Chinese Cultural Activities and I

By: Liu Yang

This essay won first place in the 1998 Virginia Hom Fung Scholarship Competition.

1998 House of China - Virginia Hom Scholarship Winners

At home, my parents have always regarded me as a little foreigner, or as they say, a "banana". The term banana meant that I look like a Chinese on the outside, but act like an American because I am all white underneath. In order for me to keep some of my ancestral culture and belief, my Dad enrolled me into all kinds of Chinese cultural activities. Over time, these intriguing yet educational activities seem to benefit me deeply. Through them I gained a well-round understanding of Chinese culture, and improved the relationship with my traditional Chinese family. Furthermore, I gradually formed a strong bond with the Chinese society in San Diego, and became more willing to offer my service when needed.

Because of San Diego's Chinese-American population, there is a lot of opportunities to participate in a Chinese cultural activity. However, out of this myriad of activities, my favorites are: the Chinese New Year celebration at North County Chinese School, The Moon Festival Celebration held by the Chinese Association, and the "Remembering the Nanking Massacre" activity held by the House of China. These activities differ from one another and each have its pros and cons, but they all benefited me in many ways.

Of these three activities, the most memorable one to me is the Chinese New Year Celebration at my Chinese school. This year is the first time that I am able to participate in the celebration. I remember the day vividly. I arrived at the school fairly early, and the whole campus was decorated in every possible way with all kinds of Chinese New Year charms. There were Chinese couplets (Dui Lian) posted on the doors, red lanterns hanging in the hall way, the word spring written in traditional Chinese and posted on walls, and the word good fortune written in Chinese and posted up side down on windows. The whole school seems to be filled with the excitement of New Year. After our teacher took us to the patio to greet the whole school and the principle, the celebration began. Each class sold either traditional Chinese food or New Year souvenirs, while the lion dancers came around with drums and customs. I ate many delicious food that day, but more importantly I learned many things about the Chinese New Year.

The Moon Festival held by the Chinese Association was also one of those rare occasions where I truly enjoyed myself. The Moon Festival was a time of togetherness in Chinese cultural . So, to honor this spirit of togetherness we had a potluck that day. Every family brought foods form their home town and we spent a wonderful night together. After enjoying the food, my parents told us beautiful stories about the lady who lived in the moon. Which was both new and interesting to me. From the very first time of the festival, I have always look forward to it every year.

However, the Remembrance of the Nanjin Massacre is different from both of those activities I described above. The massacre is well known to all Chinese, just like the holocaust is to the Western Hemisphere. It was the history of another age, yet it is so horrifying that no one can look at those actual footages and not be moved by them. The remembrance of this very event is a way to educate all Chinese posterity about the pain their ancestors had to suffer. It serves like a warning bell that is constantly ringing to remind people about the dreadful World War II.

Of course, San Diego as well as Southern California still offers many other Chinese cultural activities such as the celebration of the returning of Hong Kong and the Chinese national holiday celebration.

Through participating in these activities as well as many others, I am able to meet with all kinds of Chinese people from different places; thus, I expanded my knowledge of Chinese culture. Furthermore, these activities contained an abundance of cultural facts, for example the Chinese New Year Celebration taught me the reason why the word spring and the word good fortune should be posted up-side-down; from eating Chinese food, I learn about the art of Chinese cuisine; from listening to Chinese fairy tales I simultaneously gained knowledge of Chinese literature; and from the Remembrance of the Massacre I learned about China's current history. From all this learning experience I am intrigued by the brilliance of China's five thousand years of history. I am encouraged by these activities to explore China, to explore my identity, to understand my ancestors past.

With the knowledge I gained through participating in these activities, communicating with my family seems easier than before. When my Grandfather talks about how the Japanese invaded China during WWII, I was able to use my understanding of the Nanjin Massacre and discuss the current history of China with him. When my cousin called us inquiring information on buying gifts for the Chinese New Year, I was able to provide him with useful information such as the word good fortune should be posted up-side-down to bring good luck. Once I understood the culture behind the Moon Festival, I was also able to conceive why the moon cake often has either a lady or a rabbit in on it. Through participating in Chinese culture activities I understood my culture, my family and more importantly myself.

Gradually, I came to love Chinese culture and is anxious to learn more. Thus, every time when my parents are going to a Chinese Association meeting I am always tagging along. I volunteered for many services for the Chinese community, such as representing the Chongqinese Association in the Returning of Hong Kong celebration held in Los Angeles. I also translated for tourists when the Chinese Navy came to visit San Diego harbor.

These Chinese culture activities improved my knowledge of China, smoothen my relationship with my family and encouraged me to serve the Chinese community. America is a multicultural country, we are the big melting pot of this world. Thus, I am proud to be a Chinese American and to learn my culture. In the future, I will indeed participate in more and more Chinese cultural activities.

The winners in the Advanced Category are:

First Place = Liu Yang; Second Place = Liwen Wu; Third Place = Homan Henry Wai;
Third Place = Yanjun Hu; Honorable Mention = Stephanie Kang.

The winners in the Intermediate Category are:

First Place = Tina Ye; Second Place = Albert Hwang; Third Place = Adelaide Ng;
Third Place = Ying Wang; Honorable Mention = Helen Phung.

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