As someone who confesses to be an international citizen, I cannot help but reflect on my origins while also meditating on certain features of culture and its related issues.
Often metaphorized as a dragon, China has providing me with food and shelter for the past 16 years. The fact that the country is a rising dragon that has woken up from a humiliated slumber might be perceived as relevant, since our daily living standards are constantly improving. In China’s modern society, we can see that technology assists in preserving culture. Yet, certain issues also arise along with China’s growing modernity, as I observed when tracing my family history.
Surely I can be categorized as a Beijinger, for I was born and raised in this city. Yet, I also belong to Hong Kong, where my family members work. In general, these two mega cities are highly developed and westernized; it is arguable that though innovative measures have been taken to reassess and mollify cultural loss, modernity has also resulted in the loss of traditions like hutongs in Bei j ing and the diversi ty of restaurants in Hong Kong, which are mostly Cantonese.
Let us take a look at another location that I ethnically belong to: Zhejiang province, which has witnessed the glory of some of China’s most famous writers and where the beautiful West Lake resides. In small towns serenely encompassed by rivers, people’s favorite pastime has shifted from reading the daily paper to watching television. Culture has become less identifiable in urban areas, though still well-preserved in smaller towns and villages, where cultural richness continues to edify generations.
Though from the “dragon’s den,” I am sometimes regarded as a third-culture kid, for I have long been in an international environment, especially after I enrolled in Beijing City International School two years ago.
Last summer, I seized the opportunity to travel to Oxford, Stratford upon-Avon, and Haworth in the UK. The experience was so engaging that I see myself as someone who “comes from” those places, since I’ve returned to the dragon’s den with broadened perspectives.
Yes, I come from the moors. Please do not arrest my imagination, for I am the apparition of Emily Bronte, just as Catherine is Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Soaring above the moors, which appear barren yet contain lively tales of passionate love and wild revenge, the phantom of Bronte spoke – a language unknown to mankind, yet comprehensible to spirits! All hail, fantastical imaginations, sacred ecstasy!
Yes, I once came from the peaceful town of Stratford-upon-Avon. The cultural identity of this tranquil town in Warwickshire is almost wholly shaped by William Shakespeare, the famous bard who proposed that “all the world is a stage.” Perhaps we are indeed all involved in the dramatic plays of the world, and that is simply our origins. But if we are all controlled by powerful individuals such as Shakespeare, then is it even pragmatic for us to discover our authentic cradles? Perhaps only Shakespeare’s lonely ghost-like figure can respond to this musing.
And indeed, I returned to China from Oxford, the “city of dreaming spires,” where rigid customs splendidly blend with contemporary symbols. Dreaming spires savor their sensations in the dawning darkness, as the scholars’ breaking discoveries continue to empower and inspire the world. This is a unique form of culture, whose windows are constructed of firm academic rigor and vigor.
Inspiration comes out of tranquility, in my own case. Thus, the two trips to England last year enabled me to be more globalized as a third-culture kid, who nevertheless cautiously keeps tradition in mind. As paradoxical as it may sound, I earnestly convey one single message: Dear readers, please contemplate your own origins fully and critically.
April Xiaoyi Xu is 16 years old and attends Beijing City International School.