◎ Kelly Yao
Developing Virtue Secondary Girl School, Grade 8
In the past, America has been known as a great ‘melting pot’ of many peoples. Why is this? This phrase has been used by so many people to describe America. But have you ever stopped to think about the implications? No other nation boasts such a diversity of races; Asians, Caucasians, Europeans, Mexicans/Hispanics, Africans, and many more minorities. This, along with the many religions and traditions these people bring with them, make up the very distinct culture that is known as ‘American’ to others all over the world.
I believe that Asian culture has made a huge difference since the 1800’s, when the influx of Asians first started increasing because of the Gold Rush in California. They brought with them their culture, their religion, their traditions, and most of all, their food. It is impossible to think of American takeout without Chinese food incorporated in there as well, ranked up there with pizza from Italy and Mexican burritos. But was there any indication of rice before the Chinese came? No. Rice is entirely an Asian crop.
In the district of Los Angeles, the population numbers well over a million already, and growing. A good one-third of this million is Asian. Only a tiny percentage of Caucasians remain in the district, and is slowly growing less as they move east to retire. Is it possible to think of San Francisco without Chinatown? It isn’t, is it? But look at the names. Los Angeles, San Francisco? These are remnants from when California was still under Mexican rule. Does this make sense to you? Old Spanish cities are now under the thumb of Asians. It’s obvious that there will be an Asian elected as mayor in either city soon.
The Chinese have always had different ideas, mannerisms, ideas of etiquette, and much more. Chopsticks; who’s ever heard of eating with two sticks? We bow to our elders, or stand up whenever someone with seniority comes in the room. Americans do not do this. Instead, Americans just wave with a smile, or say hi. While this is very nice and easy, it does not show proper respect for the elderly.
Another is the close family feeling between all Chinese. I have often found myself in the position of meeting someone whom my family seems to have an old connection with. With my very American upbringing, my hand is immediately outstretched to receive the other’s hand. Then, as I receive my mother’s cold glare, I realize I had forgotten this was my mother’s second cousin’s wife’s brother. Instead, I step forward to receive the hug and try to get away as soon as possible.
Being of a Chinese background myself, though living in America all my life, I have seen firsthand the blending of Chinese traditions into American mainstream culture. My old public school celebrates Chinese New Year every year with a big sell-out, in deference to the 60% Asian students out of the whole student body. It seems to now be a requirement to celebrate the old Chinese traditions everywhere. Big cities host immense festivals for Chinese New Year when they don’t for other, smaller minority events. On the other hand, Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated everywhere also. In my heart, I believe that people are just searching for a reason to celebrate. There probably can never be enough to throw a party for; birthdays, births, deaths, christenings, weddings, anything!
As for Chinese culture blending into the mainstream American, perhaps it is because of Chinese economy growing. The factory and business growth has interested people all over the world to invest in China. As with this, when one interferes with another country’s affairs, they must adapt to the other country’s methods to think of being accepted. Language is one. According to statistics, Chinese (Mandarin) is now the most widely spoken language in the world. Chinese is not related to English in any way. There are no similarities. Chinese is a symbol-filled language, changed to receive the form of words. Another is clothing. Are tuxedos related to a chipao in any way? Tuxedos have pants. Chipaos do not. That is all you need to know in the comparison. When once you only saw chipaos and bianfus on black haired, brown-eye featured people; now one seems to see them everywhere, even on golden haired, blue-eye foreigners.
I hope that this page has served to explain about how Chinese culture and American have blended in the years since the Chinese first started immigrating in. These traditions were never known to the other country before. Chinese contributions have served to affect America, and it is my belief that they will keep on doing so.