Previously: “China in my head is never just a concept or a far-away-mythic country that existed only in my parents’ collection of VCDs.”
“[i]n the world as it was during most of the 20th century and to this day, to have been born and died as the uncontested citizen of one nation-state, linguistically, culturally, ethnically and religiously coherent and stable, is a monumentally rare privilegeReview of British film Lilting (2014) Dir. Hong Khao. Perf. Cheng Pei-pei, Ben Wishaw, Andrew Leung from Crazy Cult Film.
When I was preparing for my essay for an MA module I took named “The Literature of Asian Diaspora,” A British film directed by Cambodian-British director Hong Khao caught my eyes. In my essay, I discussed the anxiety of the first-generation immigrants as the homeless, while the second-generation’s home-loss confusion and stress, I read this review from a film critic website. Back then as a freshly landed MA student, I pondered what is that “rare privilege” with an intact, stable, and non-hyphenated identity. I had no feeling of that privilege.
After 6 years past living in the UK as a diaspora myself and witnessed the hardship of my fellow Asians and especially those who immigrated to the UK when they were still kids, I realized at last.
Synecdochically speaking, home is diasporas’ nostalgic desire, as summarised by Avtar Brah that home is:
…the site of everyday lived experience. It is a discourse of locality, the place where the feeling of rootedness ensues from the mundane and the unexpected of daily practice. Home … connotes our networks of family, kin, friends, colleagues and various other ‘significant others’. It signifies the social and psychic geography of space that is experienced in term of a neighbourhood or a hometown. That is, a community ‘imagined’ in most part through the daily encounter. This ‘home’ is a place with which we remain intimate even in moments of intense alienation from it. It is a sense of ‘feeling at home’ (4).Brah, Avtar. Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. Routledge, 2005. Print.
Perhaps after living outside of my homeland for a long time, China has become a romanticized nostalgic desire to me?
China is the chirping of cicadas and summer holidays in the serene Mount Qingcheng with my family and their friends. It is the early mornings in which I walked with my grandma in a cornfield to breathe in the fresh mountain air; It is the Chinese folklore my mom told all the kids on our trips under the sky full of stars. It is my dad’s failed attempt to capture a boar with his friends and real mountain hunters.
China is the little pan I burnt accidentally while waiting for the pedaller auntie to come back who bakes the best 蛋烘糕 danhonggao (Chengdu pancake) in the whole district, when I was in grade one primary school.
China is eating 冷啖杯 lengdanbei (a kind of street food only found in Chengdu) in hot summer evenings while watching FIFA World Cup with my dad. We choose different national teams to support while dissing the Chinese team.
China is the Islamic psalm from the Huangcheng Mosque just a stone’s throw away from my middle school’s classroom window, which always interrupts the Maths class when my teacher tried to stretch the lecture time exactly at 11:30 am.
China is the Christmas tree outside our Roman Catholic church and the Pizza-Hut gathering with my childhood friends in New City Square on Christmas Eve.
China is that History evening-self-study class (晚自习) where I abused my “power” as the class president and swapped Mel Gibson’s The Patriot (that week we were studying the Independence War) with Revenge of Sith without telling my teacher.
China is the 5km road I walked hand in hand with my best friend from my high school to our neighbourhood when the Wenchuan Earthquake interrupted our English class and plunged the city into chaos and phones were disconnected on the afternoon of May 12th, 2008.
China is the hotpot and KTV we went after the Chinese college entrance examination with our classmates and teachers and got drunk.
China is my first love Ma Qiuyan, who is a Hui boy and also the most handsome boy in the whole grade in my middle school. China is also my beautiful Tibetan friend named Yanzong, with whom I directed our play based on Han Dynasty’s ballad A Peacock Flying to the Southeast (《孔雀东南飞) in my high school. China is the Yi people’s lacquerware (彝族漆器) my teammates and I were introduced to international companies at Western China International Fair (WCIF) when I was a first-year undergrad. China is my Tujia (土家族) friend’s marinated duck in super spicy Hunanese chilli sauce that made us all cry while we couldn’t stop eating it.
As a person who grew up without identity anxiety and who has been lucky enough to have had a happy life at my homeland, I can never fully comprehend diaspora’s pain and the low-self-esteem issue caused by the sense of inferiority growing up as a minority. I also can never fully understand those who have been wronged and traumatized by their experience growing up in China. I sympathize with their woe, I respect their different ideas (which I no longer expect reciprocity from them), but I will never tolerate hate speech and lies they tell to smear that land and people I deeply love. This is not even patriotism, because China in my mind is never a monolithic idea but tangible objects, food, mountains, forest, deserts, dresses, etc. Chinese are real people made of blood and flesh, not a number, a shadowy figure without a face to be mocked at and sacrificed.
So instead of feeling flattered by being seen as a sort of different from my fellow men as the Racist PUA intended me to feel. I feel outraged and broke up with them. To refute the Youtubers who claim most Chinese try to shy away from their Chinese identity. No, I am very proud of my Chinese identity. When people mistake me for a Central Asian, or doubting if one of my parents is a white person, I always shout at them that I am Chinese. When they express their disbelief and keep asking why I am so different. Gordon Ramsey’s rampage is my usual reaction in my head. But then as an educated young lady, I couldn’t possibly use physical or verbal violence. So my passive-aggressive face is my best weapon.
In this globalized era, the number of diasporas is dramatically increasing and will continue the upward trend. How Asian diasporas are to address their aspirations for the home, the anxiety for stable and unified identities, and the agony of home-loss lies, I suggest, on the problem of the dichotomy of the Others and Natives. Disrupting this binary will eliminate the alienation and discrimination that evokes the nostalgic desire for the home. However, since the desire for the home and a stable identity inevitably leads to the classification, and accordingly draws the boundary between self and others, this global issue may remain as a Catch 22.
 In Mainland China, most High schools have classes in the evening. Usually, it will last more than one hour (e.g. from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.). Students are required to stay at schools to study. Oftentimes, students study by themselves with the class president monitoring over the class, and sometimes, teachers conduct lectures or exams. It is called “晚自习” in Chinese. Our history teacher often uses this time to show us historical dramas to give us vivid visual presentations of that particular historical event we studied that week. We were aware that Mel Gibson’s movies are notorious for their historical inaccuracy.