Happy Chinese New Year!
Dr. Li-Rong Lilly Cheng
Professor, Communicative Disorders-SDSU;
Assoc. Director, Global Partnership Development, CA State University, San Marcos;
Assoc. Dean, Student Affairs & Int. Dev., SDSU;
Chair, Int. Affairs Board, City of SD;
Chair, Asian Thematic Historic District;
Chair, Mayors' Asian Pacific Islander Advisory Board;
Co-Chair, CA Women's Agenda
Asian Reader Januray-February 2004 Page 11
On January 22 of 2004, Chinese all over the world will be celebrating the Chinese (Lunar) New Year. This tradition has been going on for centuries and San Diego will also be celebrating the Chinese New Year in many ways. On January 24th and 25th, the Chinese New Year Cultural Faire will take place on Third Avenue between Island and J Street. Thousands of San Diegans as well as visitors will join the San Diego Chinese Center and other organizations in celebrating this auspicious occasion. The San Diego Opera will also celebrate the first performance of Turandot which is Puccini’s creation of a story set in Peking with a Chinese New Year celebration.
For those who know about the Chinese and Chinese American history, this is merely a simple review. For those who are not familiar with such background, this article may serve as a reference. In this article, the history, languages, and cultures, including immigration backgrounds of the Chinese population in the United States, as well as cultural variations in world views, values, religious beliefs and practice will be presented.
The Chinese diasporas is not a new phenomenon. Early Chinese immigration was mostly to Southeast Asia and today, the largest overseas Chinese resides in Southeast Asia. Chinese began immigrating to the United States for over two centuries. The earliest records of the arrival of the Chinese were dated from 1785. The Chinese first immigrated to Hawaii and the US mainland. More recently, an influx of Chinese from South East Asia has occurred. Since 1975, thousands of refugees of Chinese origin from Southeast Asia have settled in the United States mainly in California, New York, D.C. and Texas. San Diego has a very large Chinese population from Southeast Asia.
Furthermore, there has been significant growth in the Chinese population in the United States in the last ten years due to immigration from the People’s Republic of China. Recent Chinese immigrants came mostly from Taiwan, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia. According to the 2000 census of Chinese, the US Chinese population including Taiwanese was 2879636.
More than 80 languages and hundreds of dialects are spoken in China. The Chinese dialects are extremely complex. Some are closely related, whereas others are mutually unintelligible, even though their words are graphically represented by the same characters . Of the Chinese population, 94% are reported to speak Han (a Sino-Tibetan language) and its dialects Mandarin, Wu, Yue (Cantonese), Xiang, Gan, Kejia, and Min, with more than two-thirds speaking the Mandarin dialect of Han.
Chinese is logographic and ideographic; that is, words are represented graphically by logographs. A single logograph and /or a combination of logographs represent a meaningful unit. These ideographs are not based on a system of alphabet and many of the ideographs are also expressed in the Chinese sign language by their shapes. Chinese is a tonal language, different tones represent different meanings.
There are more than 55 ethnic groups in China. They practice a variety of religions. The many religious/philosophical beliefs of the Chinese populations (including the minority population) include Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity.
Buddhism, which preaches kindness, reincarnation and nonviolence, began as an offshoot of Hinduism around the fifth century. Confucius, a well respected philosophy was born in 551 B.C. and his philosophy Confucianism exerts a strong influence in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. He defined social order and the rules that dictate relationships between family members, subordinates, and others. Lao-tzu, another philosopher, was the founder of Taoism. Its basic principle of Taoism is that one must not interfere with nature but must follow its course. Taoist accepts what comes to him and does not resist the force of nature; such practices are often regarded as a means of healing.
One of the most important points of the Chinese culture is the maintenance of harmony. Value is placed on outward calmness and on control of undesirable emotions, such as anger, jealousy, hostility, aggression, and self-pity. Open expressions of emotion and confrontation have negative impacts in human relationships building. The new generation of Chinese, however, may be more competitive and assertive as they face the competition of the global market.
Confucius was the first person who taught all people without regard to their position or social status. He believed that everyone had the capacity to become a virtuous individual through learning and education. To him, people were the most important component in society. They were to aspire to become virtuous and to follow "the Way". A series of steps was necessary on the journey along "the Way". There were progressive degrees of achievement, each dependent on successful completion of the previous step. The attainment of the whole series constituted the knowledge for personal self-motivation.
The most valued traits in Confucianism are humanity, benevolence, kindness, compassion, charity, courtesy, diligence, respect and deference to the elderly, filial piety, and responsibilities in relationships. Confucius laid the foundation for the educational philosophy of the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese people. Confucius' concerns for the disadvantaged were seen in his teachings. His principles of self-cultivation, fondness for education, and vigor for learning remained a driving force in the education of disabled individuals. The official document of Li Chi, originating from China and dating back to approximately 200 B.C., outlined society's responsibility for the care and education of the disabled. Specifically, society was deemed responsible for giving assistance to and meeting the special needs of widows, widowers, orphans, the deaf, the blind, the physically handicapped, and all sick individuals.
Home of Origin
Although Chinese immigrants planned to come to the United States, they differ greatly in their motives for immigration, their education and degree of exposure to the English language and American culture. All immigrants must have a sponsor, either a close relative or an employer, unless they seek political asylum. They file for an immigrant visa and then must wait for a period of time (ranging from six months to five years) before beginning visa interviews and screening procedures. In recent years, immigration rules and regulations have been modified making it more difficult to sponsor relatives to come to the United States.
Many refugees from Southeast Asia are Chinese. They left their countries to escape persecution; many risked their lives and left their families behind. Sometimes, they had only a few days, even a few hours, to prepare for their escape. When fleeing their native countries, they did not know which country, if any, would give them asylum. The conditions in refugee camps were often difficult. Medical attention was limited, and education was marginally provided. Many refugees and immigrants speak no English and had never before traveled outside their homeland.
American Born Chinese (ABC)
Many Chinese American children were born in the U.S. or in refugee camps; others are second generation, third generation, and fourth generation Americans. Those born and educated in the United States may not speak the language of their parents or grandparents. Among the most famous ABC’s are tennis player Michael Chen and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.
Researchers have discussed the inter-group differences within the Chinese population. There is a great diversity in social class among the families of refugees, decedents of early immigrants, immigrants and new immigrants. The early Chinese immigrants came to the United States in the late 19th century to work in the mines, for the railroads, and on the farms. They experienced unfair treatment, including the Chinese Exclusion Act. Later Chinese came after World War II in the 50s and 60s, to further their education, and many found employment in major industrial and academic institutions. Among them, the most recognized are I. M. Pei (architect), Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang (Nobel Prize Laureates).
There is lot to share about the Chinese due to limited space. This is the end of the article. Happy Chinese New Year to you all!