Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to the Asian countries - China, The Philippines, Thailand, etc.
Being a Chinese Canadian and having lived in mainland China for the past 5 years (although only beginning to understand it about 2 years ago), I would like to share many of my critical observations of the country. Please forgive me if profane language pops up every once in a while. If you disagree, please feel free to express your opinions.
I recently read Winston Wu's article "Critical Observations on East Asian Mentality and Culture", and as a Chinese-Canadian myself, I must say that I agree with pretty much everything he says. In response, I've decided to write my own critique. Now, as someone who was brought up in a fairly traditional Confucian family, I've had the worst of the rituals and dogmas. In order to express my true feelings and all the misery I've suffered, please be noted that I will be using coarse language in some areas of my article. Although Wu's article mainly focuses on Taiwan, his observations are common to basically all East Asian cultures.
1. A little self-introduction
To start off with a bit about who I am, I'm a Chinese-Canadian male who was born in the Southwest metropolis of Mianzhu, Sichuan province. I immigrated with my parents to Toronto at the age of 6, returning to the mainland and settling down in Beijing at 13, and now in America. My family is a typical East Asian/Confucian family which is fairly wealthy and well-connected. Growing up, I was taught to follow the traditional Chinese mentality and never question its authority. However, when I became older, I encountered my intellectual awakening which has led me to fully discover and embrace my individuality apart from the total BS that I'm expected by society and by my culture/ethnicity. At the age of 16, I broke off from my family's Buddhism/Confucianism and became a non-denominational Christian, though I do not consider myself to be fully religious.
I consider myself to be a fairly broad minded person with interest in several things, gravitated towards history, society, the arts, and spiritual matters. I also love to watch films and play video/computer games. To me, I try to be myself as much as I can every single day, and chilling out is always the best.
2. Top 4 Stereotypes About Asians That I Do Not Fit In
A) No.1 "You are Asian, therefore you must be a superb student."
Ok, I will admit that when I was still being pressured into thinking that getting good grades would either make or fail me as an individual, I was actually a pretty good student, and one who liked to compare my achievements with others. However, after realizing how pointless it is to focus on a bunch of numbers on a fricking sheet of paper, I decided to screw the grade-based educational system.
A lot of Chinese parents (and East Asians in general) just LOVE to talk about their kids' schooling and academic achievements, and often try to boast about their own child's performance whether it be grades or extra-curricular activities. I've heard children getting asked about their school life in detail as soon as the adult knows their name and some basic information about them (age, family, etc). For children, their role as a student is often held above their role as maturing individuals. In China and other parts of East Asia, getting a poor report card is a source of shame and dishonor for the family, and the family will often do everything they can to make the child feel the same. All of this stems from the Confucian command to glorify your elders.
Now, with Asian students beating European and American students in worldwide standardized testing, many hold the assumption that "YOU ARE FROM EAST ASIA, THEREFORE YOU MUST BE A SUPERB STUDENT." As for me, it is total crap. I've often said that grades or achievements in whatever activity do not measure your intelligence, but reflect a conformist mindset fueled by fear and obligation. Seeing past all this sheer stupidity, I've finally managed to go my own way. However, nowadays society has portrayed East Asians as studying machines with hardly a life besides school and trying to constantly please parents and family.
B) No.2 "You are Asian, therefore you must be good at math and science."
This is actually true in mainland China and East Asia, as schools have done a lot to promote the importance of the technical / research subjects. In China, it is often abbreviated as "shu li hua" (数理化）, representing the combination of mathematics, physics, and chemistry which are all mandatory subjects in the curriculum and highly stressed on the "gaokao" (高考）, the rigorous annual university extrance exam which pretty much determines your entire future. However, I've never taken interest in the maths or sciences, and as a result performed quite poorly in those areas during school.
The time when I heard someone say No.2 to me was during my junior year of high school. We had 3 math classes, ranging from most difficult to least difficult: Advanced, Standard, and Basic. As I was not good at math and did not give a shit about school, I went for the Basic class. Now, one of my classmates who was new to the school (and Chinese-American) was somewhat shocked when I told him I had chosen the Basic class, and said that the Asian identity is to be good at math. I got quite pissed at his ignorance and just walked away, telling him that I despised the subject. I have always believed that interest is the best guide, and personally without taking interest in what I'm learning/doing, I will be unwilling and unable to achieve anything in it.
C) No.3 "You are Asian, therefore you have strong family values."
I must agree that I do have strong family values in a sense, but what I call my family strictly refers to my own wife and kids (brothers and sisters in Christ as my spiritual family), maybe my parents or in-laws if I have good rapport with them and whom I think deserve honor. Unfortunately, my parents divorced when I was 7 and I grew up with an emotionally abusive and extremely needy mother, as well as having to face high expectations from her side of the family. My father was a womanizer and drunkard who loved money. Although my material needs were satisfied when I was young, I never felt understood as a person. A much older friend of mine from England actually got the time and desire to really know me as a individual, and I treat him both as a very wise acquaintance and a father figure deserving of my respect and honor. From an objective perspective, if I believe someone does not deserve to commended as an individual, whatever blood ties he or she may have with me could matter less.
In East Asia, it is believed that since parents have given up so much for their child, or as many think, the child owes them pretty much everything. The Confucian virtue of subservience to the needs of one's parents is called "xiaoshun" (孝顺）, or "Hyo" in Korean. This applies even when the parent/s is not deserving of anything, as it is always the task of the child to repay his parents, giving birth to the saying "there are no unsuitable parents, but only unsuitable children" (天下没有不适的父母， 只有不适的儿女）, something which my mother has personally told me to prove that she is always "right". To anyone with half a brain, this would be bullshit logic.
Due to the obligation of serving one's parents (regardless of whether they deserve it or not) drilled into Chinese children by both their fathers and mothers as well as society, it is the norm for typical Chinese to care for their parents well into adulthood, and for the parents to constantly interfere in pretty much every single detail of their adult kids' lives. This has caused much strife and severe problems in marriages, where one partner thinks he or she is being smothered and harassed by either their biological parents or their in-laws, to which filial piety also applies. As a result, family struggles are extremely common in China, the case often being the elders on both sides trying to achieve their own damn purposes (whatever they may be) through manipulating their own children and manipulating each other.
The traditional East Asian belief is that a marriage is not the marriage of two people, but the marriage of two families (婚姻不是两个人的事情，是两家人的事情）, an outdated mode of thought from the days of arranged marriages. Even today, many Chinese marry to establish business or political ties between their respective clans, or to live off of benefits provided by one of the partners, which include wealth and/or a foreign passport or green card. It is a shame to marry someone of a lower social class (门当户对）than your clan.
General Comparison of the Traditional Chinese/East Asian Mindset and myself:
1. Traditional mindset
-Collectivism producing a bunch of task-oriented robots (I know this is changing but overall the group is still held above all)
-Unquestioning obedience to parents and to authority
-Age equals superior wisdom
-Obligation to care for your own parents, extended family, and in-laws regardless of what they are like
-Good grades measure intelligence and bring honor
-It is OK to marry for money, a foreign passport or a green card
-It is OK marrying to forge strategic alliances between families
-Your role and obligation to society and to whoever is more important than you as an individual
-Individualist with a compassionate and intellectual/spiritual nature
-Tries to discover and determine the motives of authority as well as questioning the validity of existing systems in society
-I've met plenty of people who are in reality stupid to the core while thinking they know everything due to their age
-Objective analysis of family members as individuals
-Grading is a failed system which fails to capture the essence of learning and the needs of learners as people
-The sole reason for marriage should be love based on physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual compatibility
-You are a person first and foremost
After comparing myself with general East Asian culture, I will be looking at different aspects of society in mainland China as well as the rest of the region:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A) The tight vibes of Chinese society
B) Working and doing business in China
C) Dating and marriage
D) Typical Chinese parenting
E) The Chinese education system
F) Chinese religion
A) The tight vibes of Chinese society
When I first settled down in Beijing after returning to mainland China from Vancouver, I was in for a shock. In the West, I could have a conversation with pretty much anyone I met, and it is the norm for people to befriend each other and have casual conversations. However, many people in China feel ashamed to talk to strangers. Even many foreigners I've talked to realize this and abide by the rule.
For most Chinese people, no matter how individualistic they claim themselves to be, the essence of their life seems to be focused on 2 things: Obligation to family, and working long hours fearing that taking a holiday or an extended break will move one closer to the poverty line. Even for the wealthy, they still work in constant fear of not having enough money. Satisfaction and enjoyment is not in their dictionary, although one may enjoy himself for short periods of time. However, in the end, it is still duty and obligation that wins out. As Winston Wu wrote in his article, to many it is a sin to develop hobbies. Many mainland Chinese I have talked to tell me that they have no time to pursue hobbies, while it is often their own inability to see anything beyond what they are expected by their family, their boss, or society.
Chinese society frowns upon males having a sensitive side. Men are expected to be indestructible with guts of steel. An old Chinese saying goes: "A man can shed blood but cannot shed a tear." If a man is seen crying in Chinese society, even for a good reason, people will automatically think he is a total p***y and not masculine enough. If you are a guy and you cry, even in front of your own family, they will likely tell you to re-assert yourself as a male by Chinese standards (which I take as a form of bullying) before giving you any sort of comfort. Even if they do give you comfort, they might still think that he is downright weak. No one likes a cry baby, but if a culture restricts freedom of expression just because of one's gender, it is simply unreasonable and inhumane.
Winston Wu noted in his article that it is very inappropriate to speak against the opinion of the group, even if you know what everyone else believes is misleading. Consider this. If you were the only person who could see while all the others you are travelling with had blindfolds on their eyes and were about to reach the edge of a cliff, you have a responsibility to tell them that they are going in the wrong direction. Is that reasonable? However, if you tell them, they will see you as being selfish and an outcast. This is due to the Chinese belief that group harmony is to be held above right or wrong. Personally, I feel extremely repressed and frustrated in these situations.
B) Working and doing business in China
I've noticed that typical Chinese people love to work overtime, even if they are stable financially. This brings me back to the last section, where I pointed out that when it comes to acquiring money, typical Chinese and other East Asians never know when to stop or at least take a break.
What most Westerners and even Westernized Asians do not realize is that while the people you come across in mainland China may seem to be very relaxed and easygoing in front of you, when it comes to making money, they can be nothing less than simply relentless. Why? It is because for most people in mainland China, besides making money and fulfilling obligations, they barely have a life for themselves. They are unable and unwilling to expand their mind for artistic, philisophical, and spiritual pursuits, always thinking that these are unrealistic and a waste of time. What surprises me even more is that they are actually content this way, thinking their behavior is honorable, while in fact it is slowly killing them. One of my original quotes is: "If you kill a man, the law will condemn you. If you try to kill yourself, then you condemn yourself."
I am understanding of the people who make average or below average incomes in China, but what often frustrates and annoys me is their inability to see beyond their financial situation, always grumbling things like "I am so poor, so useless" and constantly in a state of anxiety just because they think they could make more money. Trust me, these are not people who live in poverty and really need our help, but people who make enough money that do not know how to live life, trapping themselves in their own cycle of misery and low self-esteem.
Whether you want to get a good job in China or want to start your own business, the key word here is "guanxi" (关系), or connections. Suppose two people were applying for the same position at a major company, with Person A being very talented but not having social connections, versus Person B who is much less talented but knows people with status. In 60-70% of cases, Person B would have an almost decisive edge over Person A. Due to this system of finding social connections, many people in China find ways to use one other. Personally I was taught by my mother not to associate with people who would have no practical benefit to me, or people that I cannot use. Anyone that thinks this way deserves to have someone else's middle finger stuck up their ass.
As a result, developing true and lasting friendships is very rare and difficult. Your friend one day could start breaking off his relationship with you when he begins to realize that you are of no practical value to him when it comes to achieving his own ambitions. Your buddy who sits across from you at the cafe may be chatting with you and smiling at you, but you may never know what agenda he may possess, and how he could potentially use the friendship you share with him to exploit you sooner or later.
C) Dating and marriage
In ancient China, the primary purpose of marriage was to have children and to establish connections between families. Marriages were almost always arranged by parents, often with the help of a matchmaker who used superstition to predict compatibility between two people. It was quite often the case that the two partners would be total strangers before engagement. Now some of you who are more naive may think that it could lead to many "love at first sight" scenarios, but I doubt many of you in the modern world would agree to marry someone you just met and hardly took any time to know for yourself.
21st century China already allows males and females to find their own partners, called "自由恋爱", translated as having the freedom to pursue romantic relationships. However, the reality may not be so simple. Even in modern day China, parents still have a decisive influence on who their child chooses as boyfriend or girlfriend, doing all they can to make their children think that whoever they prefer is the best. What's sad is that the children will often obey their parents like sheep, ditching their original partner who in 85% of all cases is the one that has real affection for them. Just watch some Asian TV dramas and you will get a good idea. I've often heard Chinese parents tell their kids that they can date whoever they want as long as the other partner genuinely loves them. My friends, do not let the word "genuine" fool you when it comes to dealing with potential in-laws who are the typical Chinese type.
In fact, "genuinely loves you" has two hidden meanings, which are: Submitting to the needs of your future in-laws no matter how unreasonable they are, and having a house, a car, and a big bank account. The worst part here is that parents will do all they can to influence their children to think this way when dating, and it is only a matter of time before the woman starts either making these demands or letting you recognize them in a more subtle way.
I've dated quite a few mainland Chinese women (born, raised, and currently living in mainland China), and I can say that they are extremely materialistic. Most will pretend to be friendly to you and do everything they can to make you think that they love you for the person you are, but as time goes on their true nature gradually becomes more evident.
For many mainland Chinese women including university students, seducing and getting hooked up with a rich man is the gateway to eternal security (or as many think) because they are often too unintelligent to do anything for themselves. If they think they have no more to get from the man or fall out of favor, they will simply move on to seduce someone else with a large wallet. I know a woman whose first marriage was to a successful businessman who was a womanizer, did drugs, and often physically abused her, but she stayed in that marriage for 5 years. Now, after she fell out of favor and was divorced by the man, she found a guy who actually loved her, but she paid him no attention because he did not have a car. All of this may sound frightening, but I tell you, it is true all across China and in other parts of East Asia. Pretty much any guy that comes from a fairly wealthy family that is looking for true love has to find some way to cover up their background in order to see whether the female wants them for who they are or for other things. There are gold diggers everywhere, but East Asia seems to be one of their main breeding grounds.
Many families are desperate to marry their daughters into rich households, even when they themselves are well off. This is because most want to uphold status, that in the end, they should only associate with people from their own walk of life. What's unbelievable is that the daughters are often willing to do so even at the cost of being unable to find their true love. Even today, dating someone of a lower social class is considered a shame, as it violates the imperative Chinese principle of "门当户对."
What also irritates me is that typical Chinese women may appear to intelligent and on their own, but when it comes to whatever their parents plan for them regarding romance, they are too frightened to not show filial piety, even when they themselves think that it may not be the best for themselves. I once dated a mainland Chinese woman 6 years my senior, expecting her to think for herself and be independent due to her maturity in age. Our relationship went very well for a couple of months, until one day she suddenly called me and told me that she was gonna break up with me, as her parents found another guy for her back in her hometown, one that she barely even knew. I took a stand for myself and did all I could to keep her. The woman admitted that she might never be able to find a better guy than me, but she would not risk failing to fulfill her obligation as a daughter by disobeying her parents. I responded by telling her that she should be able to make decisions as an individual, but it did not work. You see, the strange thing about the Chinese / Confucian mentality is that individuality and freedom of thought are seen as childish and selfish, while the loss of personal desire for independence and the almost religious devotion towards job and family are seen as signs of maturity. To typical Chinese, "leave and cleave" is simply out of question.
Winston Wu wrote in his article that divorce among oriental couples is very low, but I must disagree with him. Typical Chinese couples have lost the original essence of marriage, which is the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual union between a man and a woman based on mutual love and friendship. Instead, due to the Chinese mindset which strains the enjoyment of life, marriage to many couples has become a chore. Many broken couples stay in marriage for the sake of the kids. You may argue that they have no time due to their responsibilities and duties, but that is just another blatant excuse trying to find justification for the majority of typical Chinese people who are unwilling to have a life of their own besides whatever is expected of them. In the end, it all comes down to money, kids, and extended family. And when problems arise in these, the couples, especially younger ones, have pretty much nothing left to share, resulting in divorce. To me, the Chinese take on marriage is flawed and primitive.
What a typical Chinese woman says she wants in a guy and the kind of guy that she ends up with could be totally different. It is because she realizes that in the end, it is about the approval of family and society. It is often the same for typical Chinese males. Many will try to find a cover for their timidity by saying things like: "Oh, I was young", but the truth is that they are too afraid to pursue what they really want when they anticipate that everyone else is going to stick up their noses. This is another demonstration of the oppressive and conformist vibes in Chinese society. Freedom is not encouraged, but is seen as a sign of immaturity and disregard for the existing order.
Wu said that Taiwanese women are not good to have intelligent conversations with, and I must say that although mainland Chinese women (born, raised, in China) may appear to be intellectual and a bit mysterious in front of you, the more you get to know them or even marry them, the more you realize that their core is still down-to-earth and simply not designed for intellectual and spiritual pursuits. When it comes to having more meaningful conversations, I find myself getting along with Westerners and Asians who are Westernized and well travelled far better than those who have never been outside of their own country in East Asia.
However, even many overseas Chinese are still very chauvinistic and make rigorous efforts to preserve the Confucian tradition. On the other hand, many mainland Chinese men do not know how to live life and are content being just another fish in the stream of the society. I've talked to many overseas Chinese women who said that they would never date or marry a mainland Chinese guy, because they are too pragmatic, too boring, do not have mental/emotional strength or intellect, and simply lack the charisma which is developed when an individual challenges the world.
A typical mainland Chinese man normally shys away from intellectual and able women, although they may say that they prefer someone intelligent. The reason is because they fear that the woman will challenge their position as head of the household. This is especially evident in northeast Chinese men, who in 90% of cases totally dominate their wives and treat them in a derogatory, almost inhuman manner. Traditional mainland Chinese wives can be vey submissive and rarely or never speak up to their husband even when they feel abused, while the younger ones today which have a personality can be very twisted and manipulative in one or several ways, or just spoiled.
D) Chinese parenting
Had Amy Chua not published her book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", I doubt that many non-Asians would understand the horrors of typical East Asian parenting. Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, I have first hand experience with what would be considered child abuse by many in Western countries.
Starting from a young age, Chinese children are enrolled in all sorts of extracurricular activities as well as tutoring. This begins before the age where children can think for themselves, with parents grasping the opportunity to tell their children that participation in these activities is necessary for them to be considered "superb kids". Some of the popular activities are playing musical instruments (normally the piano or violin), drawing, dance, and perhaps athletics. When I was growing up, I played the piano, took art lessons, played basketball, swam, learned rollerskating, as well as taekwondo and hapikdo for a while. Looking back, I was too young and too weak to say "no", even when I knew all these activities were taking a toll on me. Young Chinese children are taught to be subservient and show filial piety, willing to obey their parents even when they personally suffer from high levels of stress, discomfort, and in many cases anger towards their parents. Such anger is often turned into wrath directed against society when these kids grow up.
A case demonstrating the destructive power of typical East Asian parenting and how it breeds resentment in the child is the case of a young man who ran over a young woman with his car while on the road and fearing having to pay reparations, took out a knife and stabbed her to death instead. The young man, who was a student studying piano at a prestigious music academy, did not show any remorse in the immediate aftermath. When he was finally taken to court and confessed his crime, he mentioned how he was brought up being forced to practice the piano, enduring both verbal and physical abuse from his parents when he made a mistake or was unwilling to practice. He told the court that he hated his parents, and requested a death sentence rather than seeing them again. It was only then that his parents broke down in tears and finally realized the impact of what they had done.
Asides from forcing their children to participate in many extracurricular activities from a young age, typical Chinese parents (as well as many Korean parents) force their kids to attend extensive academic tutoring, always fearing that their child will be totally inferior as an individual compared to everyone else if they are not pressured early on. Normally it is a combination of Chinese, English, and mathematics as well as physics and chemistry for middle/high school students. These classes are often held during weekends and holidays, a total blow to the child's freedom. Weekends and holidays should be an escape from school and work, given fully to leisure and rest. By sending these children to academic concentration camps when they are supposed to relax, I describe it as a grueling and devastating assault to the nervous system. What's somewhat surprising to me is that the higher the expectations placed on these children, the better they tend to perform by giving pressure and stress to themselves, often motivated solely by the fear of failure and disgrace. In psychology, this kind of behavior is very similar to the Pygmalion effect. This is yet another example of the tight and repressive East Asian mentality.
Typical Chinese parents believe that since they have given up so much for their children, or as many think they have, that their kids owe a lifetime to them. Although a lof them try to sound nice by telling others that they just want their children to be happy, the Chinese definition of happiness can be summed up as: Fulfilling Confucian obligations and being able to compete in society. To me, the purpose of our earthly life is to recognize that we were created as individuals with our own heart, body, and soul, and realize who we are by enjoying it as long as it is not too sinful (no one is sinless). Being a Christian, I know that this life is only temporary, and what we should really be looking to is eternal life. Apart from my faith, I believe that if I cannot go my own path and be just another pawn of the culture during my earthly existence, I might as well have never been born. Forgive me, but I don't like to give a ****.
A common tactic that typical East Asian parents use to manipulate and control their children is the guilt trip. In a nutshell, it is when parents use their authority to blame their child for doing something wrong and making the child feel bad for it, while in fact it is often the parents that have their own problems to fix. An example would be: "你这么做, 你怎么对得起我们父母?! 难道你一点孝心都没有吗?" (By doing this, how can you not feel sorry for us parents?! Do you have any filial piety?). Chinese parents think that using their children as emotional sponges is justified, because they believe the child has to respect them no matter what. My emotionally and verbally abusive mother makes me have first-hand experience. I've seldom seen an East Asian parent ever say "sorry" to their child, as no matter how they deny it, they see their children as inferiors in all aspects. The sad thing here is, no one in China considers this as immoral because it is an accepted part of tradition. In a Western country, the child could call Children's Aid or a similar organization protecting the rights of the underaged.
Another fond tactic is making threats to the child. Some common ones and ones that I've personally experienced include "If you do not do this, you are not my good child anymore" (如果你不这么做, 你就不是我的乖孩子) and "if you dare to be such and such, I will kick you out of the house" (如果你敢这样, 我就把你扫地出门!) or even worse, "I will be a stranger to you" (我就当的陌生人). I cannot believe that a culture with over 5000 years of history still sees such methods of bullying as acceptable. Most Chinese and East Asian parents do not realize how much this hurts the child, and that it could lead to the exact opposite of the desired effect, which is to get the child to behave according to the parent's wishes. You see, many typical Chinese parents were brought up being insulted in such ways by their own parents, and carry on these things when raising their own children. If only more would understand that such methods are often used to express someone's own feelings of anger and disgust by taking it onto others. This relates back to the problem of most Chinese not having a productive mind by spending time on cultivating themselves intellectually, artistically, emotionally, and spiritually.
When it comes to university majors, typical Chinese parents normally have a few in mind: Medicine, Business or Public Management, Finance, Economics, Political Science, Engineering, or the research sciences. In most cases, any major outside of these few is unthinkable. I remember my mother telling me that "if you do not become a businessman with money or a politician with status, you will not be considered a true man." Such statements show utter contempt for 95% of the world's population, and anyone who believes this deserves to have a nail driven into his head. It is an almost divinely bestowed honor to the parents and to the clan if the child is successful by society's standards. In order to ensure this type of success, typical Chinese parents often use negative reinforcement to make their child feel ashamed, hoping to see some sort of self-motivation in the child. "If you do not have x and y, you will be considered an outcast with no respect from anyone", "when you grow up, you will have no friends, your kids and your wife will trample over you", "you will be poor and miserable", "do you want to be jsut an average person?" etc. I must admit that for those children who have already been brainwashed by these dogmas, negative reinforcement can actually work. However, for me, this is nothing short of abuse.
A major problem that many would hate to admit is that like most Chinese people in general, the majority of Chinese parents have no life of their own. They live their own lives through the children, taking every chance available to let their children conform to their standards and share in their misery. I would say 60-70% of them have emotional and psychological issues that need the help of a professional psychiatrist, but even the world's best psychiatrist will be useless if the patient refuses to acknowledge that he or she is totally trapped and troubled by a mentality such as the East Asian one.
Even when the children are maturing well, the parents still try to exert paramount influence over pretty much every detail of the children's lives. This often becomes a co-dependent relationship where the parents cannot face the reality of their offspring's independence, while the kids are so taught to behave like sheep that feel obligated to obey their shepherds at every point. When I was well into my teenage years, I was treated like a baby by my family, and it felt anything but good. In fact, it was degrading. Typical East Asian parents are especially freaked out when their teenage children start experimenting with romantic relationships, viewing it as a sin.
The most common reason they give is that it will affect their studies, but the deeper reason is that the parents are afraid that they will lose their child to someone else. This type of obsessive control extends to normal friendships as well. In further regard to the child's own social relationships, Chinese parents can be extremely judgmental, always finding reasons about why their child should stop seeing whoever they enjoy hanging out with. Some of these reasons can be valid at times, but most are out of pure bias. I believe that teens should be encouraged to form their own relationships. Learning to socialize is a necessary skill in life, and the best way to learn it is to make conclusions for yourself. Parents should offer advice and guidance, but the East Asian ones are taking it too far to the point of screwing things up.
What annoys me the most about typical Chinese parents is that they always love to compare their child to others, often labeling their own child as inferior in one way or another compared to their peers or even to adults. Unlike over 95% of parents in the world who genuinely feel proud of their kids and let them know it, Chinese and East Asian parents express this through constant criticism. They believe that constant criticism is a sign of love and affection, while research has proven that using such methods can greatly hurt the child's self-esteem and courage. Some common points to pick on are grades, extracurricular achievements, looks and body shape, trivial flaws, small mannerisms, individuality (which equals selfishness in their eyes), and the refusal to follow tradition. I must say that if any parent who has a more than decent child not only fails to appreciate their own child, but aims to justify their own efforts to hurt their child, such people are really the ones that do not fit to be parents, or to be more extreme, are worse than animals and deserve to be abandoned to their fate if their children grow up ignoring them.
Although corporal punishment is seen as inhumane by Western standards and is not particularly encouraged by the Chinese law, it is still widely practiced in China as part of tradition. The Chinese saying that justifies corporal punishment is: "黄金棍, 出好人", or "the golden rod of punishment makes a person good." The rod in this case is normally referring to corporal punishment. A friend of mine got a bad report card and was whipped by his dad using leather belts, leaving marks on his buttocks that remained for a long time. There have been several studies indicating that people who suffer severe corporal punishment during their childhood often turn out to be just as violent and exert the same level of brute force on their own children and spouses.
To conclude this section, I must point out that there are always exceptions to what I have written and noticed, but trust me, my observations represent the very vast majority. For all of you out there who are suffering due to having typical Chinese/East Asian parents but have never dared to find out the truth, perhaps you can get some insight from me. Trust me, I may be opinionated at times, but I'm really saying this for your own benefit.
E) The Chinese education system
Chinese children normally begin school at the age of 7, a year later than in Canada. Elementary school is from Grade 1-6 (ages 7-12), middle school is from Grades 7-9 (ages 13-15), and high school is from Grade 10-12 (ages 16-18).
The Chinese education system (as well as most other education systems around the world) is based on a rigorous system of testing and examinations. From a young age, children are pressured by their parents and society that if they do not get good results, it is shameful and dishonorable not only for themselves, but for the family. Getting good grades is seen by typical Chinese parents (and East Asian) as part of filial piety. Don't get me wrong, they may never admit this, but deep down inside they believe (to varying extents) that their children owe them these good grades because they have given so much as parents, or as many of them believe.
Why all the fuss over grades? An obvious reason is that one needs to have good results to enter a good university or college (which basically is your only gateway to getting a good job in cities), but the fuss begins WAY before the age where children are even supposed to be seriously thinking about higher education. Schools have evolved into arenas of vicious competition where grades are sources of bitterness, shame, and jealousy among students, in many cases comprising the whole of their self-esteem.
You will not know this unless you really take time to observe the Chinese education system. Many Chinese schools put up exam scores on the walls for everyone to see, ranking the students from top to bottom. These scores are often favorite topics of discussion. With such heavy pressure, it should come as no surprise that Chinese students often suffer from depression.
Going back to what I have stated in the previous sections, most Chinese people are eager to demonstrate themselves, yet they rarely have any sort of individuality. Therefore, all they can hope for is to satisfy their own egos by trying to beat one another in the narrow list of things they have in their practical mindset, rather than fostering their own uniqueness and finding their own interests/pursuits apart from everyone else. This is the way that over 90% have been brought up by their parents, and how their parents were brought up as well.
And finally...... Chinese religion
A) I see no point in praying to statues and idols, in fact it is clearly condemned by Scripture
B) I am being forced by my famiyl to follow rituals such as ancestor worship and go to Buddhist pilgrimage retreats with them
C) China's religion is Buddha+Confucius+Taoism+Materialism and greed. So perverted and wicked.
Alright, these are my observations. Like TW, most people are politically correct about mainland China and always say "it's a good place", but they do not go into too much detail. I do admit that I can be opinionated and biased, but what I'm telling you is true in more than 90% of cases. It is unlikely that you will find such a perspective anywhere else.
For anyone (especially Asian and East Asian in ethnicity) who wants to know these truths but never had the courage to do so, I hope this provides a lot of insight, because all of this is for your own benefit.
Even with all of China's problems, I would still live in China over the U.S. any day of the week! I know that sounds crazy, but that's just what I did--and I'm a Korean American.
You can complain about China all you want, but would you want to go back to Canada or the U.S. and be treated like dirt because of your race?
I don't disagree with anything you wrote--and I wish there was a country in Asia that had the best qualities and mix of values between East and West--but that country doesn't exist, unfortunately. The closest maybe the Philippines--and that country is mired in poverty and corruption. Still, many Westerners choose to live in that country over the U.S.--as some of the forum members on HappierAbroad have done!
I also despise the materialism and the selfishness among Asians (whether they be Koreans, Chinese or Indians) but you think Westerners are any better in that regard?
Eventually, I think I will settle in Thailand because I feel that is the country that I feel the most comfortable in--anywhere in Asia. I think Northeast Asia is becoming a little too similar to the U.S. in both attitude and behavior, unfortunately. But I still like that region over the U.S. any day-of-the-week.
I appreciate what you have said, and must tell you that I actually DO prefer China over US and Canada. At least China still has its own culture. zboy, I've told you before that don't be discouraged and come to China. In the end, you have to see for yourself and what I've told you is only the surface. I might also end up settling down in SE Asia, preferably Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, or Malaysia. I woudln't go to Singapore because it is too expensive to live there and it's also conformist/repressive from what I've been told by Singaporean friends.
You are a Korean-American but another Asian who thinks very much the same way like I do, so please forgive me of what I'm about to say next. Where I live in Beijing, there are many, many Koreans (from Korea). To be honest, I think they are loud, arrogant, and only mix with their own people as they believe everyone else to be inferior. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that Korean-Koreans are xenophobic deep down inside and are even more conformist than China.
I'm actually beginning to see China (PRC) as having a mix of old and new, being in a transition stage from the past to the modern age. This is evident by the increasing individuality of China's youth (which is good). However, deep down inside most CHinese are still like or similar to what I have described in my overly long post.
On the bright side, there are many places in China that are starting to open up, and there are places where you get a very good vibe. I'd still highly recommend China as being a place to live in, because of its exotic and appealing culture that's worthy of studying. Again, you should form your own conclusions, but any place has its ups and downs.
Finally, I believe you should ocnsider dating/marrying a Chinese girl. However, go for the older ones that are more educated and down to earth. The younger ones nowadays are like American/Canadian/UK women.
The younger generation Chinese/Korean/Japanese girls (all of which I've known) are becoming more and more like US and Canadian girls. I perceive them to be loud, immature, shallow, materialistic, or just simply b*****s if you excuse me for being brutally honest. They have this inflated opinion of themselves that they are the center of the universe, and that they have the right to be spoiled like princesses.
The women I find the most attractive all seem to be at least 25 years of age, because most of the ones younger than that simply cannot match me in intellect. For an update on my article, now many high school girls in China go out and try to seduce rich men.
One time on Chinese TV I saw a mother who took her 18 year old daughter in high school to this millionaire who was holding a grand event to find his future wife. Basically all the candidates had to go through a rigorous series of tests conducted by all sorts of professionals, ranging from measuring height, foot size, shoe size, testing domestic skills, psychological tests, interviews, and a bunch of other stages they had to go through.
When I saw that particular mother and daughter, I was like: "Whoa! The mom has lost her mind!" Her daughter hesitated and I could tell she was forced to go. When the news reporter asked the mom why she wanted to marry her daughter to a man she never even met (and at such a young age), the mother replied: "Sooner or later she is gonna go on this path", by which she meant marrying someone rich.
I read every word. I find it fascinating, and it confirms what I keep seeing here in China. Has China been this materialistic and greedy since ancient times? It's going down a ruinous path, and at least where I am, it looks like it is trying to imitate America. The culture seems very self-destructive. It may have only worked thus far because the culture, language, and history are already conformist by nature. Ambition is not a bad thing, but what the culture values is not freedom but locking oneself into a predetermined life; money and material acquisition over freedom; schooling over education. (Although the schools do teach a lot of math, physics, and chemistry - I've seen it with my own eyes.)
I see it reflected at my job as well: people staying longer than they have to, pointless office hours even after your work is done, and an emphasis on not missing a single minute of class time. It's frustrating and I'm already mentally clocked out of this place. It's still better socially than the U.S., but it means little to me since I'm not interested in dating here and I sure as hell would never marry here.
I hope you'll stay around HA, Bao. You have great, informative insights.
A helpful guide:
Expatriation Apocalypse! The Guide to Expatriation for the Broke and Hopeless (Kindle)
Expatriation Apocalypse! (Paperback)
Damn Bao. That was very long. I hope you don't mind, but I reformatted your long post to look better and organized the line spacing in it. I also gave it a better title since your title was too dull, generic and short.
You should publish that somewhere as an essay. Have you?
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"It takes far less effort to find and move to the society that has what you want than it does to try to reconstruct an existing society to match your standards." - Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
Thank you for taking the time to write down this information for all of us. It's always good to get information from someone that is in a country for several years and who has a lot of experience with it's people.
I agree that the young "Princess Syndrome" is spreading throughout the world like wildfire. If a country is connected in any way to the rest of the world, that countries young women will be exposed to it.
I think it would be hard for a foreigner who does not speak the language to be able to REALLY understand anyone's true intentions. They would not REALLY know the girl they are interested in and they can't know that girls parents either.
So much could be commented on as you covered so much. Overall...great info and very helpful.
No. You can have whatever relationship, physical or emotional with a partner without marriage, but the act of marriage itself is a civil and/or religious covenant (a binding agreement) authorized by authority. The authority can be a civil judge, a religious Priest, or the parents to grant consent, as described in the Book of Genesis. When Jacob wanted to marry Rachael, he had to seek permission from Laban and agree to work for 7 years in exchange.
Marriage as a covenant grants legitimacy to sexual relations, offspring, and property/inheritance rights. Families that arrange marriage for purpose of building alliances, like nobility in the past, are rare as most families do not have the wealth or power to make it meaningful. Thus, in a typical East Asian marriage, the parents from both families only meet infrequently at banquets & funerals.
While much has been said about the marriage issues in China, I think some of the material prerequisites, such as having a roof over your head, is natural and normal. What is not normal is the price of real estate, which is a different can of worms. We could be living with tribals who chuck spears and live in huts, and the fathers would still want their daughters to marry a man who can bring home the bacon and build a strong hut. The said father would also not want a disobedient daughter to fall for a "bad boy" from another village who can play the flute well but can't hunt or build huts.
All religions start as heresy, and in time pass into history as mythology. But some things, such as the parent's desire for their daughter to "marry well", and keeping their daughters away from guys who want to "pump and dump" will likely remain for the rest of human history. If I were Laban, I'd make d@mn sure that whoever wants to marry my daughters knew how to herd sheep.
I believe China has a culture that is focused on materialism and the acquisition of wealth since ancient times. This is reflected in the fact that many deity figures, most notably the God of Fortune, are all worshipped for the hope of getting rich. This has extended to Buddhist figures as well.
A lot of businessmen also worship Guan Yu in their homes. In case you have never heard of him from Dynasty Warriors or anywhere else, he was a Chinese general who lived during the late Han Dynasty and 3 Kingdoms period renowned for his loyalty and ferocity, later being deified to god-like status in the 14th century novel "Romance of the 3 Kingdoms" by Luo Guanzhong.
The Chinese are a pragmatic people, and like to focus on everyday things rather than on artistic and spiritual pursuits. In ancient times, your gateway to success was the imperial examination system, where you could be made a government official if you did well. While quite a few were the bohemian / intellectual type, they were often recuses who detached themselves from society and the culture. China has always seen hard work as a grand virtue, as opposed to personal interests and innate ability / talent.
Guan Yu/Guan Gong is also revered by both cops and triads.
Chinese are prone to superstition and gambling. At least Guan Yu has redeeming quality of honor and brotherhood. In a recent tabloid from Taiwan, I read that someone had built a temple dedicated to Zhu Bajie (the pig from "Journey to the West") because a certain tree carried resemblance to a pig.
The article further claimed that an "average looking" girl working at the night club came to pay respects, and afterwards she became #1 at the club and was later "bao er nai"'d by a wealthy businessmen. She took the businessmen to the temple to pay respects and thanks, and afterwards the businessmen company in China prospered.
After she quit her job to become a mistress, several of her ex coworkers came to her for help, and she brought them to the temple to pray and offer stripper dance to Zhu Bajie. The story goes that Zhu Bajie is lecherous and was being punished from above for his "pump and dump" of girls in the mortal world, so he is confined to a tree and must help women working in the you know what industry to be forgiven. Thus he grants special favors to girls who come to pray and give offerings.
I read the article and, the first thought to mind was "how much did the guy who built the temple pay this writer to write this crap". But hey, he's probably getting lots of female visitors giving him money and free stripper dances.
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Well, like elsewhere in the world, China's history includes periods of great cultural and intellectual expansions, and periods of academic suppression. Compare the "Hundred schools of thought" period to the Qin-era book burning.
If we look back to say, the Zhou Dynasty about 3,000 years ago, a student was required to learn 6 arts: archery, charioteering, calligraphy, music (including dance), math, and rites. When these arts were later turned into Imperial Exams, each art had 5-9 sets of tests. I'll list a few for example:
Archery: must hit and penetrate target with arrow, to show marksmanship and strength of your draw. Must hit target with "short aim" to show that you can rapidly aim, fire, and hit the target.
Charioteering: must show ability to ride chariot on shore near water and not fall in the water. Must show ability to chase prey in hunting from chariot with bow.
Music: this includes knowledge of music, Chinese music notation systems, ability to play music, and ceremonial dances. For example, the "Da Xia' dance is used during ceremonies to pray against flooding. In those days the ceremonial dances were performed by men.
Later, chariots were replaced by horsemanship, and gentlemen arts such as board game (go), painting, string instrument, and poetry were added. During Tang Dynasty the Imperial Exam included original poetry composition. Military arts include archery, horseback archery, horseback spear (lance?), and weight lifting.
Many of these skills are only avail to the nobility and well-off folks who could afford it. Confucius say that a man should cultivate himself to become a gentlemen, but the social requirement to a gentlemen was elitist. It'd be ludicrous to expect a peasant farmer to compose original poetry and perform elaborate ceremonial dances. Over time, most of the artistic subjects were removed from the exams, leaving academic and martial (archery was still tested during Qing Dynasty's Imperial exams).
While we could bemoan the loss of these artistic subjects, and much of the cultural treasures such as traditional dance that were lost over the centuries, it's also important to note that the purpose was to make the Imperial Exam more egalitarian and open to all who could study. During Qing Dynasty they implemented a system of "children's tests" at local county levels, where anyone, including those who are underage could take part in the exams. Those who pass are given monthly pension and admitted to government funded schools.
While this was not modern public education, it did allow anyone to study and have a chance to gain government scholarship, from which the student is sent to academic institute for higher learning and have a chance to take higher-level exams toward government positions. The basic entrance exam is open to all men regardless of your age, and it has been recorded that there were hundred year old men taking the "children's exam". This pre-modern system itself was actually pretty fair, but its application and archaic subjects were long obsolete in the 19th century.
I think one of the major reasons Chinese choose US/Canada/UK is because those countries share materialistic and workaholic values. Also, it is because much of China's exposure to Western media/culture comes from the US/Canada/UK. I hardly see any Chinese person immigrating to Europe (with the exception of the UK). Does anyone know why?
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