Friday, 14 December 2012

2011 Census: Chinese in UK

More statistics are being released recently from the 2011 Census with much more focus on ethnicity. Just as with the growth of the population in the UK, the Chinese population saw an increase from 5% (247,403) back in 2001 to 7% (393,141) according to the latest stats. That's about 58% increase in the past 10 years. However there's no further breakdown of the subgroups such as the nationality or place of birth, but I'm guessing the increase in population is largely due to the influx of immigrants particularly from mainland China. Undoubtedly the population of British born Chinese will also have increased and more or less contributed to the growth.

We often consider British Chinese to be the third largest ethnic minority group in the UK but when you start breaking down Asian and Black into other subgroups it is no longer the case. As for other East Asian groups the details are even more ambiguous. So far there aren't many other details in regards to the lifestyle and well-being of any particular groups. Again, we'll have to wait for the next batch of statistics to be released. But we can certainly say that the British Chinese community is still thriving.

Brief overview of the 2011 Census on ethnicity

More info from the BBC News site

Thursday, 29 November 2012

BBCs in British literature?

As we British Chinese have always complained about the lack of representation in the media and as well as British theatre, I also find that British Chinese are very scarce in British literature, even amongst the vast amount of works British ethnic writers. Also it seems that British born Chinese writers are pretty much absent from the literature scene. Writing; just like any art or creative related careers are not perceived to be something that you can make a stable living out of. For certain only a handful can make good money or reached to the success as with the likes of JK Rowlings. Certainly it's not the type of career that our parents would encourage us to go into.

I did find a few British Chinese writers like Jung Chang and Hong Ying. There's also Helen Tse who is a BBC (a restaurateur and known for her book Sweet Mandarin) but not as accomplished as the other two and probably just a 'one-off' novelist at the moment. To be honest with the exception of Helen Tse I haven't really heard of them or even read their books. I know that both female writers are from the immigrant generation and the subjects of their works also reflect their immigrant background. So really there haven't been many books that are based around the Chinese community and particularly relates to British born Chinese.

Feminism or Orientalism?

As with aforementioned writers their most renowned works tend to follow the same formulaic theme; they were told from the perspective of the female protagonist that follows their struggle against traditional Chinese culture and the patriarchal society. The settings are not too dissimilar from the famous novel The Joy Look Club by American Chinese novelist Amy Tan. It's possible that the authors have taken a lot influence from it. Stories that depict women struggling against the male dominated world would be greatly channelled amongst feminist circles. However not all of the novels are necessarily written for the intention of empowering women. Most of the time they may just be autobiographical or recount of someone's lives.

However the racial or ethnic aspect of these types of stories can also be problematic. When ethnic minorities bring up the subject of sexism or any problems about their own culture it can easily reinforce negative perception or stereotypical view about one's culture. In this case Chinese women being portrayed as timid submissive characters often oppressed by their traditional chauvinistic culture. Common sense will tell us that a few books is not enough to give us a deep insight into a particular culture but to non-Chinese readers this is enough to conjure up negative perception of Chinese people overlook that the messages behind the novels are much more complex. Furthermore these perceptions that are unfairly placed onto our community do not reflect the experience or lives of British born Chinese of this generation. Unfortunately some writers may exploit the exotic theme just to sell more books. This also shows that there's a lack of materials that provides an alternative or balanced perspective.

Telling the BBC story

I don't believe writers of ethnic minorities necessarily have to write books based on their cultural background, however there's a lack of material being written about the British Chinese communities especially something that represent BBCs' experience. That's why I'm hoping to see and encourage more BBCs to pick up the pen. Writing about our experience helps to get our voices across and generate better understanding of our community. What's more important is to let our presence be known. We should try to avoid perpetrating Orientalist ideas as this will only set us back, we shouldn't be constrained by our cultural heritage but take influence from it.

Considering BBCs are much fluent in the English language than the immigrant generation it's a little sad that there isn't much recognised BBC writers in British literature. We need a different or a modern perspective on the British Chinese diaspora that represents the younger generations and to dispel the stereotypical view on us. Although I don't plan to go into writing as a career but with this blog I feel that at least I'm making some contribution and I'm hoping more BBCs will do the same.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

RSC: No Chinese allowed, except in the forms of dogs and maid

Apparently this kid is not in the play. 

A recent controversy has brought to the attention of the British Chinese community over the casting over a play produced by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre called 'The Orphan of Zhao' (趙氏孤兒). The play is an adaptation of a classic Chinese play. So what's the deal? Despite the Chinese themed production apparently only three out of the 17 roles will be played by Asian casts, one as a maid and the other as puppeteers of some dogs. That means the rest will be filled by yellow-faced non-Asians. A row has been drawn out on the company's facebook page.

I'm not familiar with theatre scene myself but I'm guessing it's just the same with British films and TV, that East Asians don't get much representation or typecast into stereotypical roles. Unless they're doing crazy acrobatic stuff like in Shaolin Warriors or Monkey. But even roles that should be consist of Asian casts, non-Asian actors are preferred in the disguise of exotic make-up and dresses. Have this been a play based on African Caribbean or South Asian theme the RCA would have not given it the same treatment. This showcase once again that the so called diversity and multiculturalism we are bestowed on often exclude Chinese or East Asians. It's funny that a Chinese kid was used on their poster ad which is misleading.

 It is not a new concept for Western theatres to adopt stories from other cultures into their plays. In fact The Orphan of Zhao was the first Chinese play ever to be adopted by Europeans in the 18th Century. Similarly Shakespeare's works have been adopted into Asian plays by transcending the settings in order to bind in with their local culture. To be fair the RCA could've avoided this controversy by doing the same, if casting Asian actors is such a bane then maybe a full out European medieval setting would've worked but instead they choose to go for the old fashioned 'yellow-faced' route. The RCA try to kept it at least 'half authentic'; endorsing the exotic Chinese theme but without having any Chinese in the main roles. I'm sure our community are not short of theatrical actors/actresses. This once again implicates the problem that is facing by East Asian actors in the UK. Honestly it's better to have no Chinese in the play rather than being used as 'props' on the stage just for the sake of making up the diversity.

RCA has claimed they've tried to use a multiracial casts to represent universality and colour-blindness, but really casting white Caucasians is their own way to ensure that it'll appeal to Western audience. Like as if people are afraid of seeing 'yellow faces' on stage. So why having Chinese actors in main roles are still unacceptable? Considering Chinese megastars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li having huge appeal to Western film audience, and more recently a Korean pop song became a worldwide hit, I don't see why it can't be the same in theatre with Asian casts. Seems to us the RCA are still stuck behind the times.

Check out Madame Miaow's blog for extensive coverage.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Low Budget Lead: a BBCs POV

This is a documentary made by Jason Francis Lau that looks at the life of his final year during his study at Brunel University. The filming was done mostly by himself I believe and is presented in an autobiographical perspective. The video do touch on a bit about his identity as a British born Chinese but the main focus is mostly him going about in his daily life at uni. The documentary is a little slow sometimes and done with almost no-budget as the title suggest, but it's a great effort nevertheless. Also considering he's not a film or media student, so he just made this as a side interest.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Nationalist tools

In the recent event a group of 14 Chinese activists from Hong Kong sailed on the fishing boat, the Kai Fung No 2 to the disputed Diaoyu Island. They were arrested by the Japanese soon after they've successfully landed and planted the PRC and ROC on the Island. This activity called Baodiao (Short for protecting the Diao Yu Islands) happens almost yearly always strain the relationship between the two countries. Both sides have been making claim on the territory, a dispute with history that stretch back to the late Qing dynasty. The activists were swiftly released by Japan to ease off any further tension. When the activists returned to Hong Kong they were greeted as heroes. But the irony is that these patriots who flew the PRC flags were also the same people who were previously seen burning the same 'five star flag' when protesting against the Chinese Communist Party.

Anti-Japanese protests by broke out in the cities around China, thousands marched down the streets with the PRC flags and carrying banners with anti-Japanese slogans such as "Japan get out of the Diaoyu Islands" to the more xenophobic "Kill all the Japanese dead". Generally it was relatively peaceful however there are a number of angry mobs that went around smashing up windows of Japanese stores and turning over Japanese made cars on the streets. They didn't seem to care that almost all of the stores/businesses are likely to be owned by Chinese and cars are most probably 'made in China'. Of course rioters are only venting their anger and hatred at Japanese objects as a symbolic mean. But sadly not only did their actons do little harm to their 'enemy' it is actually counter productive as it caused some damage to the local economy. Another irony. When patriotism goes out of control and emotions take over all rationality just goes out of the window.

That's why educators in Hong Kong need to be cautious with the implementation of National education (or brain washing). Likely this will only breed a whole generation of raging fenqings 愤青 (angry youths) who blindly follow nationalistic tendencies without any sense of rationality or logic. Just as what Henry David Thoreau an American poet once wrote 'Patriotism is a maggot in their heads'. These fenqings must have maggots for brains then. You may also refer to my post about Chinese pride. Nationalism is often exploited by government or politicians to unite the nation against the enemy as this will direct attention away from internal problems thus securing their power. With the current strain between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese, by having a common enemy this seems to be the perfect opportunity to bring unity of both groups. The constant reminder of  budding threat of foreign invaders will undermine the concern for issues that are much more closer to home. The only hope is that morality will prevail and keep people in check.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Art of Feng Zikai: nature, life and humanity

One of the highlights from my recent trip to Hong Kong was the art exhibition by the artist Feng Zikai (豐子愷) currently being held in the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Feng Zikai was one of the most influential Chinese artists of the early 20th Century and was a major contributor to early development of Chinese comics (manhua) and modern Chinese art. The exhibition showcased a huge bulk of Feng's works that was produced and published in the 1920s and 30s. Feng developed a distinct style with the use of traditional Chinese brush strokes in Western cartoon format, but similar to traditional Chinese art all of his pieces usually have poetic inscriptions at the side. As a Buddhist himself Feng's works carried very strong notion of Buddhist philosophy but without encroaching the religious doctrine onto us. Unlike traditional paintings that are laden with beautiful sceneries his works explore common subjects of everyday life in society.

Children were often featured in his artworks as he captures the innocence and sincerity of his subjects. His works also contains humour (sometimes satirical) which are unseen in ancient Chinese paintings, they presented in a symbolic way. The simplicity and the poetic aesthetics in his drawings give out a very melancholic feeling. He can get his messages across with just without being too direct and overdramatic, which obviously derived from Feng's Buddhist beliefs. Sometimes it leaves the viewers to come with their own interpretations. Nature and human life, as part of his ideas to cultivate love (or affection 有情) and peace. As you can see his notion even predates the hippy movement in the 1960s.

Even during the second world war he painted pictures to promote peace and questioned the human suffering in war as oppose to propaganda art to rile up the nation's patriotism against the Japanese invaders, thus his pacifistic stance drew a lot of criticism from his peers at the time. Again this chimes in greatly with his Buddhist belief. These drawings can be found in his book Paintings on the Preservation of Life.

"War and Music"

"I want to become an angel, /Soaring high in the sky, / Following the enemy planes, / And grabbing their bombs."

The purpose of Paintings on the Preservation of Life is to admonish people to treasure their lives and to refrain from killing so that we can cultivate benevolence and love and promote peace…. When I ask an urchin not to trample on ants, it is not because I cherish ants, or because I want to provide food to sustain them; it is because I am afraid that this little cruelty [if it remains unchecked] will turn into aggression in the future, using planes to carry heavy bombs to kill innocent people.
"Ze wu hui zhi yi" (Do not burn it), in Yuanyuantang jiwai yiwen

Even as a follower of Buddhism he does have his own critical thoughts on the religion. Buddhists often preach the notion of non-killing but Feng accepts that violent act such as killing animals for food ( but not for the sake of it) is all part of the cultivation of human life, therefore it is hypocritical to think otherwise. As an educator Feng was set apart from other teachers and his thoughts were considered to be very liberal, even ahead of his time. He criticized conventional education for taking the life and creativity away from students. This is still a concern in modern education.

Even though his art are stylistically Chinese, I think they have universal appeal and his ideas are every bit as relevant even in this day and age. We can learn a lot from Feng's philosophy on human nature and the messages contained in his works promote values that are much needed in modern society. I hope that Feng Zikai will gain more recognition in the west and for his works to be introduced to the UK in the future. For any art lovers who happen to be in Hong Kong this summer be sure to check it out.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The candle is still burning

6th June Victoria Park, Hong Kong (image from Yahoo News)

As of every year June the 6th is the commemoration of the June 6th incident (Tiananmen Massacre) is held in Hong Kong. It has been 23 years since it had happened and this year's vigil have had the biggest turnout so far as a crowd of 180,000 gathered in Victoria Park that night. Even after 23 years the concern of this tragedy has not faded and is growing more than ever. It has been reported that quite a number of the people who attended the vigil were also from mainland China, where any mention of the Tiananmen incident is hushed and still not widely known. Fang Zheng who was one of the student protesters in 1989 has attended the memorial service. Both of his legs were crushed by tanks during the escape when the army was brought in to crackdown on the protesters. Since then he's been on a wheelchair.

There are two events which possibly lead to an increase in anxiety in this year's commemoration; the Bo Xilai and Chen Guang Chen incident. Also the scandal behind the pseudo election of Hong Kong's chief executive may have added another layer of perseverance. These are possible signs that politics is changing in China (and also power struggle at the top of the Communist Party). But it is anyone's guess whether this signify that the country is taking steps toward political reform.

The justification of the government's action during and after June the 6th incident is one thing but what's more important is for everyone to know the full truth about the massacre, especially an accurate account from the government's side of what went on behind the scene during the event. At least the nation and the victims' family (including soldiers who were killed) are owed a true explanation and openess to this matter. Until then we cannot possibly put a close to this tragic chapter in history.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Fear and loathing China

I would consider many of the BBC news stories on China to be quite neutral, however there seems to be a few written by journalists who are so called 'China experts' that are blatantly bias. This article by Damian Grammaticas is on such example. It talks about China's love-hate relationships with foreigners. First by mentioning the two recent incidents about a Russian cellist's rude behaviour on a train and the rape of a girl in Beijing by a British guy. So come an unrelated event which the police have launched the 100 days strike hard campaign to clamp down illegal foreigners, and then go on about some 'racist' remark by the renown Chinese anchor Yang Rui, which also drew support from nationalistic Chinese. These apparently show China as a growing power with xenophobic tendencies.

On the flip side he did mention that there are foreigners are admired by many Chinese, unfortunately he also ignore the privileges that Western visitors get treated with like it's given. But the reporter insisted that the growing xenophobia is outweighing the kindliness towards foreigners with very little substantial proof except from internet forums, which is the hardly the most reliable source. Yang Rui's 'clean out the foreign trash' comment is nothing more than just a counter reaction to the incidents even though he came off a bit arrogant. Plus the fact he was only referring to particular groups of foreigners who are illegals or those who disregard the laws.

Coming back home a bit we also need to remind ourselves on how many times the British media have made xenophobic and slandering reports on the Chinese community, where most of the times they get away without making any apologies at all. In comparison Yang Rui's remarks are pale in comparison. Also a few years ago the British police ran an operation around the country randomly storming into takeaways and restaurants to clamp down on illegal workers and disrupting their businesses. How was that any different from the Chinese police's campaign? It seems like when China clamp down on illegals it is seen as motivated by nationalism and xenophobia (or violating human rights) but when Western countries do the same it's called 'protecting their own borders'.

Despite many cultural differences and culture shock, most Western visitors would agree that in general they get treated hospitably. But like all countries in the world you bound to meet some hostility too. Most often than not foreigners (particularly if you're white) will get the undeserved special treatment but unfortunately many will take advantage of their priviledge by being disrespectful to the host country. Seeing that, it makes perfect sense why there's a backlash. Regardless, there may be a strong sense of nationalism amongst the population but it is hardly hostile or a threat to foreigners, certainly when compared to the racist groups in the UK. If mr. Grammaticas thinks that China is becoming more unfriendly towards foreigners as his sensationalistic claims then maybe he should try reporting from North Korea instead.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Children of the elite

Pretty much most people are aware of the Bo Xilai scandal which has caught the attention of the media around the world. There isn't much I want to talk about in regards to the incident and I think most of it revolves around speculations and gossips. However I do want to bring up Bo Xilai's son Bo Guagua. I wonder if anyone remember back in 2009 about this Big Ben Award, an award 'to give formal recognition to the Chinese young people who excel in professional endeavours and contribution to the British community' (as mentioned in their website) in which Bo was the winner. This event was highlighted on the Dimsum website. Yes I'm sure like me most British Chinese was quite baffled at the time as to why he has won.

Bo Guagua's background is typical of whos parents are of high positions within the Chinese Communist Party as politicians or officials. They're part of the elite and privileged who are brought up in a rich lifestyle that majority of the population can only dream of. The reliance of their parents status and power means they're guaranteed sucess in life even without hardwork. Like Bo many of them are sent abroad to top prestigious schools and universities, the admission to these schools are greatly assisted by their parents wealth and power. Not only that many have also gained residency or citizenship in the hosted countries. So where's the patriotism that the country are so keen to promote?

In Bo Guagua's case it has clearly shown nepotism at at work. He came to England at the age of 12, went to Harrow School apparently with the help of Neil Heywood (yes the bloke who was supposedly murderd by Bo's mother). After that he went to Balliol College at Oxford. But he is also known to have a very poor academic performance. It's a disclosed fact that he lead a very hedonistic lifestyle; seen driving a Ferrari, partying with girls and getting drunk. All of it at the expense of his parents' money of course. At the momoment he his studying at Havard.

Going back to the Big Ben Award it's no suprise then that Bo's repuatation has influenced on the decision to award him. Seems like corruption has infriltrated oversea Chinese communuty. Then again the award is hardly of importance in itself. There's nothing against Bo Guagua himself as there's no reason to do so afterall he's just the resultant of his elite and corrupting parents.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The BBC Ronin's fashion study for men

I just like to break up the heavy stuff with some light hearted posts.

As I grow older I'm starting to become more and more conscious of the way I dress, something that I always neglect when I was a teen. As I'm going way into my late 20s now I've been going into a transition to improve my warddrobe (as in my clothes). Here are some useful tips (or point) I want to share with those who also wants to improve their style. These are just (very rough) guidelines not strict rules to follow and some are specifically for BBC males.

1. Dress like your age
A lot of the clothes and styles might look good when you were teen but will look ridiculous on a grown man. Basically if you're an adult then dress like an adult. That means less skater or sporty clothing. Even if you follow a certain subculture like goth or punk you should tone it down a little.

2. Proper fit
The clothes that you wear should always fit your body frame just right. Nothing too baggy that you'll look like a stereotypical rapper or too tight that your body is about to burst out. Take into account your body type as well, you need to make sure what you wear looks proportionate to your body. It's common sense but I always see people get it wrong. Since clothing sizes are based on averages you won't always find a perfect fit. The key is to try out various brands as the sizes can vary.

3. Following trends
As we're always influenced by fashion adverts and celebs, we tend to follow whatever's on trend. It's perfectly fine to take influence from magazines or whatever's popular however if too many people dress the same then you'll look like a carbon copy of each other. There's nothing wrong with wearing some trendy pieces of clothing but it's important to give your style some individuality. There are some clothes that never go out of fashion like denim jeans, leather jackets, casual boots and plain shirts that you can mix up with trendy pieces of items.

4. Dressing like a Hong Konger
Or rather don't. This is specifically refers to BBCs who try to imitate their HK cousins but usually they failed and end up looking like a half assed FOB. Although I do think that we should take cues from Hong Kongers for their effort to dress well but I find that many just blindly follow trends without considering whether it'll look good on them or not. Plus most of them just copy Japanese and Western fashion anyway.

5. Brand names
Nothing wrong with wearing popular brands however don't overdo it like you're some sort of walking billboard for fashion brands. The worst ones are clothings that have massive brand logos across them. Even if you're rich and can afford expensive clothes, showing it off will just make you look like a prat. Try and wear brands more subtlely instead.

6. Colours
Certain colours complement with each other better than others. Certainly true with clothings. Check out the colour wheel for guidance. If you don't want to be too bold then stick with neutral colours like black, white, grey or khakis but introduce a little colour to make it less boring.

7. Keep it simple
Basically don't complicate yourself with too much details like different patterns, colours and style. It's better to dress plainly than something too extravagant. Unless you want to look like a clown that is. Remember less is more.

8. The hair
Hair is something you can spend ages working on or some people don't bother at all. But it differs from one person to another. If you a bit lazy like me then you can't go wrong with short back and side. But leave some length at the top so you'll have something to work on. I've seen some Chinese kids with the 'anime' style hairdo and I think it looks atrocious no matter at what age, leave it to cosplay. As for long hair, it's not for everyone but some can pull it off. There's a whole lot to write on this topic but basically make sure the hairstyle fits your face shape and always make an effort to groom it.

9. Don't be too frugal
It's true that wearing clothes that cost hundreds of pounds doesn't automatically makes you look good (see point no.5), it's all about how you wear them. However that doesn't mean you should be a cheapskate and buy all you stuff from Primark either. Sometimes it's OK to spend a bit more on certain clothings as higher end stuff tend to be of better quality and last longer. Just as long you're sensible with your budget then it's fine.

10. Layering
It takes some experiment but knowing how to layer your clothings is very important. Start off with lighter garment first and work around it. Also take into account when matching colours and patterns. But don't do the T-shirt over long sleeve sweater thing, because it looks naff on a grown man.

I hope some of you will find these tips useful. It takes some time and experimenting to get the style that you're cormfortable with but you must start doing it now. I think everyone should make a little effort to dress well because it can exert a positive impression of yourself to others and also boost your confidence. Not to mention it helps to attract the attention of the ladies too.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

BBC Identity: Chinese pride?

This will be the first of a series will explore and present some indepth thoughts on the British Chinese identity.

I've recently made a comment on one of BBC Zeitgeist's post and the point that brought forward was how proud are we of our Chinese heritage. This is a something that often concern many Chinese who are born and bred in Western countries. We live in a prominently Western cultural environment where it is quite different to the values of our parents, we constantly have to deal with the clash of two different cultures. We need to adapt to Western culture in order to survive but doing so we risk sacrificing our cultural heritage that's been passed on from our parents. The BBC identity is almost like being the rope in a tug of war. But as oversea born Chinese how should we approach cultural pride?

In BBC Zeitgeist's controversial blog the author believed that being a proud Chinese means we need to carry some sort ethnocentric ideals. Although he never said it like that but that's the kind of sentiment you get from his writings. So that means keeping our cultural practice alive, marry Chinese only, watch Chinese TV and films, limit ourselves from Western/white influences, condemn others for being white washed and selling out (but at the same time having a go at new immigrants for making BBCs look bad). However is this really what being a proud Chinese/BBC is all about? For me there's a whole lot deeper and complex meaning to pride.

Dignity and self-esteem

Being proud of your own identity is more than just living by a set of superficial criteria because any non-Chinese are capable of practicing Chinese culture. Or just like people who boast about pride like some flag waving patriotic morons, it's missing real substance behind the action. Forcing Chinese customs on your kids in the Western environment just doesn't work and sometimes can have the opposite effect. For me there are two primary elements we need to consider; dignity (尊嚴) and self-esteem (自尊). These two emotional factors are important in the development of any young persons. Racism will have a negative impact on many young BBCs' self esteem and also creating the feeling of low self-worth. This can have various effects; some will turn to self-loathing whilst others may become resentful and full of hatred.

Generally East Asian children in the West seem to have lower self esteem than their white counterpart for various reasons, which also includes racism. Also sometimes BBCs who are brought up in a traditional family (or by 'tiger mothers') are most suspect to this. When faced with racist bullies we were taught to ignore them and keep our heads down and study hard. As in the Confucius values we aught to keep things in harmony and not to cause a ruckus. This will ruin our personal development and confidence. It's important to encourage them to stand up for themselves and not see yourself to be lesser than others, that is having dignity. All-in-all parents have the responsibility to make sure the kids grow up with good self esteem thus developing a positive perception of themselves. At the same time reinforce this with teaching of Chinese culture of course.


Of course there's also a darkside to ethnic or cultural pride. This when people turn pride into ethnocentric-ism and supremacy. Yes, this usually mean resorting to racist ideas. They also think they are the true champion representative of their own ethnic identity and any one from their own group who disagrees are deemed to be traitors or 'sellouts'. I'm all for safeguarding your own culture but when you do it with resentment and chauvinism I feel that it's very facile and it's nothing more than just arrogance. With mentality like this it's hard to hold any balance or rational way of thinking. In Chinese these people would be called fenqing (愤青) aka angry youths.

For many young people who felt rejected or outcasted from society it's a very easy emotion state to fall into. Turning to resentment and extremism is the easiest way to find a sense of mental consolation and to superficially rectify your own emotional weakness, low self esteem and insecurity. It's also a way to vent your frustrations and bitterness. This is a very unhealthy and even dangerous mentality that may even lead to tragedy. However it is unlikely that BBCs would resort to this sort of radicalism, as there isn't really an environment for us to cultivate such thing. But this may also be one of the reasons why we're very apolitical as a group. Even though BBC Zeitgeist's views are controversial it's hardly the extremism that one should fear. Nonetheless I hope that more people should recognise that self esteem is the most fundamental and positive substance of one's pride.


On the positive side I feel the younger generations of BBC are having it better as the younger parents are much more 'liberal' and not the old school 'feather duster regime' we used to have. Thanks to better telecommunications and greater presence of the community it have helped young BBCs to be more in touch with their heritage. In conclusion to be prideful of your identity is more than just having cutural and historical understanding of your heritage, though these are vital too. Also it's not merely about following certain customs or lifestyle just for the sake of it, whether you're too Westerinsed or not Chinese enough is beside the point. It's important that you develop a healthy mental consciousness as a foundation first and foremost. If you can embrace your identity with high esteem and confidence, then eventually you'll follow and appreciate Chinese culture with real meaning and genuine passion.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Hong Kong election

We must liberate Hong Kong

It has been almost a week since Hong Kong has elected it's new Chief Executive CY Leung beating his main opposition Henry Tang, and already the citizens are out on protests within days. He is also rumoured to be a member of the Chinese Communist party and once mentioned that he will suppress protesters with tanks and tear gas. But who knows. I've been following the election quite closely and for most part it was quite entertaining. To be honest it's nothing like the elections that I've seen in the UK. It feels like watching the Jeremy Kyle show, I could imagine hearing all the audience oohing and gasping as the candidates (two grown men and a clown) engage in mudslinging match against each other with scandals after scandals. It was comical.

It goes to show that Hong Kong is still behind other developed countries when it comes to politics. The political has been deteriorated since the British handover. Although I don't endorse colonialism but it's fair to say the British were much competent at running Hong Kong, because they actually 'get things sorted' and they were serious politicians (even though they reaped a lot of benefits from it). Whereas now the city is mostly run by greedy tycoons.

Despite running under 'one country two systems' it's not a secret that Beijing does have a lot of influence on the political affairs. Many of its citizens are eager to elect it's own Chief Executive by 2017 through a proper democratic system whilst currently the election are only held by voters within a constituency consisting around 1000 members, but at the moment there is very little hope that it's going to happen. Even if it will there's still a lot works to be done for such system to succeed. But for the time being they'll have to put up with Chairman Leung.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Join the Linsanity

A lot of people (not just basketball fans) has been raving on about the sensation of the new York Nick player Jeremy Lin lately. Especially for Chinese, turn to Chinese news and you'll always see him on the sports section. Even Taiwanese claimed Lin (American born Taiwanese descent) to be their 'son'. During his interview with the Taiwanese press he could only answer back in English just go to show how much cultural relevance he has with his motherland. But at least he does make an effort to connect with his heritage.

Asian faces are rarely seen in competitive sports like basketball in the West, so when an Asian player step into the game that is this good it's no surprise there's going to be a lot of hype. For many oversea born Chinese Jeremy Lin serve as a positive role model who defied stereotypes and racial prejudice (which he has faced many) to become the success he is now. As well as a graduate from Harvard, something Chinese parents would be proud of. I think Lin is an inspiration for many young East Asians in Western society that we can achieve success even we have to face all odds. I also hope that our parents will see that success doesn't solely come from just studying books.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Lu Xun and critiquing Chinese culture

Whenever we bring the subject of Chinese literature we always think about the classic novels like Journey to the West or Romance of Three Kingdoms. Especially from what we've been taught from our parents or Chinese school. It's understandable why these classics would fascinate many who are interested in Chinese literature. They capture the imagination of many who would wonder about the mystical ancient times intertwined with fairy tale element that can only be seen in costume dramas and Wuxia films. However for me some of the most interesting literature were written from around a 100 years ago. During the time China was going through great changes and modernisation. It was during the same time that Chinese literature went through a major revolution itself. One of the most prolific and influential writer to come out of this period was Lu Xun (魯迅) who is also deemed to be the founder of modern Chinese literature.

In the early 20th Century translated Western literature (especially Leftist writings) has became widely read and this had a lot of influence on Lu Xun during his early period of education. He and many of the writers of this era played a great role during the May Fourth and the New Culture Movement in popularising the use of vernacular Chinese writing over classical Chinese form. This can be seen in his most famous works such as 'A Madman's Diary' and 'The True Story of Ah Q'. Lu Xun's works usually deals with social commentary on Chinese society through the use of satire and irony. His fictional works might contain simple narratives but the essence behind it are very complex, they're not always straightforward.

I wasn't too sure how I came across Lu Xun, but when I first learnt about him I felt that I've discovered something refreshing. It had also made me view Chinese culture from a very different perspective but in a good way. His criticism of Chinese culture was harsh and relentless. Just like his peers during the New Culture Movement he was in favour of abandoning the traditional Confucius values and feudalistic society and replace them with Western values of democracy, liberalism and scientific advancement. Mao Zedong was a one of Lu Xun's biggest fan and praised him in some of his accounts, both carried the same view of denouncing the old Chinese culture. This was very evident in Mao's Cultural Revolution.

What I have realised from Lu Xun is the importance of critiquing your own culture (in a constructive way as oppose to bashing it of course). Understanding Chinese culture is more than just memorizing all Chinese dynasties or knowing how to celebrate Chinese New Year or reciting Tang poems off by heart. It's important to look at the cultural implication and historical context as well. One cannot possibly understand culture fully without learning its flaws as well as its strengths. Lu Xun's commentaries on traditional culture and society were usually negative but realistic and brutally honest. Despite that he is by no mean a traitor. He was patriot who actually cared about his country and the people living in it. All his intentions was to help the advancement and progression of Chinese society, this had gained him many support during the turbulent time.

In his famous novella 'The True Story of Ah Q, the lead character Ah Q was metaphorically used to represent the national character of China during this period; a pitiful character, a deluded peasant who consider his defeats as moral victories over the victors and save face through self-deception. Lu Xun's criticism wasn't just directed at China of that period but also the whole entity of Chinese culture.
The novella also strongly criticised the alleged historic-cultural burden of China, which was formed by the long history of absolute authority of the feudalist order. The feudalist social structure, order and culture were solidified through its two thousand year dominance. As a result of this, enormous social pressure brought on by group punishment and the rigidly-interpreted Civil Service Test both encouraged conformist ways and social hegemony in the Chinese culture. According to Lu Xun, people molded by such cultural environment were obsessed with saving face, were proud of the past without any new accomplishments, and accepted without questioning the injustices imposed by authority.
In 'The Diary of a madman' Lu Xun referred to 'the oppressive nature of Chinese Confucian culture as a "man-eating" society where the strong devour the weak.' Certainly this is not something our parents would want us to learn. Are Lu Xun's work still relevant to Chinese today or is it just an insight into the past. I think this is worth debating. However I think as long as Confucianism remains in Chinese culture I think his criticism still have some relevance in the modern age. A lot of scholars that study Chinese society nowadays still reference Lu Xun's works.

One thing I liked about the author is upfront and might I say his rebellious attitude. His work helped me approach Chinese culture differently but not necessarily in a negative kind of way. We shouldn't be afraid to confront the flaws within our cultural society even though it might hit some nerves, it's required to help society progress. Otherwise we'll be all like 'Ah Q'. Despite being in agreement with his harsh criticism it doesn't make me resent Chinese culture as such, but instead gave me a broader understanding of it. For that I am thankful to have discovered the literature of Mr Lu Xun.