Monday, April 11, 2005

Thoughts that came about during Cheng Meng

What will happen tomorrow (to the Chinese culture), if the children of today are not educated nor brought up to appreciate the custom?

Then we ask - how important is upholding the tradition & custom for the family, community and the country?

To my non-Chinese educated uncle who is proud to be a Chinese, but has converted to Christianity, thought that it is not important to follow the old ways. Infact, to him, the reason for the practise of 'leaving behind bits of food' at the graveyard is because Chinese is Kiasu! They want to show that they've come and visited the ancestor's grave first.

What will happen one day, if all Chinese got converted to Christianity, and they'll think it's irrelevent to uphold any of the tradition, i.e. holding the joss stick, lighting of red candles, placing cups of tea etc. Can you imagine that happening in Malaysia?

Why am I only referring to born-again Christians? What about like minded people me! I do not agree with the idea of paper burning, its illogical, completely meaningless and is utter polluting the air.

Yet when I try to revamp our Cheng Meng style, my parents do not agree. They are more 'traditional' than 'religious' in this aspect. If we were to follow the teachings of Buddhism, we do not have to follow any rituals. But my parents are so righteous (I'm not sure if that's the right word) that they are just trying to uphold what my grandmother had always been doing in the past until she's gone.

Back to my uncle, how can he say "I feel more Chinese if I'm in Singapore" like he's deprived of his chance to be a Chinese here in Malaysia? What makes him a Chinese, (aside from his name and his roots) when he is willing to discontinue the Chinese tradition, and he couldn't speak nor write in Chinese?

How many Chinese family here still maintain a Chinese alter in their house? Who else is making offerings to the sky-god, earth-god and mother of all gods? The younger generation will never really bother why is new moon and full moon so significant. Chinese New Year is all about angpow and money. Is there other Chinese family that will take the trouble to clean up the altar in the most respectful way?

It's so 'convenient' to just convert to modernisation and clap your hand to wash away your responsibility of 'traditions' that one must follow. No need to remember when is the death anniversary, no need to remember when to clean the altar.

If nobody remembers any 'link' of our family & culture, what will the future generation be?! Westernized? Modernised? Globalised? Uncivilised?

Already, it was baffling when I once asked my little cousin "What is your race?", you know what she replied? "I'm English!".

I ask her why is she English, because she said she's speaking English! Hmm.. what have you gotta expect from a 4 year old kid? If the whole world population and every nation started to pick up English from young, then everyone would be English?

What's harder to perceive is how most non-native-mainland-China Chinese (like Malaysians themselves) would feel disgusted with the attitude of the people of China?! My parents who's travelled to China for holidays would complain about how rude the Chinese people are, and how snobbish the Chinese girls behaved. One Malaysian-Chinese friend who's studied in UK, alongside mainland-Chinese flatmates felt embarassed that the Chinese were so dirty! (i.e. rarely bath)

What is the term for people like me?! What am I wishing for, for the future of the Chinese in Malaysia? Why do I even care if I was ever a Chinese or not? But then I am still proud to be a Chinese, though I'm more patriotic towards my country Malaysia.

Just like I'd boldly tell everyone, I'm first a Malaysian, second a Chinese, third a Buddhist. Maybe all I have to do is just accept the differences in other people, and hope for others to accept me for just me. That's probably it!