My Perspective on Being Chinese


By Paul Chong      Tuesday, 10 September 2013

English: Ethnolinguistic groups of China.
English: Ethnolinguistic groups of China. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Western concept, it is presumed that as a country progresses & modernises, it becomes Westernised. China is different & unique – it can never become like the West.

For thousands of years with marauding thundering of conquering barbarians, the Han Chinese was never subdued. No culture has been able to superimpose upon the lives of the Han Chinese in changing them in anyway. Ironically, the reverse happened and instead the conquerers became “sinicized” – that is becoming Chinese as in the case of the Manchus who despite having ruled China for hundreds of years, they were adjusting, adapting & adopting the Chinese way of life.

Chinese character Han
Chinese character Han

China is indeed a multi-cultural nation comprising some 55 ethnic minority groups – distinctively practising & preserving their individual cultures, distinctive & unique in China maintaining their own traditions, distinctive costumes & languages. Each displays & contributes to the mix of the greater Chinese nation. The crux of multiculturalism in China is distinct & unique, there is truly a scenario of diversity in unity. People irrespective of their place of birth are proud to be Chinese.

The question of “Sinicization” is a difficult concept to be understood by the West. It’s alien . . . for most Westerners are a composite mix of cultures, like the British or the Americans, dominant as they are. It is no less so with the Europeans. Ironically, even with the conquerers (e.g. the Romans) the dominance of their cultures strangely disappeared with the passage of time.

English: In recent years, young Chinese are tr...

 In recent years, young Chinese are trying to revive traditional en:Han Chinese clothing (汉服运动) using internet-based forums. A few Han Chinese clothing gatherings both within China and overseas were organized. Han clothing was lost for 267 years as a result of the Manchu subjugation of China, which lasted from 1644 to 1911.

According to Wikipedia, “Sinicization, Sinicisation or Sinification, ( Mandarin: 汉化 Hànhuà), also called Chinalization (Mandarin: 中国化 Zhōngguóhuà), is a process whereby non-Han Chinese societies come under the influence of dominant Han Chinese state and society. Areas of influence include alphabet, diet, economics, industry, language, law, lifestyle, politics, religion, sartorial choices, technology, culture, and cultural values. More broadly, “Sinicization” may refer to policies of acculturation, assimilation, or cultural imperialism of neighbouring cultures to China, depending on historical political relations. This is reflected in the histories of Korea, Vietnam and Japan in the East Asian cultural sphere, for example, in the adoption of the Chinese writing system.”

Han Chinese people

In the world today, where population mobility on a global scale is so dominant because of wars, social upheavals, economic changes & circumstances, political & economic refugees, it is difficult to stay pure & dominant as a race. The United States of America is the best example of the melting pot of cultures.

This is openly followed by United Kingdom & such European countries as Belgium, Holland in their practices of multi-culturalism through integration or nationalism. However, they find themselves to be confronted with the huge problem of non-integration, separatism & polarisation in respect mainly of religious differences. That religious polarisation is generating towards possible future political force.

Japan in its attempt to a stay closely-knit society is not accepting foreign immigration, but it’s only a small country in terms of population number.

The integration policy is a type of nationalism aimed at strengthening of the Chinese identity among some other 55 minority population. Proponents believe integration will help to develop shared values, pride in being the country’s citizen, respect and acceptance towards cultural differences among citizens of China. In China there are 292 non-Mandarin languages spoken by minority peoples of the region. There are also a number of immigrant languages, such as Khmer, Portuguese, English, etc.

Historical past reveal sinicization of many examples as with the Turkic peoples, descendants of Uyghurs and the Hui population. They were all largely assimilated into the Han culture, practising Chinese customs and speaking Mandarin as their language.

In a huge country like China of great diversity, the teaching of Mandarin as the national language is the strongest singular population unifying factor. Different & various dialects may abound but everybody speaks & understands Mandarin.

The best example of sinicization undoubtedly happened with the Manchu during the Qing Dynasty. They originally had their own separate style of naming from the Han Chinese, but eventually adopted Han Chinese naming practices.

Manchu names consisted of more than the two or one syllable Chinese names, and when phonetically transcribed into Chinese, they made no sense at all. The meaning of the names that Manchus used were also very different from the meanings of Chinese names. The Manchus also gave numbers as personal names.

They gave their children Chinese names which were separate from the Manchu names, and even adopted the Chinese practice of generation names, although its usage was inconsistent and error ridden, eventually they stopped using Manchu names.

The Niohuru family of the Manchu changed their family name to Lang, which sounded like “wolf” in Chinese, since wolf in Manchu was Niohuru.

Usage of surnames was not traditional to the Manchu while it was to the Han Chinese.

Our Western friends always have this to comment with the way & ease we switch code (language) when speaking to each other. We apparently have the dexterity & affinity with language code. For example, foreigners are often fascinated to notice a good mixture of dialects & languages in our speech . . . all in one sentence. Perhaps Chinese brains work differently & even uniquely.

The greatness of a nation lies in its ability to stand tall & erect absolutely unaffected & diminished by outside invasions despite its thousand of years of isolation. This testifies the notion & concept of “survival of the fittest.”

Soundly geographical, the sun always set in the West & gloriously rises in the East. With the sun setting, the world goes to sleep. However, each morning when the sun rises activities stir & economy grows.

As they say in the Grand Prix race, when your car stalls others roar . . . speed must be maintained to avoid a stall and loss of control.

Paul Chong

A Chinese by Descent

An Australian by Consent

Dali – Yunnan, China

By P Chong                                                                                  16 March 2011

. . . where the ancient flourishes

right in modern mist!

Aerial View of Dali

The Traditional Dragon Dance

Hu Jintao, President of China, advocates “living harmoniously” and there’s no better place where the slogan is deeply rooted in the daily lives of the people. In Dali – an ancient town in Yunnan China, there’s a good cultural mix of different ethnic groupsHan Chinese, Bai & Naxi minorities and many others, all living in peace & harmony.

Ancient Dali lies within the ancient walls where the old way of life still flourishes, while modern Dali sprawls & spreads outside the protective walls – north, south, east or west.

Picturesque Erhai Lake Dominates the Region

. . . diversity in unity & unity in diversity.

Yunnan is noted for its very high level of ethnic diversity. It has the highest number of ethnic groups among all provinces and autonomous regions in China. Among the country’s fifty-six recognised ethnic groups, twenty-five are found in Yunnan. Some 38% of the province’s population are members of minorities, including the Yi, , Hani, Tai, Dai, Miao, Lisu, Hui, Naxi, Lahu, Va, Nakhi, Yao, Tibetan, Jingpo, Blang, Pumi, Nu, Achang, Jinuo, Mongolian, Derung, Manchu, Shui, and Buyei. All of them are educated in Mandarin & speak Mandarin fluently.

The current popular tune of “Darling, darling . . . darling na” (not sure of the song title & I am just going by the sound) flowed through the narrow cobble-stone streets as we wandered around. I learned that the soothing song was sung by a Naxi girl who first rendered it to be popular in the local tavern of Dali. My brother Mike bought me a copy of the CD seeing that I was so captivated by the tune.

I guess the beautiful catchy tune took the hearts of most visitors & tourists, who were mainly in their twenties or thirties, males & females, most of whom were armed with their hand-phones & digital cameras. There was only a handful of foreigners & oldies.

Young people reflect the rise of Chinese middle class & their mobility to travel & enjoy the pleasures of life long denied them. We found a couple of Australian tourists resting themselves by the shop front and upon chatting with them found that they had difficulties because of the language problem. Speaking & understanding Mandarin is necessary. Everybody speaks Mandarin. However, Mandarin or no Mandarin, people were generally friendly & helpful . . . smiling with a cheerful heart.

Dali against its snow-capped mountain. A street scene in a more outlying village of Dali.

More pictures:

Scenic Erhai Lake

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