Source: http://tieba.baidu.com/p/743843382 (【随想】礼之用，和为贵（昨日羊肉串事件随想） by 月曜使·檀越之) English title: [Random thoughts] Purpose of Ritual, Value of Harmony – Thoughts after yesterday’s lamb skewer event; by Yueyaoshi*Tanyuezhi
Translated by Satsuki Shizuka for Torguqin.wordpress.com
Translator’s foreward: As the year 2011 comes to a close, comes a time for us to think back and make some conclusions on our doings and faults over the past year. Since Wang Letian’s expedition in September 2003, the cultural scape of a rapidly modernizing (or Westernizing, as some claim) China has gradually shifted towards thinking of a culturally, environmentally, and humanely sensitive future, rather one solely dependent on economy and efficiency.
Here I bring two stories of how a common Chinese person, through understanding and putting into practice a respect for his or her own tradition, can become proactive members in developing mutual respect and dignity for other people and cultures, and truly become world citizens and upholding global peace. Their actions may be personal, but the power of one is great when it is modelled by all by sheer virtue.
Yueyaoshi*Tanyuezhi – Story of the Lamb Skewer Shop (story 1 of 3)
“The philosopher You said, “In practicing the rules of propriety, a natural ease is to be prized. In the ways prescribed by the ancient kings, this is the excellent quality, and in things small and great we follow them. Yet it is not to be observed in all cases. If one, knowing how such ease should be prized, manifests it, without regulating it by the rules of propriety, this likewise is not to be done.” — The Analects, Ch. 1 Xue Er
Master Nan Huaijin wrote in his opus Lunyu Biezai this: “Speaking of Li (ritual/propriety), what great lament the word brings! As we all know, Chinese people call themselves “a country of rituals and manners”, but it’s very problematic nowadays. A few decades ago, when one meets another, people will bow with crossed hands, but later it became a simple bow, and later it became somewhat militaristic, with a 15° bow while raising a hand near the brow. Now, it’s the handshake with a nod of the head, or a wink with the chin. Nowadays, for us Chinese, who knows what set of rituals we use when we see each other.
When I look back on these words now, I feel that same lament as Master Nan. Let me recall what happened earlier today, of no particular importance nor mundaneness.
After school today, a friend and I were buying lamb skewers from a stall operated by Uighurs. Two girls and another slightly chubby man was in front of us. As we waited, we found that they were speaking obnoxiously loudly, with a girl rushing the shopowner, “Is it done yet? Hurry up!” The Uighur was grilling the skewers, and the chubby guy blurted out in front of everyone’s face, “I’m not the one grilling it, the f*** does it matter with me!” Several others were also involved in the clamour. The Uighur man started to show rather unpleasant looks. At this point, my friend and I started to sigh in decry. I remember my cousin who is going to the ethnic university, and retold many tales of “certain and such ethnicities really see the Han as enemies”. In reality, these situations are more or less commonplace. At first, I was angry at such statements, and felt that these minority peoples are being unreasonable. But, let us think, a Uighur person coming to the South to start a small business, surrounded by people with a different appearance and language, spewing obscene comments as they bought his lamb skewers — undoubtedly, this will lead to him to think that these people are arrogant, conceited, and as if they are holier-than-thou. In the eyes of a Uighur, such an image usually is a Han Chinese. Not everyone can treat another person “by the incident” rather than personally. As if a rural person came to the big city, and was discriminated and rudely treated by the urbanites, he’ll likely recall to his family after his return to the countryside how bad and disgusting city people are. In other words, these Uighur small business owners are most likely to return to Xinjiang, telling others how Hans are despicable they are. Unknowingly, the seeds of evil are sown.
Now, I would like to cry foul on behalf of our Han race — because although these people here, aside from filling out “Han” in official forms, what meaning does that hold for them? In such ordinary, mundane events, they become the representatives of “those Hans outside who are all very bad”. As a Han person, I have an indescribable sentiment for my own race, perhaps it can be put better with the word ‘faith’. I wear my own ethnic Han dress in daily life, and many people asked me, “You must have a serious interest in Han Chinese dress?” Out there there’s now this term called “Hanfu amateurs” which they put over me and my fellow Han compatriots’ heads, and I think there’s nothing more ridiculous than this term – “Hanfu amateurs,” appearing among the Han Chinese lexicon! What is ‘amateur’? It is personal, and changes as one grows and matures! If we are talking about a love for a certain fashion, certainly cwe won’t go as far as wearing it every day in our lives? Or say that someone’s love for jeans can become a religion or faith worth sacrificing him or herself? NO! The reason why we respect and love hanfu, is because it is embedded with a special meaning – she is our Han ethnic dress! It is the clothing and headgear carrying millennia of our ancestors’ culture and lives. I am but a common Han Chinese citizen, who has found the beauty of its patterns and clothing, and a sense of belonging amidst the vastness of our rituals and propriety.
After those few people left, the Uighur fellow had a rather sour and sunken expression. When our skewers were ready, our friend and I gave a courteous “thank you”. It is here that he lifted up in head, and said twice in Chinese, “You’re welcome.” I could feel that he’s lightened up a lot.
This is when the incident occurred. As we turned and was about to leave, a tall, stocky man was taking a snapshot of me behind my back with his celphone. Having a photo of me in hanfu taken without consent is something I greatly despise – something that evolved from our own race on our own soil, being given a curious eye and the hidden cameras by fellow countrymen in Western suits and leather shoes – is something that enrages me. Of course, if you look at the reality, hanfu is still something that was disjointed for three centuries, and even I don’t want to recall much that history of blood and tears that led to its downfall – look it up yourself if you want to. Now, she’s home, in her homeland, and naturally “the children will meet but not recognize, and ask, smiling, “from where are you from, dear guest?” [TL: famous lines from He Zhizhang’s Tang poem Huixiang Oushu] Alas! Not only the “children”, but even old people don’t know what hanfu is, and even more people think that hanfu is an ‘imported good’, as a continuation of youths chasing after Korean and Japanese culture, it hurts my heart to think of this.
But who am I to say this? Backtrack three years ago, wasn’t I one of those who thought that our traditional dress was a suit and tie? But, I really hate these voyeur shots! This isn’t an issue with ethnicity or ethnic dress, it’s a matter of manners. I’ve met a lot of people with good decorum before, who have asked me properly, and I will explain in all seriousness. If he was genuinely interested in our culture, I will definitely be happy to discuss and take pictures together. If he’s not interested, no problem, as long as we respect each other, respect each other’s ethnicities, we can still be friends. So, your voyeur snapshots is rude in itself, and disrespects the other! When I find out about such situations, I usually will flip out my phone, and aim it to the voyeur (of course I need to know who you are – what’s your purpose in sneaking photos of me? It’s also a sign to them that I don’t want to be shot at.) Usually, these people would usually know that I don’t want to be taken photos of, and will shut off their phones and leave. But, this guy today had a thick face, and refused to leave or even dodge after I point my own cellphone camera in his face.
As they say, a shameless person is an invincible person, I could only hide behind my friend, but the guy tried to come around and continue. My friend questioned him, “Do you even know what manners are?” Who’d have thought that the man would charge up and barked, “F*** your mother! Manners my a**!” and motioned for a fight. Since this person was rather stocky, I’m sure we wouldn’t beat him with the two of us combined, so we were quite frightened. At this time, the unbelievable thing happened.
The Uighur compatiot at the lamb skewer stall saw the whole situation, and came forward as he saw us quarrelling, shouting in some language we couldn’t understand. The stocky man realized the situation was going in the wrong way, and ran in the other direction. After that, I repeatedly gave my thanks to that Uighur compatriot. He was wearing a distinctive ethnic upper tunic and hat. He gave me an honest smile as he nodded in reply. As we were about to leave, he held my hand with both hands and said in subpar Chinese, “Good day, friend!”
At that moment, I felt a warmth long forgotten and moved my heart. Suddenly, I felt that we were very much the same, despite each of us wearing our own ethnic dress. It was our mutual respect, that created this harmonious, warm feeling.
On the bus back home, I kept recalling this event of neither importance nor non-importance. At this point, the words “In practicing the rules of propriety, a natural ease is to be prized (禮之用，和為貴)” came as such an epiphany! As Master Nan said, our modern society really lacks this word, “propriety (禮)”? Two thousand years ago, Master You Ruo already said this. From as small as person to person, to as large as between ethnicities and countries, “propriety” is an essential element, otherwise we’d lose any sense of harmony.
No matter what era or nation, we couldn’t possibly unify the thoughts and personalities of people. In interactions amongst ourselves, there may be people who use sharp words and make others uncomfortable. When something like this happens in a banquet, there’ll always be someone who will round off the situation: “Aai, don’t mind him, he’s just a tad blunt and honest.” Then, you have the kind of person who will always find an alibi for himself — “I’ve always been blunt, it’s my personality” and such. If that’s the case, blunt people really can’t get along well with sensitive and meticulous people, and cautious people probably will never be together with the daring types — our society would never be harmonious then.
I’m rather ashamed to say, the problems facing Chinese society today, Master Kong already prescribed a formula to cure it — “Respectfulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, without the rules of propriety, becomes timidity; boldness, without the rules of propriety, becomes insubordination; straightforwardness, without the rules of propriety, becomes rudeness.” (The Analects, Ch.8 Tai Bo) Therefore, it’s not hard to understand that “The use of propriety is in its natural ease” is not in telling you become a mediator between fights, but is in letting people learn and put in practice this “propriety”. This way, even though people have different personalities and ways to life, they can mitigate and harmonize through this “propriety”. This is what “Yet it is not to be observed in all cases. If one, knowing how such ease should be prized, manifests it, without regulating it by the rules of propriety, this likewise is not to be done” (Analects, Ch.1 Xue Er) truly means.
But when we talk about this “propriety” word nowadays, more or less people will feel that it’s dogmatic, as part of that “feudal dogmaticism”, feel that this “propriety” are a bunch of dead rules, limiting the thoughts of people and strangling personality. This totally throws off our ancestors’ meaning by a million miles. This is because Master Kon said that no matter it is “filial piety” or “propriety”, it has to come from our sincere hearts. As we say that “sincerity to our inside, and act on the outside” (Greater Learning Chapter 14), we’re not trying to have people act in a certain way in order to become “filially pious” or “proprietary”.
Rongshu Xueling Zhiming – At an English Corner with Muslim students (Post 61-64)
[TL Note: This was excerpted from a longer thread, reporting the writer’s whole day on the Sichuan University campus in Chengdu.]
As I carried my clothes [from a day of photo shoots] back, the English corner on campus on Friday night becomes a marketplace, bustling with people forming up into cliques and discussing on various subjects.
In some groups, people were asking each other, “What’s your major?” and were at a loss of topics after that. Others would expand to other stuff, like, “Have you seen the last Harry Potter?” or “How is it like to study in the US?”
But I came across a group that was fiercely arguing. A freckled middle-aged man was exclaiming, “It’s not convient, so it’s against human nature. it’s the bad part of you [sic] traditional culture!” Oh my god, just because it’s inconvenient, means that it is against human nature, and you must go against tradition?
On the receiving end of such words, were some exchange students. Judging from their facial features, I’d guess there from the Middle East. They seem to be discussing about the burqa, the face veils of Arabic women. I listened on, the exchange student was replying something about wearing the veil or not is a matter of personal choice, and not one where it is demanded whether to wear or not.
The man listed many examples, such as women suffering inconveniences when eating or washing their faces – what if they wanted to eat? This kind of tradition is harmful. “Just like Chinese girls bounded[sic] feet in the past.” Chinese people wearing light and convenient Western clothing, he said, was the sign of cultural progress.
This Middle Eastern student’s English doesn’t seem to be that good either, so she insisted that it was a matter of their personal freedom of choice and traditional habits. A large group spectated as the man continued to put the girls down, directly calling their traditional practices as wrong.
This was too much. Our country’s ethnic policy has a section detailing on respecting our own ethnic minorities and their traditions! And to think, this man is insulting even ethnicities and traditions of outside exchange students, and feel that Chinese wearing Western clothing is cultural progress!
“Excuse me,” I budged in. “[Convenience] doesn’t mean [everything]……”
Then I started exchanging hollerings with the man.
I stated that other people’s cultures and traditions should be respected. Whether it’s a face veil or whatnot, only Arabic girls and women have the choice to decide to dump it or not, and he has no right to put down another. As well, the pursuit for convenience in everything is a standard brought forth by consumerism, not some kind of universal value. Besides, the face veil exists because in another’s culture, their men don’t want their women to show their faces to the public, hence demand women to wear it. Demanding the abolishment of the veil by this reason is problematic in itself – if men imposed their will upon women in this example, then what of high heels, revealing clothing, and makeup? Don’t tell me that women wanted to look at themselves and have to “torture themselves” for it? This does not explain that traditional clothing is ‘behind’ modern dress. It is only an inequality of the sexes, and a difference in expression.
Then, a tall exchange student suddenly decided to play it cute, “I’m on your side!” and jumped beside me with a grin. The man continued to put us down, but I could see that although he was proficient in debate, he was easily guided by others’ directions. I won’t get down to the details of the actual wording, so I’ll skip. In the end, the man made a dare, saying that if there was any girl who’d be willing to wear a veil every day, he’d approve of Arabic women’s face veil culture.
We asked a girl who just joined our group to answer the question, to which she said, the context to this question was that she’d first have to be an Arab woman, to which she’s not, and cannot answer.
The man began to act cocky.
I then said, “Wait, you can ask our girls whether they will wear their own ethnic clothes!”
(Hurr durr, who am I to worry? There’s a set right here in my bag! What girl would say no and forfeit a chance to try it on?)The response from the man? He turned around and scramed.
Before he left, he said this: “I know why you are against me……”
Based on what I later heard, this man frequents English corner, putting down people on various topics every week. As for why the man knew what I had in my hand was Hanfu, and disappeared without giving it another look? There were fellow hanfu tongpao compatriots who went to English corner before, and some of them were quite good at debate. Perhaps some of them had a skirmish with him before, and he’s probably had his fill in this, hohoh.
Personally, I don’t approve of going to English Corner and arguing with people there. Once it starts, mutual exchange turns to a spectating arena. But then, I have to thank that potential someone who’s taught that man a lesson before.
After he disappeared, a Chinese student and a Middle Eastern guy came over and said: “On behalf of Muslims, thank you.”
This time, it was my turn to be stunned. Never have I thought that my occasional stroke of settling an injustice would be treated with such importance by another, and have them come thank me in such deliberate manner. Had I not that sense of compassion and understanding, simply carry my traditional clothes and not look at others being insulted or worse because of their traditions, I could’ve simply been a bystanding spectator, and the exchange students being a foreigner in a foreign land could only stay silent with their opinions. If it were this way, we’d never understand how important some topics are to another people, and perhaps we’d be just like that man, blabbering away with audacious claims and not be self-aware, still thinking that we’re the representatives of modern civilization.
That kind of arrogance only prevents us from mutual understanding. Only when we recollect our own tradition, can we understand other people’s insistance. We already live in an environment where faith is lacking, if we lose tradition and memory, that’d be just sad.
At the end of that debate, there were more and more listeners, standing on our side like those first exchange students, in approval of our views. When the freckled man left, the girl closest to me curiously looked at the clothes in the bag, and said that she wanted to see.
“If you want to see it, go ahead.” So she took it out.
“Go on, open it, it’s alright.” “You can put it on.”
The girl pondered a while, figured that she’d need to take off her coat, and was embarassed to try it on.
Then a guy came up. After he learned that it was a style that both men and women can wear, he happily tried to put it on, looking for the sleeve opening. Two girls helped him tie the belt, and then, wahaha, it was a flurry of cameras and Bluetooth transmissions.
The boy, named Ibrahim, then said, “Oh, help me take it off, i’m getting too much attention.”
Personally, I think Ibrahim wearing the Zhiju…felt weird.
Perhaps it’s the style of the clothing, being plain and reserved, with a spirit of a scholarly recluse, is a virtue best left for the Chinese spirit. When this set of clothing is worn on a boy or girl with an Eastern face, it evokes a memory, such as the goddesses Luoshen and Xiangjun, or scholars and saints like Li Bai and Du Fu. As for Ibrahim…well, I guess I won’t upload his picture here, ohoho. Perhaps I will have Ibrahim try on a Tang style round-collar robe, that should fit his style well.
Another middle-aged man asked me, “Are you doing this ‘Hanfu Movement’ thing?”
Me: “Hanfu movement?”
Man: “I’m not quite sure myself. There was another person like you, with clothes like yours, saying so in the past.”
Me: “Eh…(So all they know is the movement eh…)”
Me: “Perhaps. It’s because everyone is beginning to accept this. The image of the Hans on the official government website, I thought it was a Qipao, but now it’s big-sleeved robes like these.”
Man: “What website?”
Me: “The official portal of the Chinese People’s Government, under population overview. Some person from the Hanfu Movement said so, and I checked it was true.”
Man: “That should be the case. (Good sir, I’m sure that you’re saying this only after you knew from me that the goverment approved, right?)”
Me: “I used to think that it should’ve been the Qipao…” (At this point, I should secure my argument by going around corners)
Man: “That should be it!” (At this point he’s using his lecturing tone)
Ohoho, older people don’t like being lectured by younger ones, so it’s important to be strategic in our exchange, and let him feel like he’s lecturing you, then it’ll be alright! (Dear sir, you’re actually using my point to lecture me~~but then, I’ll let you lecture me more this time…)
The reason? As I said in the beginning, people believe in their own words the most. When they say the words you wanted to say yourself, they’ll be led to think that they’re trying to convince you! This is what a prominent architect responsible for rebuilding after the Wenchuan quake said to me, when the local officials don’t know much on professional architecture, but do not want to learn or be lectured by professionals and academics either. Come to think of it, it was pretty useful.