two cultures, one family

In many ways, the Chinese culture puts Americans to shame.  If there is one thing I have learned in these past 2 days it is that Americans have very little past and you would be hard-pressed to find an American as proud of their country as the Chinese.  I tend to think of China as a very repressed place with a discontent population and certainly at times in its history that has been the case.  But present-day China is an interesting mix of the ancient and the modern, of communism and capitalism, of national pride and a desire for change.  What I have been hit hardest with is the immense history of this country.  Their historic landmarks are not from the 1800’s as are ours, but they are thousands and thousands of years old.  The Great Wall which we visited yesterday was begun in 100 B.C.  And with each building and statue comes enormous amounts of symbolism.  The number of posts holding up a door symbolizes your wealth, the amount of animals sculptured on the roof is an indicator of the importance of the building, the colors, the size, the shape, the materials – all are symbolic of something within society.  Horses symbolize success, the crane long life, the fish wealth, the tiger strength, bamboo perseverance for the man, the plum tree perseverance for the woman.  The combination of the ancient and the symbolic come together to form a culture that is rich with significance and meaning.  And the Chinese are unabashedly proud of their heritage.  They treasure it and are passionate about its celebration.   You can hardly find an American who flies a flag, but in this country they are filled with national pride.  Despite what we would consider governmental oppression in so many ways, the people are grateful for their leaders and respect them to an impressive degree.  America is very much looked at like the Promised Land – full of wealth and leisurely lives – but I have never sensed from the Chinese a discontent with their own country.  They embrace the one-child policy, are grateful to the government for health care provisions and housing, and generally see China as an up and coming world power for which to be proud. 

It is challenging to think how we might both increase all of our children’s appreciation for the country in which they live as well as instill in Lydia a sense of her heritage and roots.  She will always be Chinese, and I am learning that to be Chinese is to embrace a history and passion for the ancient and the symbolic unlike we Americans are generally capable of.  Certainly a responsibility of mine is to teach Lydia and help her to navigate the realities of her personal story – how might we best do that remains to be seen.  But there is so much to choose from, so much to learn and enjoy.  I know our kids are really excited to celebrate Chinese holidays – not sure if that is because party equals presents or because they have been instilled with their father’s passion for celebration.  But certainly our family will look different. 

Tomorrow, we will be a blend of two cultures, two histories, two nations, and two races.  There is no turning back now, nor would we ever want to.  I can hardly wait to see my little girl.