For this assignment I contacted a friend of mine and asked her if she knew any Chinese people that I could contact to interview. Fortunately my friend, a potter had been teaching at St Andrews University and had met a young Chinese student. I have named her Lui. Lui has asked that I do not use her real name .
I sent a message to Lui through Facebook and she agreed to meet me, answer some questions and tell me a bit about herself.I noticed that Lui had some traditional Chinese artwork on her Facebook site and that she was working on an exhibition of Kirkcaldy’s potteries. So I was quite hopeful that we would get on well as she seemed to appreciate art & crafts.So on the agreed date we met in St Andrews at a pub and after introducing myself I bought her a drink and invited her to tell me a bit about herself.
Before coming to St Andrews Lui spent 8 years in Beijing, she studied English language and literature. She comes from a middle class family. Her mother is a doctor and her father is a manager and works in an office in a big institution. She didn’t say what this institution was. Lui’s parents have supported and encouraged her throughout her education. The view is that if you are better educated you will have better prospects in the future. Education is very important to her family. Lui has noticed that young people in the U.K are more independent of their parents than in China. It is important for her to consider her parent’s wishes but she thinks that in the UK children often do their own thing.
Lui had a book that she carried into the pub on Daoism so I asked her about it. She said that although not everyone studies that philosophy it has been subconsciously handed down through the generations and is part of her culture. In part the Daoism philosophy teaches how to perform your responsibility in society. It looks at life from the angle that everything is part of nature; we should not be afraid of whatever comes upon us but welcome it, as we ourselves are part of nature. This she feels is in contrast to the American culture, which perpetuates the myth that if you work hard you can be successful. The American Dream she says is a dangerous culture as life is not like that. Confucius, she says teaches us to first of all think of yourself, your family, your country, and finally humanity in general. So be a good person, always respect your parents as they have raised you and given you everything you need, look after them when they get old.
I asked Lui what she thought was the biggest difference between her generation and that of her parents and she said that it was the age at what her generation were getting married. It was rare for someone in her mother’s generation to marry late, they could afford to have a family and they wanted a stable family life. Whereas today people in their 20’s, especially in big cities, have so many opportunities and freedoms – sometimes too much and they don’t know what to do with it!
We spoke a bit about the consumer culture and the products that are made in China and how the Chinese are very good at reproducing Western ideas when it came to products. Did she think that China would start to produce goods that reflected more of its own culture? Lui hoped this would be the case and she proudly told me that China’s culture has lasted for 1000’s of years. Her grandfather was a scholar of Chinese literature and wrote books. She said it was her generation’s responsibility to continue the culture of China into the future. She could see problems though for China in the field of research and development as standards have been set by the West , standards that do not always sit well with the Chinese.
She then talked about the Terracotta Warriors and if you look closely you will notice that they have only a single eyelid, which is a sign of the Han people. The Han people served the emperor of the middle kingdom and although she has a double eyelid she thinks she is descended from the Han, on her fathers side. Her mother is Manchu. She laughed about this and said that Chinese people joke about their lineage and debate about who comes from where. Lui is very enthusiastic and proud of her cultural heritage and noted that more and more Chinese are taking an interest in their past.
This picture is of a Terracotta Warrior , if you look close you will see the single eyelid of the Han.
Lui is an only child as a result of the one-child policy and when I asked her about what she and her mother felt about how that policy has impacted on their lives she says that her mother and father have been able to give her so much more than if she were part of a bigger family and that although she sometimes gets lonely she has an extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents. There is a big family reunion at New Year at her grandmother’s house and it is a very warm and happy time, the family is very important in China.
I asked her about the political situation in Tibet and she said that all countries have their problems and why is China singled out for abuses when so many other countries have similar problems for example Britain has had problems in Northern Ireland. I asked about Tiannamen Square but that subject was a no go area. “It’s in the past – forgotten now things have moved on and are getting better”.
It was interesting chatting to Lui , I found her to be very forthcoming on most things but she wasn’t comfortable talking about political events that cast China in a bad light which is understandable considering the fact that she has led a fairly comfortable life in comparison to many Chinese people. When you and your family benefit from a system you are hardly going to turn around and criticize it. Lui said that it is better not to have strong political opinions and take sides . Lui goes back to Beijing after her year studying in St Andrews.