If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn, it’s that proximity is the greatest guarantee of friendship. That however cold the Chinese can be in the anonymity of the streets, they are some of the warmest people in the context of their ‘family’. That family [家] is the most important word in the Chinese language and without understanding the concept of family and filial duty, you cannot understand Chinese politics, business, ethics and the like.
After 27 hours crammed in train bunk beds, I become friendly with the 陈小宇 family from Xi’Ning and a few days later I'm at their house for a tea, homemade noodles and rice wine. Their twelve year old daughter Amy speaks about as much English as I speak Chinese.
Good faith in others, a naïve openness and a genuine smile function better than the petty words we tend to exchange on a daily basis. Laughter and hunger know no language. Such it is that I find myself inextricably connected with a family living halfway across the world. After dinner Amy pulls out her little DVD player and puts on the Lion King, with Chinese subtitles; it’s her favorite movie. All of the sudden, I’m struck by an eerie feeling as I recall that I wrote in my Watson application:
"I have a feeling I’m not alone when I say that some of my most vivid memories of childhood are colored by the TV screen. I remember watching The Lion King so many times that I broke the VHS tape"
The sun sets over Xi'Ning in the background as the 陈小宇 family and I watch The Lion King and exchange our thoughts on different characters. Sometimes I only catch the familiar name of Simba and the Chinese is lost, but I can there’s something reassuring for both of us that we share the same feelings that the movie has evoked within us. This understanding is enough.
Chinese scholar Lin Yutang writes beautifully in the opening of his book "My Country, My People” about the feelings I have towards China. His words speak worlds better than I could and thus I leave you with them directly:
“When one is in China, one is compelled to think about her, with compassion always, with despair sometimes, with dissociation and understanding very rarely. For one either loves or hates China. Perhaps even when one does not live in China one sometimes thinks of her as an old, great, big country which remains aloof from the world and does not quite belong to it. That aloofness has a certain fascination. But if one comes to China, one feels engulfed and soon stops thinking. One merely feels she is there, a tremendous existence somewhat too big for the human mind to encompass, a seemingly inconsequential chaos obeying its own laws of existence and enacting its own powerful life-drama, at times tragic, at times comical, but always intensely and boisterously real; then after a while, one begins to think again, with wonder and amazement"