With help of this paper, I aim to address the key prospects of the Glimpse of China –Chinese Culture and Arts Festival that has occurred on May 21, 2016 in Seattle. The festival has gathered key Chinese performers and cultural activists who helped transcend the true Chinese spirit into American society. The main reason for choosing this event was my nationality, as I am also Chinese. Therefore, I was wondering how the Chinese artists, performers, and cultural activists participating in the festival would restore the Chinese spirit and culture in the heart of American culture. Due to my experience while attending this event, I had the opportunity to check it as well as truly enjoy the glimpses of my native culture. The presented paper will also briefly focus on the literature review in regard to Chinese culture and will draw the cultural characteristics, symbols, and their meaning as they were caught during the festival.
First of all, it should be stressed that the topics covered by this essay have different levels of scientific research. The definitions of culture have been debated over the years together with its key features. At the same time, Chinese culture has also been frequently referred to, but it was more evident in the Asian sources. Nowadays, Chinese culture is examined mostly in the entrepreneurial dimensions. With the purpose of fulfilling this essay’s assignment, five academic sources have been examined and analyzed.
In order to cover all the important issues pertaining to the current assignment, the culture itself, cultural characteristics, and its symbols should be defined. Moreover, in order to draw the important features of Chinese culture, it was necessary to conduct a brief literature overview.
Starting with the definition of culture, it should be stressed that it is an extremely broad concept that is defined considering various dimensions. Hofstede has stressed that culture is like air, and the humanity cannot actually see it or touch it. At the same time, culture refers to the set of determined characteristics that helps distinguish the representatives of different nations. Culture is also believed to be taken for granted. Indeed, the cultural implications and traditions are taken as given without the further considerations on them. Birukou assert that “definitions agree on the fact that culture consists of something that is shared and/or learned by a group of people, but the content of the culture varies in different definitions”. Culture is also referred to as something that is shared by the majority of community. It is usually passed down to the generations, and that shapes the behaviors and perceptions of the world.
Chinese culture is nowadays at the heart of attention, mainly due to the raise of Chinese economic powers in the world. In accordance with Huntington, the soft powers (for instance, cultural dominance) follow the hard powers (for instance, physical power usually based on military resources). China has not yet demonstrated its territory aspirations regarding its neighbors. However, its rapid economic growth with the anticipated annual increase and overall importance on the international trade arena cultivate a significant interest in its cultural matters. Due to this fact, the majority of articles and scientific works are dedicated to the issues of leadership in Asian world and to the values and principles that are important for business organizations and transactions completed with Chinese partners. On the whole, it should be remembered that the inner world of Chinese culture is largely based on Confucian philosophy. Moreover, the religion of this country, which is Buddhism, also has certain implications for the lives of Chinese people.
Bearing the abovementioned in mind, it should be stressed that the culture of China stems back to ancient times. It is considered to be developed for already 5,000 years. Colors are extremely important in Chinese culture and, considering the essence of the attended event, it is necessary to dwell on this topic as well. On the whole, bright and powerful colors are frequently used in the Chinese daily life. Red, pink, and yellow colors are usually associated with happiness and festivity while black and white colors are classic tones for the funerals and other sad ceremonies. The gifts are, therefore, often wrapped in the paper of “happy” colors. The gifts also might frequently have a double meaning. For example, it is recommended to avoid giving a watch to the friends or parents, since it is always associated with death. The characteristics and symbols in Chinese culture will be specifically addressed in the further part of the paper with an appeal to the events occurring during the Chinese festival.
As to the characteristics of culture, scientists still debate on their scope and variety. Larry Samovar and Richard Porter have enumerated few of them. First of all, they asserted that culture is something that is experienced by the person and then learned. Thus, it is not an inborn but learned experience. At the same moment, it should be stressed that culture is passed through the generations. Therefore, culture is a kind of the genetic code where the most common features of every generation are reflected. Another important feature of culture refers to the existence of the symbols that also develop over the years and represent a certain meaning or fetish. Furthermore, cultures change; they might even go extinct and resurrect again. Finally, it should be mentioned that culture is usually ethnocentric, which means that it is attached to the particular ethos.
Critical Discussion of Cross-Cultural Experience
Before starting the prolonged discussion of the details of what has happened to me during the festival, I would like to stress that I am Chinese, so many attributes of Chinese culture were not as shocking for me as they might have been for others. I have been to many similar festivals and would like to assert that they offer a great opportunity to dive into another culture. In particular, the Glimpse of China – Chinese Culture and Arts Festival provided the Chinese children born abroad with the opportunity to reconnect with their culture, which is quite important for the understanding of oneself.
The festival was quite immense, as it managed to draw the attention of many people of different origin. At the festival, everyone could join the type of art he or she adores: dances, painting, singing, and performances among others. Big red lanterns that were located all over the territory of the festival served as extra advertisement, drawing attention of many people, especially in the evening. It was quite interesting to see Americans who made their first steps in kung fu. However, many people were lured by the culinary events that promised to teach their participants how to cook the dishes of homemade Chinese cuisine.
Many of the participants of the cultural festival, especially those who threw the indoor workshops, decorated their doors and entrances with the posters of various sizes that had various Chinese characters on them. One of the characters, Fu, was used extremely often, as it meant good luck. This character also provided for the fortune, bliss, and happiness.
The most interesting part actually referred to the markets and street food. In fact, the center of the market was occupied with different performers from various Buddhism and Taoism organizations. They carried out various performances and improvised guided tours around the festival with the details regarding Chinese culture. The places had few features that helped the visitors differentiate them. This year, the organizers of the festival also created some kind of a quest that encouraged the participants to identify Chinese symbols and find the answers that were needed to make progress in the quest. The fair itself was uncommonly busy, and there were a lot of the classic operas that were played apart from the pure trading activities.
There were also many lion dances that deeply impressed me. Actually, the dances and the clothes of the performers were extremely authentic and as such, they created the atmosphere of holiday and lightness. The lion dances are performed to ward off the evil and demons and to attract happiness and good fortune. Ancient people frequently used to wear the bright clothes as a symbol of bravery and strength. They believed that it might have been helpful in driving away the evil and protecting people together with livestock against diseases and other disasters. The typical lion dance requires at least two perfectly trained and highly motivated performers who act while wearing quite a heavy lion suit. The lions usually dance in accordance with the beat of the drums. However, the most experienced performers might tend to improvisations. During the dance, the lion moves from one place to another looking for some kind of food. Usually, they find the vegetables having red envelops with money inside of them. The performance is indeed extremely spectacular and is recommended for everyone to experience.
While discovering the culinary sides of China, I decided to try yuanxiao. This dish reminds the dumplings that are filled with rice, sweet or salty fillings, sugar, nuts, and bean paste among others. Yuanxiao is cooked in different ways, boiled or fried.
Reflecting on the abovementioned experiences, few conclusions should be drawn. First, similar events indeed help dive into another culture. However, I believe that to embrace the culture to the greatest extent, one should spend time at the place from which this culture actually originates. The festival that occurred in Seattle was overendowed with the performances demonstrating the tiniest aspects of Chinese culture. However, all of them were stranded; they were not authentic. Moreover, this festival might have echoed the culture that existed in Seattle. Therefore, one more important sub-characteristic of culture refers to its ability to be rather heavily influenced by other cultures.
At the same time, the festival was a great opportunity to learn Chinese culture for those who were unfamiliar with it. Some of the participants were Americans who accepted Chinese culture as their own or inborn culture. This fact supports the claim that culture is learned or embraced. Apart from that, it should be stressed that to a great extent, Chinese culture is based on Chinese ethos, which refers to many symbols and original features. The bright colors together with symbols that are believed to protect against the evil represent the greatest part of this culture, and all of them where used during the festival.
The symbols, in fact, serve as the elements that help identify the culture and differentiate it from the rest. No doubt, every culture develops the protective symbols; yet, all of them are original, since they are influenced and introduced by different people with different ideas and views on life. Furthermore, the symbols actually enable the generations to pass their culture to the followers and newcomers. Larry Samovar and Richard Porter assert that “the portability of symbols allows us to store them as well as transmit them. The books, pictures, films, videos preserve a culture that it deems to be important and worthy of transmission”.
Finally, I have noticed some change in Chinese culture, at least in the way it was presented during the festival. I had a chance to note that some of the symbols were able to survive while others have become less popular for the bearers of this culture and, therefore, forgotten in the end. Actually, it illustrated another feature of culture, which is its changeability. Culture is affected by many events, environment, and its bearers and representatives. At this point, Larry Samovar and Richard Porter assert that even though cultures tend to change over time together with significance of their symbols, the basic concepts and ideas have extreme resistance to changes. Therefore, the changes in clothing, appearance, food, transportation, or housing might indeed take place. However, the values, ethics, and morals remain the same.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that there are many methods for discovering and embracing culture. The presented assignment provided the opportunity to rediscover Chinese culture and apply the learned concepts. Some of the basic ideas have been checked in practice. Cultures indeed tend to change over the years, even though the basics remain the same. Cultures are frequently based on the ethos that is attributive to the particular country. Moreover, due to the events revealed at the festival, it should be noted that culture might be learned and accepted by the individuals who have been raised in the community with another culture. Finally, cultures are significantly influenced by the environment within which they exist. In this case, the traditional Chinese symbols and atmosphere have been mixed up with Seattle culture as well.