Stunningly Stupid Yet Disturbing Materialism Among Chinese Communities

A stack of Money/Picture of money (The followi...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend while conversing with an acquaintance of mine about economy, I mentioned a person who I knew remotely, who saved $350,000 but soon lost majority of it in stock market. Right after I pronounced $350,000, my story was interrupted by this question: “What? 350 thousand you call it ‘rich'”? I looked at him, knowing perfect why he presented such an out of context question, calmly looked at him in the eye and said: “$350,000 is a big number to me.”

Of course, I didn’t have to admit to him that I was “poor”, since it’s so obvious, but my point was to exhibit in front of him, that someone just didn’t mind to admit how “poor” she was. According to current Chinese “fashion”, it’s utmost embarrassing to “uncover” your slim wallet. And I have to add, the “poverty line” set by these riches is very high!

Continue reading “Stunningly Stupid Yet Disturbing Materialism Among Chinese Communities”

“Dam Street” – A Chinese Version Of Oedipus Legend

Cover of "Dam Street"
Cover of Dam Street

Yesterday my friend Marty (aka “nothingprofound”) recommend me a Chinese movie Dam Street (红颜,literally translation: Rouge Face). He claimed that it was very different from other Chinese movies he had watched. I could not wait, found a streaming video online and watched it right away. After watching it I asked Marty what’s the difference. He said that this movie “seemed to be more personal and universal at the same time”. I feel exactly the same way.

As a Chinese American who lived in China for the first 30 years of my life, I feel the same way as my American friend who never lived in China, interesting, isn’t it? I cannot speak for other Chinese people, but for me, this is the only Chinese movie I have ever seen that I would describe as “honest”. From the beginning to the end, there’s nothing pretentious, nothing were hidden or added for any different purposes from the needs of story line.

The story takes place in my hometown Sichuan province, the main character of this movie is about the same age as me, almost the same name as well (except Yun is not my legal name), so both geographic and cultural background are all familiar to me personally. Further more, the movie was shot in Sichuan dialect (or Sichuanese), which made it sounds more genuine to me than those made in Mandarins (maybe this is personal judgment, that I always feel the mandarin has “phoniest” accent among all Chinese dialects). The geographic environment is in some small town in Sichuan province, shabby and dirty. To my “horror”, first time I saw “traditional” Chinese public restroom on screen (even just one shot, the “horror” cannot be missed). The brutal scene of killing of eels for meal brought me back to those days of my early life. The genuine touch on sexual life is refreshing, especially the boy’s sexual fantasy, which was, and still is a “taboo” in Chinese culture.

Of course, all these details are not as important as the story itself. It is about a teenager girl who gets pregnant when she is 16, and since then her fate is somehow “defined”, not by herself, but by unseen fate. The story reminds me classic legend of Oedipus, the one from ancient Greece. How interesting it is, that we humans with such different cultures always embark the same voyage in this giant ocean of human life, from time to time, places to places.

This movie premiere was in Venice, won several awards which were not so recognizable. Not sure it’s ever screened in China (I talked to my nephew in China and he said he never heard of it). Of course, this is not a surprising treat for a movie without famous actors and actresses, or famous director. However, I am profoundly moved by this movie, and I hope it continues striving for recognition. I also hope the director Li Yu will continue making movies like this, provide the world more truthful images of “modern” China.

Institutional Child Abuse In China

I always think, that child abuse is the number 1 problem in China. But, no matter how serious I think it is, the facts never failed to stun me. Based on recently news, there are some new type of “schools” in China, which I never heard of before, called “correctional schools” or “correctional camps”, where kids are sent there for the purpose of correcting their bad behaviors, such as obsession with online, etc. Not sure if the concept was actually adopted from elsewhere. During training period, parents were usually forbidden to contact with schools (more ridiculously, many parents granted this rules). The consequence is, children were serious abused (mental and physical) and some of them died.

One girl in this news died by corporal punishment, with was common in this “school” (Zhengzou New Concept Combating school, 郑州新观念搏强学校), called “back crashing” (后倒): several “teachers” held kids’ limbs who were face up, and hit the bodies to ground repeatedly. Sorry, I don’t feel like continuing for the details. I guess you all get idea what’s the consequence.

Yet, still majority of Chinese people do not think this is a problem. There is something serious serious wrong with that nation. Call me paranoid!

No, I Am Not Grateful To My Parents


I am the master of my fate: I am the captain o...
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. (Photo credit: Aristocrats-hat)

Every once in awhile there were always people telling me, or implying to me, that I should be grateful to my profession, naturally, grateful to my parents, for at least I could make living by doing portraits or teaching art. But NO, I am NOT grateful to my profession, nor to my parents, because 1, if I were, I grant what my parents did to me, and  that’s something I would never ever do, simply because child abuse is wrong; 2, making living never was a problem to me, and if it appeared to be once or twice, art was precisely the cause, not the solution.

My fighting to get away with art profession was not because of my resentment to my parents (if it was, it’s only during the moments when I was extremely weak, which I openly admit, because I am human), but my clear “knowledge” of myself. Since very young age, I knew what kind of intelligence I had and what kind of person I wanted to be. My current “negotiate” with art profession is just a temporary refugee, due to my middle age health “disaster”, which lasts more than a decade. This “negotiation” doesn’t mean I have given up my “dream”, neither it means I would feel miserable if I cannot reach my “dream”. I found peace with myself and my fate, include the fighting part – which means I would still fight whenever I can.

Talking about gratitude, there are lots of things in my life I feel grateful for, but mostly, I feel extremely grateful and lucky for my positive nature, which was the reason I survived from a extremely “sick” and poisonous family, and still be able to love life. I am also grateful for being able to living in this country, where I could live freely, think and talk freely. And there are lots more, which are not necessary to be mentioned in this short post.

Another day we had discussion in BC about what’s the mantra for life, here is mine: know what you want, try your best to get it, and if you fail, find peace with it, but never give up without a try (fight).

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“Even Chinese Children Won’t Get Up That Early!”

Child on New Year's Day
Child on New Year’s Day (Photo credit: ROSS HONG KONG)

When Michelle Obama gave speech in Qinhua university during her visiting China just a while ago, she mentioned that she had to work very hard in college, sometime got up at 5 o’clock in the morning. This remark surprised lots of Chinese young students, and one of them posted a Weibo (similar to twitter) message like this: “Even Chinese children don’t get up that early.”

What does this message mean? It means that in China, children’s working hard, enduring stress is something most Chinese people take it for granted!

I have written enough articles about this subject (in Chinese) so I don’t feel like to repeat. And I think the above message already speaks for itself, showing what children’s life in China is like.

P.S. The image happened to be a little funny. I meant to find a serious one, but this one is too cute to ignore. I trust her not to take her parents’ and future teachers’ cr*p!

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Disappointment And A “Period”! — My Battle With Confucianism Is About to End

Wang Xiang (Osho) ice fishes for mother's meal
Wang Xiang (Osho) ice fishes for mother’s meal (Photo credit: Claremont Colleges Digital Library)

It has been frustrating. After I initiated two blogs and one facebook page for Su Li’s Day (a day for remembering a girl who was tortured to death by her own mother, also for all child abuse victims in China), a netizen friend suggested that I should write a petition (a joint signed letter) to legislature in China, to appeal for actions in Chinese government to concern this issue, to establish a more executable law and some organizations for children’s protection. I thought this was such a great idea. Though I knew this may not work out, I wrote a draft nonetheless, just to see how far this could go. However, after I posted the draft in the forum of CND (Chinese News Digest) and another Chinese popular website, asking for advices or suggestions, and support (by sending me their “signatures”, basically just names), the responses were very disappointing. Only a few people responded, most of suggestions were neither geniune, nor relevant. And needless to mention some of them were scornfully discouraging. Even though dozens of people supported the idea before I made draft, only two people sent me their signatures after 3 days since I posted draft.

In 2011, some school activity: washing parents’ feet. Serving
parents (like “slaves”) is the primary teaching of Confucianim.

Personally, I do not believe China has much hope from within. If we want to see some progress in humanity in this society, some fundamental cultural ideology has to be changed, even eliminated, but very few Chinese people would agree on this view. Many people (include some none-Chinese) might see China appears to be very strong now, but please be aware, that the recently decade of soaring economy was promoted by international markets, together with all imported technologies. Under such glowing surface, the disparity of rich and poor, the degeneration of morality accelerated by the same speed of economy rising. And for solving moral problem, again, Chinese society turned to Confucianism, an ancient outdated yet lifeless ideology based on ancestor worship. This ideology was superficially “destroyed” by Mao, especially during Cultural Revolution, but after economy “prospered” during recent couple of decades, Confucianism not only did not weakened, but revived. I was saddened a few days ago when I heard that “24 Filial Piety Exemplars”, a notorious traditional Chinese moral teaching text, virtually nothing more than a book of child abuse, again appears in some elementary schools’ textbooks in China.

After being disappointed by all of these, I realized, that this open letter I drafted, which nonetheless will be read by some people, would be a “period” of my over ten years serious thinking about this subject – how the widely spread child abuse in China relates to Chinese tradition. As an individualist, I have no interest, nor energy to involve in any social activities, writing this petition letter was completely motivated by my own personal conscience. And I am fully aware of that this petition will be like a water drop in ocean, soon disappears without any trace of it. I am just fine with that, because I understand, when facing such a stubborn tradition, the real solution lies in collective effort. And if the society doesn’t make any effort, or if the collective effort went to wrong direction, the solution would have to rely on some natural/historical mechanism, which doesn’t always favor human-interest (if you know what I am talking about).

Yes, I am disappointed, but not personally unhappy, because my interest will move on, from this “Chinese problem”, to some much more fascinating “human problems”. (Oh boy, I am certainly not a problem solver, but a problem finder. :-))


*The illustration above is one of 24 Filial Piety Exemplars which tells a (adult) son lying down on icy surface of river, using his body temperature to thaw the ice, in order to get fishes for his mother to eat. So please don’t be fooled by the beautiful art style, the content is sticky!

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