The Tragedy of Chinese Culture?

For all of the many wonderful contributions Chinese culture has made to the world’s civilization, such as in art, literature, music, philosophy, etc., there are so many negative things that have been perpetuated for so long and are so rampant in Chinese culture that it just boggles my mind … the thing that makes it even more difficult to understand is that most people I’ve talked to about these problems (and even ones that aren’t necessarily related to culture at all, such as pollution, etc.) is that they KNOW about these problems, and agree that they need to be corrected … so if so many people are aware of what the problems are, why doesn’t anyone think to do anything about it?

One thing that really, really, really pissed me off today was in my class at NTU (supposedly the most liberal, open-minded university in Taiwan). We were discussing something about Chinese medicine. One of my classmates (a Ph.D. candidate, very intelligent guy) had some opinions. I didn’t agree with his opinions, so offered my own rebuttal to his claims (of which the professor agreed with me). The Ph.D. student’s response (and it was angry, not meant to be in jest) was that “you foreigners can’t possibly understand about Chinese medicine, you think too simply.” I was absolutely stunned when I heard that kind of racist bullshit … especially since it was from a supposedly well-educated person at the most open-minded and liberal school in Taiwan. After class I told him that I have studied Chinese medicine quite extensively, in university, while studying in China, and through my 12 years of martial arts studies. I asked him if he had any formal instruction/education in Chinese medicine, and he said no, but since he’s Chinese, he just understands these things, and I as a foreigner just can’t … and then he stormed off in a huff. :unamused:

BTW, the title I chose for the post was something that one of my Taiwanese friends mentioned when I told him this story … his reply was simply:

I’m surprised that someone like yourself who has studied China, and Chinese, for so long is surprised at this kind of a statement. I presume you’ve read The Ugly Chinaman ? As you’ll be aware there’s an enlightened tradition of scholars from Lu Xun onwards who have tried to tackle the problems of Chinese culture and history by looking outwards as well as inwards. Your friend is just one of the “educated idiots” you can find all over the world.

Have you read these books during your studies ?

Advanced Reader of Modern Chinese:
China’s Own Critics
(sort of a university text, I read it in 3rd year, it’s a collection of essays)

The Tyranny of History

It wasn’t the statement itself that surprised me, but that this kind of attitude is still apparently so prevalent at a school which everyone lauds as being so open-minded and liberal. In that course, we’ve discussed feminist issues, homosexuality, etc. … and the students have all been very open to these ideas … but when it comes to a foreigner knowing more about Chinese medicine than a Taiwanese (who has had no formal training), I found that a bit absurd. If it was a taxi driver, or even some imbecile government official, but please, please, please not a Ph.D. candidate at NTU … it makes me wonder if this really is the best place to be doing research. At least my professor doesn’t seem to be so closed-minded …

The Chinese contribution to world culture in terms of music has been pretty modest, IMO. :expressionless:

The Chinese contribution to world culture in terms of music has been pretty modest, IMO. :|[/quote]

I’m sorry it’s obvious yer not aware of the Pipa as the primary source for the R&Roll geetar lick nor that the sheng was actually the source drone for the intrinsic hummer of the New Age synthesized religion we are stuck with. I’ve never heard of anything so centered on self consumptive culture in all my days of shopping around books for the written words. Common get a opener and and pop open the can of brains before it gets a flat protein stuck in it.

I’m sorry but something needed stabbing.

I often read about this ugly chinaman book. Yet I’ve never bothered to read it (I saw jurassic park for the first time last year…all hype :wink: ). Anyway, I did a search for it and I stumbled across this page in the process: … D=33.topic
Have a look and say what you think. I try not to think too much about this kind of thing, and i try to avoid finding fault in chinese culture as it makes my life easier but i couldn’t help nodding in agreement at almost everthing the guy wrote. I am almost hopelessly influenced by my own background but I still know that there is a lot of truth in it. I work with kids, I know what a lot of them are missing.

[quote]The Artificial Chinaman

Taipei, Taiwan, 2003

The Artificial Chinaman lives in a suburb of Taipei in a villa which cost him US$ 865,000 and he paid most of it in cash. Those were the good old days! When he isn’t hiding from the rays of the sun in his villa, he is lying in his Mercedes SLK 230 Kompressor, cowering in his brand new Cadillac Escalade ESV, or his regular car, a Mercedes Benz S320. Usually on his way to the office - where he spends almost sixteen hours per day - or on the way to a fabulously expensive restaurant or KTV. The food isn’t very good there, but they treat him like a king, which is the whole idea. It makes him feel good and it gives him a chance to impress his friends and clients. He doesn’t even know what the word pretentious means and would have trouble understanding it when he looked it up in a dictionary. And then he would solemnly declare that he doesn’t much care for that kind of people.

His skin is white, almost translucent, in contrast to the foreigners, who look red. Also, they are extremely hairy, whereas he is smooth, almost completely without body hair. They perspire a lot and tend to smell bad; probably because they don’t shower every day. He doesn’t know whether he should give credence to the reports, but he has heard that some of them are positively dirty in this respect. He has never gone on a picnic, has never gone fishing, avoids walking whenever he can and exercise of any kind seems like the height of absurdity to him. Why did he study and work so hard, if in the end he still has to toil like a lowly peasant? If he gets fat, so be it. If he dies early, it would be a shame, but it can’t really be helped. Anyway, all this talk about healthy living is greatly exaggerated…[/quote]

But NTU is only “open” and “liberal” (if it is at all, which I doubt) in comparison with other Taiwan schools. The bar 'aint very high at all, really.

Then during the next class, should I make an issue out of it, saying how his comments were racist and that in today’s day and age, at such an “open-minded and liberal” school (their words) that this kind of crap can get spewed by a supposedly highly educated student? I’m just wondering whether I should drop it all together or complain to the teacher that his comments were completely out of line, especially in that setting.

they would just look at you like you are crazy

They already think I’m crazy for suggesting that the “Orchid Tower Pavilion” poetry by Wang Xizhi and friends was actually a ritualistic Taoist orgy (despite exhaustive textual verification), and that Ruan Ji and Ji Kang of the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” were homosexuals (again, despite lots of textual verification). I guess just like with tomyang and others, no matter how much evidence you show them, they just aren’t willing to believe. :unamused:

Give him face. Tell him that you’re absolutely smitten with Chinese culture because it’s so (insert adjective) and that although you don’t look it on the outside, and the blood isn’t coarsing through your veins, you feel every bit as Chinese as he does.
Then hoick and spit a goober next to his foot to prove it.

What of Chinese medicine were you talking about? What was his claim? Read about Chinese medicine at

If it makes you feel any better, I met a Phd here once who told me it was impossible for him to get AIDS, because he was a Phd.

They already think I’m crazy for suggesting that the “Orchid Tower Pavilion” poetry by Wang Xizhi and friends was actually a ritualistic Taoist orgy (despite exhaustive textual verification), and that Ruan Ji and Ji Kang of the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” were homosexuals (again, despite lots of textual verification). [/quote]
Ya’ know, I’ve been saying the same thing for years, but I always get blank stares in reply. :smiley:

Maybe Tom Yang wasn’t lying when he said he had colleagues at NTU. Maybe this PhD student is tight with Tom Yang? Eh?

I sympathize with your situation, but at least you are in an academic environment where you can debate this arrogant pric. I work in a HK owned company in Guangdong. I have to listen to this same sort of racist dribble posing as analysis from mainland and HK clients and bosses all the time. Since I have to preserve a decent working relationship with these people, I can only nod and smile. Unfortunately, this just builds their egos.

It was in regards to the illness of Qin Ke-qing in “Dream of the Red Chamber” (Chapters 10-13). His assertion was something along the lines of that it was diagnosed or treated improperly. My assertation (which the professor agreed with) was that it was not a real “sickness” as we would view it, but more of a “mental” illness, stress brought on by her affair with her father-in-law, Jia Zhen. I then said that it would be nearly impossible to treat at that time because Chinese medicine was not very advanced in the area of “mental illness” (they viewed it as a “character flaw” as opposed to an actual sickness). He thought that was ridiculous and said that Chinese medicine was very advanced in psychology at that time.

He also tried to claim that she died of this illness, even though all of the textual evidence and commentaries of the author’s relatives (Jihusou and Zhiyanzhai), all suggest that she committed suicide. We had an extensive argument about this as well. The commentaries at the end of Chapter 13 by Jihusou specifically state that he asked the author to delete the section about Qin Ke-qing’s suicide because it was too “revealing” (apparently a similar situation happened in their family back in Nanking). Anyway, he wouldn’t buy that either, and just kept arguing in circles. Even the teacher said his position couldn’t be supported and he still wouldn’t give in. :unamused:

BTW, if anyone knows of any resources (English or Chinese) where I could find out more about the relationship between Chinese medicine (pre-1900’s) and psychology, how they viewed mental illness (sickness or character flaw), and treatments, I’d be very appreciative!

Point out that the Chinese blindly followed Mao for nearly a decade. Ask him if that, too, is one of those things that you can understand better if you are Chinese.

I think most people would agree that a little distance can give a whole new light on just about any subject.

Tell him that whittling it down to “you don’t understand because you are not one of us” is not productive. Tell him that it is HE who is “oversimplifying things” with that comment.


Try complimenting him. It’s an ancient Chinese tradition, and it will leave him baffled. And possibly even more pissed :wink:

or… drop it altogether. The teacher agreed with you, so technically you’ve “won”. :wink:

Your classmate probably knows he is wrong and is just extremely embarrassed.

Just because the school is open minded doesn’t mean that the students are…If he wants to be a prick let him. Don’t let it bother you.


I’m not interested in being “right” or “wrong” … I’ve made mistakes in class before, and always admit them (although their responses are always, “that’s ok, you’re just a foreigner”). That bothers me too … I may be a foreigner but I do as well or better than many of my Taiwanese classmates. Their writing ability is of course better than mine, but in terms of general knowledge on the subjects, we’re mostly equal (at least those students who are first-year M.A. students like me), and unlike them, I’m willing to engage in discussion with the professors instead of staring blankly or re-hashing the “standard interpretations” without trying to forge any new ground. I’d like some kind of a lesson for them to come out of this, that a foreigner can understand Chinese literature, philosophy, or whatever as well or better than a Chinese … ethnicity has nothing to do with it. I’d at least like to be able for graduate students at such a prestigious institution to understand this point. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking though and I should just forget about it … or throw a bag of flaming shit at his door … :smiling_imp:

The thing that gets me, though, is that I had always thought he was a nice guy. We always got along well together inside and outside of class, and he always complemented me on how good my Chinese was and my understanding of Chinese literature … and now he says I can’t really understand because I’m a foreigner … I really don’t understand what his deal is … perhaps I’m too naive.

[quote=“scooter”]or… drop it altogether. The teacher agreed with you, so technically you’ve “won”. :wink:

Your classmate probably knows he is wrong and is just extremely embarrassed.[/quote]
I agree with Scooter.
Also, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue civil relations with the guy in future. Doing that is actually more likely to change his mind than anything else would.