So yesterday afternoon almost generated a new post about tropical fruit after my workday disappeared somewhere between juicy pomelo pulp and sticky fingers. Unfortunately, posting about the fruits below didn’t feel 1) exciting enough or 2) “deep” enough. I mean, anyone can go online and search about fruits in southern China and how much they’ll prevent cancer or aging or the common cold. I suggest taking milliseconds to enjoy the colorful pictures and meet me at the next paragraph asap.
It’s almost the Chinese New Year— lanterns have been strung wherever and on whatever has the ability to hang objects. But this year, along with traditional holiday greetings, comes a new phrase from the government: “厉行节约、反对浪费” or “Be economical; Oppose waste.” The second half of the phrase is especially catchy because it happens to rhyme in Chinese. Whereas every government industry and military unit used to host a new year’s celebration with vibrant performances, amateur singers, and way too much red, this year, citizens will need to find a new program to fill their living room televisions on the 9th of February. In a new government campaign to limit “wasteful expenditure”, Chinese government officials are pledging to be mindful in personal expenditures while encouraging local citizens to do the same. All local Chinese New Year stage performances or extravagant parties have thus been cancelled. It may sound like the government’s crashing the party, but most Chinese seem okay with the idea to the extent that they don’t have to participate in such drab performances and are spared listening to another pretty-eyed neon gown screech out inadvertent insults to the art of Mongolian melody. It may help to note that Chinese television is comprised of 5% weather, 15% news, 20% soaps set in traditional Warring States time, and 60% stage performances or game shows— another New Year performance would just be lost in the mix. Still, this article provides an interesting look into the meaning behind the government’s newest catch phrase: http://www.infzm.com/content/86082
Confucius, by far the most influential individual in Chinese cultural history, once said that “君子之德风，小人之德草，草上之风必偃”: “The morality of gentlemen (aka government or high officials) is wind, the morality of small people (average citizens) is grass; the wind must lie on the grass below.” Thus, morality starts with those above and can only be spread through proper example. Still, average citizens too have a responsibility to generate civilized habits, which starts with something as simple as ordering what you can finish at a restaurant, instead of buckling under cultural pressure to be an impeccable host or maintain “face” in the presence of others— two other powerful forces at work in Chinese society that, like Confucius, stretch back more than 1,000 years. Consider the photograph below, which depicts the remains of tables at a 5 star hotel in Guangzhou after a government conference: