A large part of Chinese superstitious beliefs is tied up in numerology – lucky numbers and unlucky numbers. I talked about it before in Rich Chinese ; crazy things are done and large amounts of money is spent to get the right numbers and avoid the bad ones. Barry Li, author of The New Chinese: How they are changing Australia recounts a story of a Sydney house that failed to achieve the same ludicrous selling price as other Sydney properties, all because it had the street number of 74 (it probably still sold for other 1million AUD though). With different tonal inflictions, the pronunciation of 74 can easily become ‘wife dies’, ‘angry to death’ or ‘die together’, so Chinese buyers steered clear.
As I brought up the Monkey King in my previous post on religion in China I thought it would be reminisce of me if I didn’t expound further on this little guy. In some regards he’s a bit like Santa Claus: everyone is familiar with the image and the symbolism in some small way. A guy with a white beard in a red hat is easily synonymous with the term Christmas. But Santa didn’t appear out of nowhere. Like how facts and truths about Santa’s reindeers, elves and home address are a bit more quick to mind than the story of his origin as a monk, the history behind the Monkey King is equally mystical, and also if it not as instantly recognisable as his appearance.
When you do a quick internet query of ‘religion of China’, several answers appear: Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity. Some will be quick to note that the first three answers don’t easily fall into the category of ‘religion’, but are often placed under a ‘philosophy’ branch instead. Regardless, this post will treat them all as having equal governance and significance to their followers’ lives.
Barry Li’s view on the mindset of the new generation of ‘new Chinese’ (basically those born from the 1980s on) can be summed up in the final paragraph of his extract:
“They do not like to hear anyone, including the mainstream Australian media, describe China as an extreme communist country, because it simply is not true. They probably will not be offended if you describe the Chinese as realists, because they mostly are. They will be offended if you tell them that the South China Sea does not belong to China, even though they personally do not own a single drop of water in that sea.”
China, as Barry Li disclaims in the very first sentence of this excerpt, does indeed have a “poor record” on human rights. Li doesn’t expound further on particular issues, as neither will I. Plenty of journalists and articles elsewhere explain what has been done or denied to certain people, particularly those of ethnic minorities and those with political agendas not favourable towards the CCP. Likely Li doesn’t want to be blacklisted as a trouble maker in his home country;
The title of this chapter should be enough to give away that this will not be an easy topic. Interesting, undoubtedly, and perhaps controversial. Chinese style democracy is sure to fall short of the hopes of some, and higher in the expectations of others.
This passage is perhaps one of the longest so far, as Li spends more time covering pre 1949 history than anything too contemporary. He does this in order to explain the answer to a question he once heard from a senior manager in a top accounting firm: is there any chance or risk that large, wealthy cities like Beijing and Shanghai – given their significance – may break away and declare independence from China?
This is not an extract from Li’s book, The New Chinese, but it is such an important development in recent Chinese history that I thought it deserved its own post. There are plenty of accurately researched articles about the policy’s history and about how it was/is implemented that can be easily found; this article will be more a gathering of threads together to explore what the One-Child Policy, and the recent revoking of it into a Two-Child Policy, means in an Australian context.
There’s a lot of babies in this chapter. I myself am not overly fond of newborns (I’m told my opinion will change when my friends or I start having children. I’ll wait to believe it.) but it seems that China, between 1949 and 1979, was. If you’ve ever wondered what was happening to China’s population when the one-child-policy was bought in, here’s the breakdown according to Li:
If you haven’t heard the ‘Chinese G X’ term before, don’t worry. It’s one made up by author Barry Li to describe the generation of mainland Chinese born between 1966 and 1976. This period of ten years is significant in Chinese history for being the years of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution is something I know bits and pieces of, and have tried to comprehend as a whole; if you’re like me and are maybe not quite familiar with its concept and policies don’t worry, my last blog briefly tracks through some of its ambitions and policies.
I’m taking a quick side-step on my discussion of Barry Li’s book The New Chinese: How They Are Changing Australia to briefly discuss the Cultural Revolution. This event, from 1966 – 1976 is significant in the lives of the next two generations Li covers in this chapter – those of the Chinese Gen X and the Chinese Baby Boomers. Understanding the way in which the Cultural Revolution shaped the lives and mindset of millions of Chinese is important in understanding how they act today, and the manner of influence they have on the younger generation.