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Inheritance and Alienation of Confucianism

Author: DiHuiZuo
Tutor: ZhangQiang
School: Central China Normal University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: Chinese American literature Eat a Bowl of Tea Louis Chu Chinatown culture Confucianism inheritance and alienation
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Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2006
Downloads: 616
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Abstract


Chinese American literature as a special form of literature lingers between the Oriental culture and Caucasian literature, seeking for its identity. This thesis takes Chinese American literature as its subject, focusing on its inheritance and alienation of the Chinese traditional culture in earlier period of the Chinese American history around 1945.Generations of Chinese American writers have taken part in the process with different appeals. The early phase of Chinese American literature consists of work depicting the history of the early Chinese immigrants as well as the life of Chinatown. Louis Chu’s Eat a Bowl of Tea is one most famous representatives of the group that provides a perfect illustration of the Chinatown culture under reformation. This study is not meant to criticize the affection from either cultures, but rather endeavors to illustrate the point that the early works that deal with Chinese traditional culture from the perspective of the Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans provides valuable information for a retrospect on the essence of Chinese traditional culture as well as documenting the crucial period of the Chinese American literature history so that it’d provide help in the long journey of the Chinese American identity seeking.The first part examines the confrontation of Chinese traditional culture against Orientalism in American literary tradition. It begins with an overview of the Chinese traditional culture in the form of Confucianism. Then it goes on with a discussion of the Caucasian representation of the Chinese and concludes that such representation generally offers only stereotypes to consolidate the whiter sense of superiority. Chinese American literature form 1970s began to get on its foot and positioned itself in opposition to this Orientalist tradition in a more frank way, and made great efforts to rewrite the stereotypes in their literature. They achieved this goal by describing a Chinese American history rooted in their historical experience in America, and narratevized a "usable" Chinese American history. The compromises that some writers, however often causes the Chinese American literature to end up dismantling one stereotype while unintentionally reinforcing another. The Chinese American writers still have a long way to go.The following part deals with a literary review on Louis Chu the writer and his book Eat a Bowl of Tea. Following a brief introduction of the writer, this part focuses on theevaluation of the work by other Chinese American writers in different historical periods, a mixture of high praise to severe criticism.The next chapter, as the main body of the whole paper, presents a detailed case study on the Chinatown culture delineated in the book around World War II. Chinese traditional culture covers a range wider than Confucianism. Yet as the dominant force that remains the most influential form of ideology and best represents the Chinese traditional culture, this paper chooses Confucianism as the representation of the traditional Chinese culture. The inheritance and alienation of Confucianism in the book Eat a Bowl of Tea is discussed in three dimensions: face issue—Chinatown’s social hypotaxis;patriarchy in feudality Vs. Chinatown’s parental intervention in marriage and sexism in China and Chinatown.The fifth chapter serves as a supplementary part to the previous one. There are other elements in the novel in which the essence of the traditional Chinese culture is embodied. Chinese elements are employed instrumentally as empowering ethnic markers to fortify the American cultural values that are at the core of this new culture. The subjects under discussion are the symbolism of the "tea" culture as well as the language of "Sze Yup", the latter one subdivided into two categories: personal address;Chinese cultural-loaded expressions in English.Chu’s book provides a different portrayal of Chinese and Chinese American culture from an insider’s perspective in contrast to mainstream stereotypes. The last part of the thesis sums up Chinatown culture’s resemblance and alienation of Chinese traditional culture and comes up with the conclusion that identity issue for the Chinese Americans are made permanent—they are out of Chinese, but never American. This being the case, Chinese traditional culture as the source culture from which the Chinese American culture first rooted, will always provide an abundant energy from which Chinese American writers could absorb along the process of identity seeking. This in itself is the process of cultural output. As long as Chinese American literature keeps striking to make itself heard in the mainstream Caucasian culture, the traditional Chinese culture would always have a window to broadcast the virtue of its cultural spirit to the world, while being constantly reminded of its vice so that the process of self-improvement should never cease.

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