Opinion / Blog

Do you love your culture?

By seanboyce88 ( Updated: 2015-06-16 16:52

So many in China talk about their love of Chinese culture and how foreigners don't understand it. It is a fundamental founding part of patriotism for many in China in addition to being an argument used to often counter any argument a foreigner has when critiquing China and yet I find this concept of culture, very ambiguous, very superficial...and so very false. When we say we love culture, are we in love with this perpetuated belief of our national culture and the ignorance of all other facets of culture within our society? Where does culture come from? What is our culture? When we say we love it, what do we really love?

My main issue with culture, especially the cultural education in China is this sense of a super, all encompassing macro culture. Chinese culture in this sense is all the traditional cultures, the tea drinking, the dragon dancing at new year, the festivals etc... yet for me, this is simply not culture. It is a very VERY small part of your culture, and for many Chinese isn't even a part of their own personal culture. Take for example the tea drinking, I haven't seen a tea house in Harbin, and yet this culture of drinking tea is supposedly a big part of Chinese culture? This is the problem, culture isn't country wide, all encompassing. It is more local, it works on a more personal level and is shaped by the reiteration of ideas, beliefs and the society around us. No one here would tell me that the Harbin culture is the same is Guangzhou, Xinjiang or Xi'an culture. All four of these areas have their own culture, and even within smaller areas, there exist smaller, micro cultures. So when you say you love Chinese culture, when you say you understand Chinese culture, are you talking about the Islamic culture of the north west, the drinking and culture of manliness of the north east, or a more southern example of culture? This media perpetuated culture of dragons, poetry and art...Is it really the culture of your country, or is it the culture of history you wish still existed, the facade you attempt to pull over the eyes of others?

Micro cultures are more what I think of when I say I have experienced a culture. When my friends back home ask me what China is like, I can only really tell them about Harbin in all honesty. I have no idea what the culture in Shanghai is like. I see Harbin as quite a laid back, quiet city with a heavy drinking culture, a lack of religious beliefs, a lack of many of the major Chinese traditional cultural traits (let’s just say, I was thoroughly disappointed never to have seen dancing dragons or tea houses when I arrived). There exists a real brotherhood amongst friends in Harbin that feels stronger than in other Chinese cities, there is a great pride in being seen as the barbaric north, and even more pride in their supposed fighting abilities. There is a hatred of Japan stronger here than many other places in China with a population who still remembers what they did. Fashion here is wild, and absolutely bizarre and seems behind the more developed areas of China with crazy colours being the norm and no sense of a western influence. Now after seeing this, why is it that everyone here still talks about a love of Chinese culture when they themselves, in all reality have no true understanding as to what IS Chinese culture? When your own culture is so very different from the macro culture, can you say yourself that you truly understand Chinese culture just by being Chinese?

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