January 30, 2011

"My motherland" - a Chinese 'Red" Song Played by a "Wolf" Pianist in White House

Opening of Chopin Year in Warsaw.Image via WikipediaRecently a famous Chinese pianist Lang Lang played a "red" song "My Motherland" during his performance in White House. This song was a theme song in a movie about a battle in Korean War during 50s. Because of this "political" or historical context, so in many Chinese people's eye, this is "anti- America" song, and Lang Lang's performance consequently stirred a huge discussion and arguments in within Chinese online communities - while many felt utmostly inappropriate, many felt proud of the performance.

A while ago, I started a thread on Blogcatalog about the musical value of "political" songs, expressed my understanding about how a song may convey different meanings by its different aspects of art form: while the lyrics can be political, the music part can be totally musical or artistic. This song "My Motherland" happens to be one of my favorite "red" songs. Despite of it's historical context, I personally think it is one of the most beautiful Chinese folk songs. The lyrics is mostly about the love to motherland (China), about a understandable patriotism. I don't see any any pro-communism and anti-America slogans. So the only reason that this song reminds Chinese people about Korean War simply is because it was used in the movie.

I might have to agree that it was not the best choice to play this song in White House but, it should not be such a big deal.

I heard radio NPR interviewing Lang Lang about his performance, he denied that he knew about the context of this song. However, when he was interviewed by Chinese news media, he expressed his "pride" of being able to play something that glorify the power of China in front of so many powerful politicians of many countries.

One thing worth to mention is, the name of this pianist "Lang", sounds exactly like "wolf" in Chinese. It happened that he was raised by a father who is as ambitious as "tigar mother", so his father was call as "wolf father" by many Chinese people. He possesses every idea the "tigar mother" does, except he is more physically powerful than that woman. In Lang Lang's biograph he remembered once he missed 2 hours of piano practice his father asked him either swallow a whole bottle of pill or, to jump from the window.

Lang Lang is now considered as a music prodigy and super famous pianist in China. His father of course is also very famous by his "superior" way of raising his "genius" son, though "it's a little too hard to understand" by normal people, as one of interviewer from a Chinese television mentioned. But because of Lang Lang's huge success, I personally believe many Chinese people would still prove his father's "hard work". And if this was true, I guess very soon more children will jump through window (or swallow pills) without their parents' pushing them.

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January 12, 2011

The impact of "Tiger mother"

Amy Chua at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, Aust...Image via Wikipedia

The article in WSJ "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior?" seems to have some attention the author wanted, and it looks like that the publication of the book by the same author "Battle Hymn of Tiger Mother" will be inevitably successful too.

Even though personally I intensely dislike (even pity) the author's so call "superior" way of parenting, I have to admit, that the publication of her article and book will have some positive outcomes to American people and American Chinese community.

First of all, her book uncovers a fact that once was a stereotype - the child abuse that widely existed in Chinese families. Like Amy Chua, the author of book, many Chinese parents have been conducting severe child abuse under the slogan "for children's good", though mostly of them did it UNCONSCIOUSLY. Even without physical abuse (which I believe is still ongoing in many families), the consequence of this abuse is serious - the overwhelming lack of self-esteem within Chinese people.

The so call "superior" mothering or parenting, does not only exist in China, but also in any other countries that were influenced by Confucianism: Japan, South Korea, Singapore (where Chua come from) and many other southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, etc. The core philosophy of this "superior parenting" is "obedience", generated by "strict" discipline that is conducted since the beginning of children's cognitive development. This traditional parenting has successfully implanted "obedience", or "servile" personality in Chinese people's blood all the way through Chinese history.

This exposure of the dark side of Chinese families may actually do good for Chinese people, because it will draw severe criticizes from outside of Chinese community and I believe this would help many Chinese people drop their outdated belief, make many Chinese elites re-think their "superior" parenting.

Chinese people have been so obsessed with their tradition, so proud of their "thousands years of glory" that they think if not follow what their ancestors doctrine, Chinese will not be Chinese anymore. That's why during modern history of China, almost every step of progress was made by the force from outside of country.

Secondly, I personally think Chua's book will bring some positive influence to American society. It is my observation that the American way of parenting - "over protection" - if spoke exaggeratedly - has gone to another extreme and led many problems on children: lack of self-control; incapability of hard working; extremely self-centered, etc. I even believe that this way of "parenting" was partially responsible for the country's current downside situation, and would be an obstacle for the country's recovery as well.

It is also my impression that most American people seem to over-trust our innate capability. This probably is one of reasons that some (if not many) "American mothers" do not want to push their kids in any circumstances. This over-belief may also made many American believe that many Chinese "prodigies" are born with those talents. The publications of Chua will reveal the truth behind Chinese "prodigies" - not at all all of them are geniuses, but ordinary kids raised by "tiger mothers". Of course, I don't think most American mothers will adopt Chua's "never allowed" list but, the "success" of her daughters, or many other Chinese/Asian "prodigies" would prove a fact that the Chinese way of parenting does do some good on stretching children's competitive strength, at least skill wise.

This is an article on NYT magazine yesterday: No More Mrs. Nice Mom by Judith Warner, which reflects the stir that "tiger mother" just made.

I think, beside these positive outcomes, personal wise, Chua's publication will continue damage her daughters' lives, more than she could imagine. Her daughters will be put under spotlight and live under a more stressful condition. It is not fair to them. They may think like their mother did (actually one of them already said, just like their mother said about her own parents), "without her effort, I would not be me today.." but, they may never know about another kind of life, a life that is stress free, that is sufficient without support of high academic degree and high social status.

However, I am still optimistic about two lovely daughters. I believe the diverse cultural environment in this country would nourish their later life, possibly prevent them from repeating her mother's tragedy (even though she may take it as a huge success).

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