Today I am going to share with you three sites that I visit frequently about Chinese languages and culture. In my blog, I have talked about my experiences in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and in England, and my family ties with the mainland China. I have moved from many places. I now eat more pasta than rice. I am known by my English name. However, my connection with my root is still strong. I enjoy reading stories about other people’s Chinese experiences. I read for pleasures, and I also read to be educated.
Surprisingly, most Chinese related sites I visit are written by people living outside of China, or visitors to China. I am attracted to people with an outsider’s experiences, and as a permanent outsider myself, I always find their stories or perspectives fascinating.
1) Behind the Story by Nicki Chen:
Nicki Chen is an artist and a writer. She has only written a few posts on her new blog Behind the Story – across the ocean and back and these are enough to captivate me. She lived in the USA, then 15 years in the Philippines with her Chinese husband. Since her husband’s death 15 years ago, tenderly mentioned in her Fame and Invisibility post, Nicki started work on her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, a historical novel that tells the story of a Chinese woman struggling to survive the Japanese invasion of her homeland and the book will be out next spring. Nicki is now working on a second novel about a woman who in her eagerness to follow the advice of a fertility doctor, convinces her husband to move to a small island in the South Pacific.
I like the ways that Nicki shares her many unusual stories. She reveals to us in the most calming manner the China that she visited and knew in the early 80s when it was opening up after decades of isolation. Her description is truthful. You will not find any sensational or exaggerating description about China in her writing. This soothing effect is very attractive to me, as a lot of foreign writers get absolutely hyperactive or even hysterical when describing China.
In No Room at the Inn, when Nicki visited Xiamen in the south of China for the first time with her family, as a non-Chinese, she was not welcome to stay at the hotel. However, Nicki grasped the situation well. She did not fall into the obvious trap of labelling the Chinese people as uncivilised or racist. Nicki was eager to understand China, where her late husband came from, to connect to his world, which has also become hers.
2) Hari’s Got Tales! by Hari Qhuang:
Hari Qhuang is a young man from Indonesia with a catchy blog name, Hari’s Got Tales! Sharing My Culture, Stories & Other Things I Love.
Hari shares how Chinese festivals are celebrated in Indonesia, and how the people, though suffering from discrimination, and even anti-Chinese riots as recently as in 1998, they still keep their tradition alive. Hari writes with a kind of youthful energy that is very infectious. In Mid Autumn Festival, Hari introduces various types of mooncakes, sharing the symbols relating to the food and his memory of his grandmother. Hari speaks a little Mandarin Chinese, however, his understanding of the Chinese traditions is outstanding. Hari makes trivia cool. He also shares with us various Chinese languages (Hari called them Ghetto languages) spoken in Indonesia, and how they are different from the norm.
In All (Most) Indonesian Chinese Folks Have Two Names, I had a great discussion with Hari about the usage of Chinese languages in Indonesia, and Hari makes me understand his name formation in the history context, as Chinese language was forbidden in Indonesia from 1966 to 2001.
Hari occasionally comes up with some strange Chinese Quizzes. He is informative and fun. It is very moving to see a young man like Hari, who is discovering his own culture with such joy and energy.
3) Jasmine Tea & Jiaozi by Herschelian:
Herschelian writes in her blog, Jasmine Tea & Jiaozi. Jiaozi is a Chinese dumpling consisting of meat and vegetable fillings. Herschelian has been living in Beijing for two years with her husband and is also learning the language.
The fact that Herschelian is actually learning the language, including the characters, makes her discovery about cultural differences more interesting. I love reading about her culture shock, which goes beyond common stereotypes, such as “Chinese people are loud and rude”.
In A Lesson on Domestic Violence, Herschelian shared how she was horrified by a story about domestic violence in a Chinese textbook. A Greedy Wife could not stop mentioning the food and her husband was fed up. One day, the Greedy Wife used a simile and described the snow was as white as milk, and as deep as a pancake. Her husband then hit the Greedy Wife in the face. The wife used more similes and was hit again and again by her husband.
I could understand how Herschelian was horrified by this text, which seemed to have trivialised domestic violence faced by thousands of Chinese people. Her teacher, however, saw this wife-beating story as a joke. You can see how observant Herschelian is and she ended the post with a message that “Domestic violence should not be a ‘private’ crime.”
Of course there are many more blogs that have enlightened me about Chinese history, culture and languages, and many of them are written in Chinese, including the marvellous writer KL from Singapore of From Dusk to Dawn. The three English writers I recommend in this post show unique perspectives in their writings about their Chinese experiences. They show me how they approach and connect with the Chinese culture with a genuine intention to understand it. Like me, they often wonder and ask questions. Through their searching and writing, I am fortunate enough to learn from them.
This post was inspired by Blog Exercises: A Link List Post to Dazzle Readers by Lorelle VanFossen. You can find more Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress. This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.