The incessant fireworks over Chinese New Year might drive you batty, but in his winning speech about cultural preservation, Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS) student Nathan Drisner reminds us to “marvel at how incredible the history and culture of ancient China still holds its roots in the modern-day, bustling city of Beijing.” Drisner (Year 11) and his fellow students Ann Liang (Year 8) and Rebecca Yap (Year 9), were announced as winners of the YCIS speech competition on Friday, January 18. Liang, who won second place, spoke about different ways to look at intelligence, and Yap, who won third place, delved into the importance of stem cell research.
Drisner explained his choice of topic, saying, “I chose this topic because I have lived in both North America and China and have experienced different cultures throughout my life. I love living in Beijing and would hate to see the traditional culture disappear. I feel that this is something I would like to protect and am a strong believer of preserving cultures around the world.” Two passages from Drisner’s speech are excerpted below. You can see more excerpts here.
Every year, during Chinese New Year, I sit on my couch, and I hear the fireworks.
Oh, the never ending banging and crashing and exploding of those fireworks outside my house, causing all those sleepless nights. I remember one year how, as my family and I were eating dinner together, someone lit off fireworks right outside our apartment. We, as usual, sat through the torturous noise, but this time, one of the fireworks hit our kitchen window.
Yes, the fireworks may get annoying, but I still marvel at how incredible the history and culture of Ancient China still holds its roots in the modern day, bustling city of Beijing. It’s amazing to see how well the significance of Chinese New Year, as well as events like the Mid-Autumn Festival, Tomb Sweeping Day, and Dong Wu Jie, are still held in such high regard today.
I find it astounding- no, beautiful- to see how the Western and Eastern cultures mix in this city. Like at a wedding, where the bride wears a Western dress, but the shuang xi symbol can be seen hanging all over the walls of the room. Even much of the Chinese pop music is like this, where you can hear an electric bass and the drum kit backing up the gu zheng or er hu melody that plays. It is mind-blowing, when you think about how incredible this really is, to see something like this in our modern world.
But, sadly, Chinese Culture is fading away. Of course, in modern China, culture has to be sacrificed for development.
A qipao would never be worn today by your average Beijing girl, unless she had to. She instead wears jeans.
And at least some people still play Chinese Chess, but that is now played on an iPad. Will Chinese Chess be completely replaced one day by something like, I don’t know, Angry Birds?
None of them appreciate the jingju, because that Chinese Opera just doesn’t sound good, right? It’s not what’s hip and now, correct?
I once met a girl, about 17 years old at the time, in rural Sichuan many years ago at an English Summer Camp I volunteered to help out in, and this girl practiced Sichuan Opera. Now, after she showed a couple of us Lao Wais her, I must say, quite astounding skill in the art, we told her how much we liked it. And she had the biggest smile on her face.
Later, at the end of that week of camp, this very shy girl got the courage to ask us if she could perform for the whole group. And of course, we said yes. She got up in front of the whole group of about 150 Chinese students- who were all about our age or younger- and after introducing what she was doing, began her performance.
And do you know what her audience of fellow students did?
They laughed at her. They laughed at what she was doing, at her singing and her dancing. Oh, she kept up her performance, but they began to overpower her beautiful voice with their nonchalant and naive chattering.
And as she continued on, I saw that bright smile fade from her face. This goes to show how the vibrant culture of China is slowly, but surely, being destroyed. And this isn’t just happening in China. No, it is happening all over the world.
Photo courtesy of YCIS Beijing