. Thanks for the perspective.

And here's a note from a friend who's been sharing her thoughts with me (taken from an email in response to the Facebook note I sent you a week ago):

"One thing that I think would be good to touch on, is that Chinese culture in China is different than Chinese culture in America. My opinion is that children who are adopted from China, should experience the culture of the American-Born/Raised Chinese (which itself varies with when one move to America); because this is who they are similar to...not so much Chinese in China (though it's good to know this culture as well)."

So much to think about and work through.

Yoli said...

I think a happy medium is best. For us is not about giving them the trappings of culture, though they are very much aware of it but about returning them their native tongue. In the end, being able to communicate in their country and with their people is a "small step" towards finding their cultural identity. No guarantees of course but so far so good with our kids. Glad you are touching on this topic.

A Beautiful Mess said...

Yoli-thanks for the comment. You really have me reconsidering my thoughts on Chinese school....

Mei Ling said...

You can teach it from a Western lens, but unless you actually live and immerse within it... your understanding remains that of an academic textbook rather than a natural thrive in the culture.

Cavatica said...

I, too, am hoping to give our daughter the language just because I think it is her best tool to discovering her history, if she chooses too. I wrote about it here - http://cavaticasweb.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/we-cant-make-her-chinese/

Patricia/NYC said...

Thanks for sharing this...& yes, I agree with Lindsay as well...so perfectly stated.

I enrolled my 5 yr. old daughter in Mandarin class this semester...bottom line, she hates it. Anyone who knows me around this blogosphere knows my daughter is EXTREMELY outgoing & loves to participate in LIFE! ;) Not this class...according to her teachers she doesn't even repeat the words. So...lesson learned.

Our plan is to expose her to many things Chinese, Chinese/American...let her know it's out there, if you will...to gain exposure, to motivate her to ask questions, to soak it in...she's smart, she will ask questions & then we'll go from there. It's her choice, we're here to support with open, loving arms & ears!

Great topic of discussion!