“She is in Phuket… holiday with her family”
“Why didn’t you go with her?”
“If I go, I won't be here for reunion dinner”
At that point, I could see a smile slowly but surely appearing in my aunt’s face, a clear sign of happiness. Of course, the above conversation occurred in Cantonese, as I am the only person who can speak English in the family besides my siblings.
CNY, a very significant festival in the Chinese calendar just ended yesterday. I always wonder, when the current senior generation of Chinese kick the bucket, will CNY continued to be ‘celebrated’? And I mean ‘celebrate’… not taking the whole week off or goes off somewhere for a holiday or gamble all your money away or giving ang pows. Of course, one would ask, how do you celebrate CNY. Well, why don’t you tell me?
One very interesting point of debate in the comments of my previous entry… how do you differentiate between cultural practices and religious practices? I did some thinking today and I realised that the line can be quite obvious.
To me, religious practices are those things that one does which involve an element of spirituality. At this juncture, I shall not brand anything as Chinese religious practices simply because Chinese in Malaysia may embrace Buddhism (mainly), Taoism (mainly), Christianity, Islam or other religion, thus I think we should no longer stereotype anything as “Chinese religious practices”. Besides, there many Chinese out there who may be practising certain religious orders, but yet, are utterly confuse about what they truly believe in. They suffer from the I-do-it-cos-my-parents-ask-me-to-do-it-and-I-have-no-freaking-idea-why-I-do-it syndrome.
What then is Chinese culture? If you do a Wikipedia-search for “Chinese culture”, you will probably get confused reading it. It talks about artifacts, history, evolution… all the heavyweight stuff. For simplicity sake, let’s just keep to ‘practices’.
I believe the following resembles Chinese culture Malaysia:
1) Reunion dinner during CNY eve;
2) Giving of ‘ang pows’;
3) Tea ceremony during wedding;
4) Giving of ‘lai kum’ during marriage;
5) Torture session during the ‘collect the bride’ mission;
6) “Yaaaaaaaaammmmmm Seng” session during wedding dinner;
7) Asking “sik pau mei?” (have you eaten?) when you meet an aunty or uncle by the street;
8) Can you think of others?
I’m of the zewtpinion that Chinese cultural practices are practices that will only be practised by Chinese (under normal circumstances), like those mentioned above. You may see people from other races going to a Chinese temple and put joss sticks, but only the Chinese guys are stupid enough to let a bunch of girls dictate terms at the door-step of their bride’s home and stupid enough to pay the girls for it despite knowing that the bride will marry the groom regardless. That’s what make a Chinese wedding… a Chinese wedding. Get the drift?
Those protocols that may be practiced by people of other races, due to them embracing the common Chinese religion (i.e. Buddhism / Taoism) are not Chinese cultural practices. These are the religious practices, one that may be abandoned by a Chinese when he or she embraces other religions. The threat to Chinese religious practices comes in the form ‘other’ religion’.
On the other hand, Chinese culture is facing the threat of extinction due to evolution. It is something that I believe, will not stand the test of time, particularly in Malaysia.
For example, how many of you didn’t make it for your reunion dinner? Or thought that reunion dinner is a hassle you wish you can avoid. How many of you want a romantic church wedding despite not being a Christian and is willing to do away with the ‘jam cha’ (tea) ceremony? How many of you think shouting ‘yam seng’ during your wedding dinner makes you feel ‘low class’ and it’s something that is “too chinese”?
Of course, I will agree with you if you say practising such practices does not make one a Chinese. But what I am trying to say here is that we, as Chinese, should preserve what is uniquely ours. Although I do believe it is a lost cause, let us try our best in this quest, for Chinese sake… for Malaysian Chinese sake.
[Here ends Zewt’s Chinese series]
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