Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chinese Culture Observation

I’ve always heard that in China, death is not openly talked about because it’s thought to be a bad omen to talk openly discuss it. I realized this on a personal note when I happened to mention to several friends that I had gone home to take part in my Grandpa’s funeral. All my friends, quickly said, “I’m so sorry to hear that” then they quickly changed the subject. Because I was able to be home with my family and properly mourn my grandfather’s passing, I feel pretty ready and comfortable to share more with my Chinese friends, but there seems to be a wall that quickly goes up in their eyes as soon as I tell them the news.
I’m trying to think how we might respond to hearing that our friend has lost a loved one in Western culture. Usually I think we ask more questions about the situation: “How did he die? How old was he? What was the funeral like? How are you doing with everything?” These kinds of questions, but these questions have for the most part not been discussed. One friend, did very sheepishly ask how old my grandfather was when he . . . died (she hesitated before she said the word.)
On a similar note, in Chinese culture, white lanterns are a symbol of death. This past summer, I bought a big white lantern ball to hang in my apartment. I thought it added nice dimension to the room, but after one of my Chinese friends pointed to it and gasped, I thought it might be best to move it out of my living room. It now hangs in my bedroom, and I close my door when guests come over so I don’t scare them.

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