Posts Tagged ‘Chinese culture’

Modernization Needs Culture 现代化需要文化

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I visited Paris and Madrid recently, and after a few museums and historical buildings it looks to me like medieval European culture by the 1100’s was every bit as advanced as Chinese culture of the time if not more advanced! We’ve all been misled by those mistaken comparisons of the primitive castles of the Medieval kings with the grandiose imperial palaces of China of the same era, and come to the erroneous conclusion that culturally the Europeans have been far behind China until the 1700’s. Not so: the grandeur of Medieval Europe is not to be found in the kings’ abodes, but in the cathedrals and religious monuments. The proper comparison should be made between say, the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, which was at the time “the parish church of Europe’s kings”, and the contemporaneous Song Dynasty imperial palace of the 1100’s. The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral wins in terms of technology: it’s far taller, and it’s got all those huge, gorgeous stained glass windows!

最近去了巴黎和马德里,看了好几处博物馆和文物建筑,发现到了1100年左右,中世纪的欧洲文化已经跟当时的中国看齐,还可能有过之无不及!不适当的比较误导了我们,把中世纪欧洲国王们原始的城堡跟同时代中国皇帝们的威煌宫殿比较,得到了错误的结论,以为欧洲文化比中国落后很多,一直到了1700年代才追上。其实,中世纪欧洲的辉煌并不在国王的住所,而是在大教堂和宗教建筑物。适当的是,以当时是“欧洲各国国王的御用教堂”即巴黎圣母大教堂,跟同时代即1160年代的宋朝皇宫比较。巴黎圣母大教堂则胜于科技:教堂高度高很多,又有那么多巨大华丽的彩色玻璃窗!

Sigh! So many “China scholars” tell us that Europeans had no culture; they just somehow came into possession of some better ships and some guns some time starting around the 1500’s, and then they conquered the world on that! Not true at all! No, they had a lot more, they had a deep, high culture based on Christianity, just like China used to have a deep, high culture based on Confucianism. The West hasn’t just been advanced for a couple of hundred years; they have been advanced for 1,000 years! The West’s modernity is deeply based on advanced cultural traditions that stretch back 1,000 years.

唉!很多“中国学专家”告诉我们,欧洲人是没有文化的,不过是1500年代开始,不知怎样的,拿到了比人家好的船只和几枝火枪,就征服世界了!但完全不是这样啊!他们还有很多其他的东西,他们有深厚的、高级的、基于基督教的文化,正如中国以前曾经有深厚的、高级的、基于孔教的文化一样。西方不是先进了仅仅那两百多年,他们先进了一千年了!西方的现代化,是深深地基于一套长达一千年的先进文化传统的。

So this proves to me that the thinking that China can disregard and even throw away all that high culture we’ve had for a couple of thousand years back and just somehow modernize, is wrong. The West has built its modernization upon a foundation of a thousand years of Western high culture; can China build its modernization without the foundation of past Chinese high culture? No, for China to modernize, China needs to come to terms with and embrace its past high culture, then add to it where it’s deficient and build on it where it’s advanced or even superior.

对我来说,这证明了现在以为中国可以不理会、甚至可以抛弃所有自己曾经拥有过几千年的高文化,也仍然能现代化起来的思想,是错误的。西方的现代化是在自己一千年文化的基础上建筑起来的,中国可以不在自己几千年的文化基础上建筑现代化吗?不可以的。中国要现代化,就一定要包容和接纳自己过去的文化,然后有缺陷的地方就填补,有先进或甚至优越的地方就加强。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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Incorporating authentic Chinese culture into Daily Life

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

I’ve been asked by persons of Chinese ethnicity who are born in North America to write about incorporating authentic Chinese culture into daily life here in North America.

Well, the first thing about authentic Chinese culture is what I’ve been blogging about for the last few blogs: xiao, or being good to one’s parents. Traditionally, it also involves being good to one’s ancestors. See my paper on this website, 24 Ways to Carry out Xiao, for ways to be good to one’s parents and ancestors. Also, see The Classic of Xiao, written by one of Confucius’ disciples 2,500 years ago.

Carrying out xiao is the most important way to incorporate authentic Chinese culture into one’s daily life here in North America. In fact, all persons of Chinese ethnicity, no matter where they live, should do that. Actually, one doesn’t have to be of Chinese ethnicity, one can be of any ethnicity, and one should do that—everyone should carry out xiao. Whatever one’s ethnicity, religion, place of birth, etc., there should be no difference: it is only moral, just, civilized, and right that one repay the kindness from one’s parents.

Feng Xin-ming


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Self Esteem

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Happy New Year everyone! Chinese New Year, that is. Being a website promoting Asian culture, it’s only fitting that we start this blog on Chinese New Year’s Day.

There has been a bunch of feedback on the Mulan article. One person writes:
“Something that has struck a chord with me particularly is your noting that Chinese minds have become feeble. Not that they are not intelligent, nor necessarily hardworking. It is more the ability to understand who they are, where they come from, and developing a secure sense of place and life project. I feel a lot of young Chinese people (both in China and ethnic Chinese abroad) lack a deep confidence. And I think the cultural/political turmoil that China has been through in modern history has a lot to do with it.”

I wholeheartedly agree. It is sad, but I think that modern Chinese culture is a culture of inferiority complex, a culture that lacks self esteem.

Look at any Chinese work that deals with history, a historical movie, like “Hero” for example, or a historical soap opera, like the recent “Emperor of the Great Han (Da Ha Tian Zi)” for example. There it’s always shown, with an air of resignation, how the hero, though kind and good-hearted, nonetheless needs to perform some heinous deeds such as killing a loyal subordinate along with his entire family, “for the greater good.” While in Western works the hero may have personal faults, he never has to do anything so criminal as the Chinese “hero.” When the Chinese hero doesn’t have to do anything heinous, he ends up being tragically beaten, as in the recent movie “Huo Yuan Jia.” Sure, “Huo Yuan Jia’s” producers will say, he was never beaten; he had actually beaten the Japanese fighter; he died at the end of the fight only because he was poisoned! But he was still beaten. He was beaten, and China was beaten, in the sense that China had lost its best fighter by far as a result of the match with the Japanese fighter. In the more popular Western movies the hero doesn’t come to that kind of end! Our heroes are definitely inferior to theirs! Boo hoo for self esteem!

The reason that Chinese culture lacks self esteem is the lack of a recognized, affirmed Chinese history, and the lack of a recognized, affirmed set of core values. By the way, I suspect that’s actually common to all non-Western peoples. At any rate, Chinese history is said to be glorious, but if it’s so glorious where have we gone wrong? Why have we been and why are we still so poor and backward? Answers abound, from the Marxist one to the “Blue Culture, Yellow Culture” one to various unconvincing or even outright racist ones. And what are the core values? Confucianism has been thoroughly thrown out the window. The process has started in 1895, when Japan defeats China over Korea and Liang Qi Qiao and Kang You Wei start their campaign to strip the power of the Son of Heaven down to that of a constitutional monarch. The process rises to a fever pitch in 1924 with the cry of “Down with the Confucius Shop!” during the May Fourth Movement. The process ends with the grand finale of the 1966 Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Today much of Mainland China is devoid of traditional Chinese ideals, mores, norms, and traditional Chinese common courtesy. Yet the replacement, the revolutionary ideals, mores and norms of the Marxist class struggle, have also been thrown out. So what core values are we left with? A void.

Look at American history and American core values in contrast. Every American knows that the 1776 Revolution is just and great, the conquest of the continent, Alaska, and Hawaii has been a manifest destiny blessed by Providence, and every war that America has been in has been just and, except for Vietnam and Korea, victorious. As for core values, most Americans rally around freedom, equality and democracy, and most Americans will tell you that the most important thing to possess is love.

Recognizing and reaffirming Chinese history and Chinese core values, i.e. reaffirming Chinese culture, that’s indeed why I’ve started this website.

This is even sadder, but I think the Chinese inferiorty complex has gotten worse, not better. Back in the Sixties and Seventies, though most Chinese, i.e. mainland Chinese, were wrong that communism and Maoism had given China the most advanced social system and China would overtake the West within a generation, at least most Chinese were confident that China was still the Middle Kingldom and the center of the world. Now, it is pretty unanimous that China is backward and significantly behind the West, and worse, no one can figure out a way to catch up soon. The accepted wisdom from Mainland officialdom and mainland scholars of prominence is that it will take another fifty years for China to reach the level of the mid tier income countries, like Brazil and Portugal! As for catching up with the USA, well, that’s not seen anywhere in the future. Sigh! This lack of confidence on the part of Chinese people, young Chinese people included, is going to persist for a while!

Feng Xin-ming


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