American Born Chinese – 美國土生華人

May 16, 2007

Jin releases his all-Cantonese album “ABC”

Filed under: Asia America, Media — americanbornchinese @ 6:38 am

During the month of February, Jin Au-Yeung (歐陽靖), a popular Chinese-American hip-hop artist known for his freestyle rapping abilities, released his fourth album titled “ABC,” an acrynom that stands for “American Born Chinese.” This album was recorded almost entirely in Cantonese with the exception of a few English phrases and words thrown about randomly in his songs. The first and most popular single in his album is his song called “ABC” in which he raps about his personal experiences as a 竹升 (“jook-sing” – English meaning equivalent to “banana”) along with the issues of discrimination and what it means to be “truly Chinese.” Ultimately, throughout his entire album, he succeeds in establishing a personal connection to his own Chinese roots and his ethnic identity through his songs, which generally reflect the struggles of most ABCs (as well as many other overseas Chinese) regarding the struggles of society’s scrutiny upon them to the issue of assimilation in the U.S. and their removal from their own cultural background.

On his ABC website, Jin mentions on his biography a statement of which I wholeheartedly agree with:

“For many, being an ABC often means being subjected to a certain degree of scrutiny. On one hand, because of your bloodline and complexion you are viewed as a foreigner in your own place of birth. Meanwhile, because of your geographical origins your peers back in China claim you are not ‘truly Chinese.'”

From the nostalgic reminiscing of his visit to his city of origin, Hong Kong (“1997”), to the ramblings of his difficulties in reading and writing Chinese (“Speak Can’t Read”), Jin’s circumstances are often the mirrored results of what it means to be an individual of Chinese descent born on foreign soil, which in this case, is America. Listening to this album has allowed me to empathize with Jin’s situation, and fortunately, I am able to understand his songs because I grew up speaking in Cantonese with my parents and relatives as well (and because of the fact that he uses informal Cantonese to rap, which is apparently easier to understand than the latter).

Okay, so after all that mindless rambling that must’ve bored you to death, I’m sure you would want a visual/audio glimpse of what I’m talking about? Here’s Jin’s music video for his “ABC” single that I found on YouTube:

External Links

Jin’s ABC album (Amazon.com)
Jin’s Official ABC Website
Jin’s ABC Xanga
Jin’s Myspace Fan Page

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May 14, 2007

Chinese government places ban on “Chinglish” in preparation for Beijing Olympics 2008

Filed under: China/Hong Kong, Eastern/Western Ties — americanbornchinese @ 10:08 pm

Reading some articles online as I was browsing the net gave me quite a laugh of amusement.

China, in light of the upcoming 2008 Olympics situated in Beijing, has decided to ban “Chinglish,” which consists of odd yet funny English translations derived originally from Chinese signs, for the sake of the huge horde of English-speaking Western tourists that will be visiting the capital at that time.

From danger signs to Chinese menus, Chinglish is prevalent throughout the city, and there are translations such as “young chicken without sex” on a menu or on a signboard of a noodle restaurant which bears the English name “face powder restaurant” (the Chinese term “noodle” can be translated separately into “face” and “powder”). Further examples would be an Ethnic Minorities Park which is coined with the English phrase “Racist Park” and a plate of fish mistakenly worded as “Crap in the Grass” (meant to be “carp”).

By the time the Olympics arrive in 2008, the Chinese government wishes to address the situation by displaying approved and grammatically correct English phrases for public signs and to have at least one-third of its residents speaking proficient English. In order to do that, the government is undertaking serious measures to achieve its objective in a timely manner by the end of 2007.

Sample Chinese placard bearing poor English:
So what does this mean?
Reading the translation in English is equivalent to not having read it at all. So what do they mean by “It is ancient to pack photo”? According to the owner of this image, he explains on his website that “At this place you could dress up in ancient Chinese clothes and have your picture taken – similar to how we do it in the USA with old cowboy western gear.” Image Source (Original Website)

Here’s a Google video that addresses the current situation of “Chinglish” regarding heightened awareness and the proposed actions of the Chinese government to remedy the problem. Click here to watch it in a new window.

If you want to find out further information about this topic, you may read the following articles below:

Chinglish on Beijing’s Signs Shocks Foreigners (China.org.cn)
Beijing losing ‘Chinglish’ battle (NEWS.com.au)
Beijing stamps out poor English (BBC News)
Ahead Of The Olympics, Beijing Cleans Up Its ‘Chinglish’ (Washington Bureau)

May 13, 2007

125th Anniversary of Chinese Exclusion Act in the U.S.

Filed under: Asia America, Eastern/Western Ties — americanbornchinese @ 10:10 am

My friend happened to talk to me the other day, and during our casual conversation, she brought up the question of whether I was interested in attending a historical exhibition in San Francisco that marked the 125th anniversary of the implementation of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. She had heard about this event from her professor in her Asian American Studies class (particularly “Chinese American Personality” – the same class I had taken last semester along with the same professor). Having heard of this Act but not having acquired much knowledge about the specific details, I researched some information online out of curiosity when I had gotten home, wanting to find out more about what it was. The following is my own paraphrasing of what I’ve gathered from a few sites:

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

The purpose of the CEA was to altogether cease the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States, which lasted for a total of ten years. Because of the high demand of low-wage workers seeking the availability of jobs (mostly in railroad construction), the news of the Gold Rush that swept through California like an epidemic in 1849, and current conditions/circumstances in China at the time, there was a huge population of Chinese immigrants that swarmed into the U.S. which eventually prompted the immigration law targeting their particular ethnic group.

However, even despite the fact that the act had been executed, immigration did not cease to continue as many Chinese persisted in entering the U.S. by the sly, yet common tactic of claiming familial ties to Chinese American (ABC) parents who were already U.S. citizens. These immigrants were known as “paper sons,” and this was in the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and the subsequent fires that burned down City Hall and the Hall of Records which contained birth and immigration records.

Such an event like this indicates a mark in the history of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. This act was finally repealed in 1943 by Congress at around the same time when China and the U.S. became allies in the event of World War II, but it wasn’t until the Immigration Act of 1965 that large-scale immigration of different ethnic groups into the U.S was finally permitted.

Image Source (Original Website)

Sources:
Wikipedia – Chinese Exclusion Act (United States)
SF Gate – Anti-Chinese law had effect for generations (Sunday, May 6, 2007)

As long as my schedule permits, I’m strongly considering to attend this exhibition with my friend in order to learn more about U.S. history in this aspect of “Chinese in America” because I think it would be quite interesting to learn more.

The detailed information of the time and whereabouts of this event is at the end of the SF Gate article.

May 12, 2007

Culture Shock – Asian American Identity

Filed under: Asia America — americanbornchinese @ 12:51 am

I invite you to watch the following YouTube video titled Culture Shock – “Identity” – Unraveling “Asia America” which I think is very inspirational in terms of how people of Asian American descent define their roles in contemporary American culture today. I originally found this video from Irish Born Chinese’s blog. The group of students who were interviewed in this video all attend(ed) Columbia University in New York and participated in this interview as a promotional introduction to their annual Asian American culture show called Culture Shock.

In this video, I found it interesting to peer into the thoughts and opinions of different students representing various Asian ethnicities (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, Filipino, Thai, etc.), though all sharing a similar commonality – a meshing of different perspectives into a general consensus of what defines a pan-Asian American identity. As a college student of a similar age and being Asian American just like them, I discovered that many of my own viewpoints are parallel to their own – regarding identity crisis, segregation, image, assimilation, cultural struggles, and the concept of the model minority.

Unfortunately, I do not attend Columbia University to have witnessed this event for myself, but I’m sure that an event such as this will allow others to become more open-minded about the current situation of Asian Americans, their identities, and how they feel about living in the U.S. from their own cultural perspectives. Sometimes, it’s all about feeling accepted and being able to define who we are as both Asians and Americans.

May 11, 2007

The “Asianization” of American Culture

Filed under: Media — americanbornchinese @ 10:29 pm

(My evaluation of contemporary culture/society)

I originally took this from my Blogger since this was written a while back and I would like to post it here too because of its relevancy.

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The aspects of Asian culture are starting to emerge and become readily apparent in American society today. Various cultural elements ranging from food to movies play a vital role in the mainstream, shaping the way that Asian Americans regard themselves and the way that other cultures regard them as well. From the incorporation of Japanese animation into multimedia and film-making to using Asian American celebrities in commercials to sell a product of the latest technology, the Asian culture is beginning to blend into what is considered “hip” and popular in the American culture. Besides that, there is a multiple of other aspects of Asian culture that have been accepted into the mainstream.

In this present day, Asian Americans are considered the “model minority” group by stereotype, meaning that the group has been more successful than the majority racial population by socioeconomic standards, which attribute to different factors such as family income, academic performance and education, and low crime rate. They also hold the reputation of high prestige as an ethnic group that is more superior in the areas of achievement and success than other groups by their determination and hard work, much like the Jewish Americans to whom they are regarded as parallel to. Much of this integration of cultural aspects and a sense of ethnic pride have boosted the ego of many Asians as they warmly welcome their gradual acceptance into society, believing that this process of assimilation can promote greater familiarity and understanding of their own history and racial background.

However, with regard to the overall success rate of Asians by the concept of a “model minority” group and their incorporation of elements into the mainstream culture, there are those who also perceive the “Asianization” of American culture in a broader sense, considering the possibility that Asian Americans still remain the targets of prejudice and racial discrimination in many ways. For instance, Asians may generally be regarded as “nerds” or “geeks” due to their demonstration of high academic achievement in the overall population of university/high school students. Though this common stereotype praises their academic standing among the majority racial population, it secludes them from those who are considered “normal” or “cool” and denounces their status immediately on the spot. In movies, Asians are portrayed as wearing large glasses because their vision has suffered due to the straining of the eyes in reading too many textbooks. Then they are looked on as the smart, school-loving, work-oriented teachers’ pets whose primary goal in life is to attend an ivy-league university such as Harvard or Princeton, graduate with a doctorate degree in mathematics, law, engineering, business, or liberal arts, and possibly emerge as an entrepreneur in the business world. Secondly, there is the issue of cultural aspects being absorbed into that of the American society where martial arts films, such as the recently released “Kung Fu Hustle” or the popular Jackie Chan movies (now being made into the cartoon TV series, “Jackie Chan Adventures” on Kids’ WB), promote the assumption among many that Asians, particularly Chinese, are constantly occupied with or normally engage in this type of defense art.

Much debate and controversy exist today about whether Asian Americans are equally represented as the Anglo-Saxons. To this day, many of the interracial relations have improved not just between these two particular ethnic groups, but in the overall scheme of things among different groups as well. However, one may argue that though this may be true, there is a deficiency in meeting up to this standard of equal representation. Major television networks and movie productions have mostly employed an overwhelming number of White actors and actresses to fill the primary roles of their shows/plays and have rarely employed members of ethnic minorities who may have the necessary skills/talent to perform equally as well or better. Also, there is an expectation of Asians to act or appear a certain way when being featured on a movie screen in an American movie, whether it is to exaggerate an Asian accent or to learn martial arts/kung fu. Consequently, others may have adopted these assumptions into their mind and will therefore regard Asians as having the tendency to behave the same way in real life as in a movie. This is the issue of conforming to America’s expectations that are attributed to stereotypes not necessarily in accordance with actuality. In order to get a clear image of what the Asian American culture is really about, one must look past the superficiality of these stereotypes and reveal our culture in its authentic state based on what is truly acceptable to us.

About “American Born Chinese” blog

Filed under: Assimilation — americanbornchinese @ 9:35 pm

Welcome to my American Born Chinese (ABC) blog! I decided to start this journal because, just like many other ABCs, we have dealt with the constant issue of cultural assimilation in the United States. Many of us are second-generation Chinese U.S. citizens having had first-generational parents who immigrated here from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965 loosened its grip on enforced policies regarding immigration from East Asia. 

The term “American Born Chinese” is commonly coined with the acrynom “ABC” just as “BBC” is a term for British Born Chinese and “CBC” for Canadian Born Chinese. Often, overseas Chinese labeled with these terms are regarded as individuals who are removed from their own culture as not having adequate understanding of Chinese traditions/customs and values and also not being able to speak the native tongue (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.) very proficiently, much less read and write in the language. For ABCs particularly, the Chinese population living on the coastal regions of the U.S. have a greater tendency to attain a stronger connection to the Chinese culture and influence due to the continual immigration of Chinese to these areas, thus, leading to the expanding populations of Chinese communities in states such as California and New York.

Assimilation into the mainstream culture is often the typical commonality prevalent among Asians or any other ethnic groups that have been born and raised in the U.S. for the majority (if not all) of their lives. Therefore, many have blended into the societal values and culture of the “host” country, and some have been viewed as seemingly having denied their heritage identity as a result. The derogatory terminology “banana,” and “Twinkie” are the common characteristics that reflect the “white-washed” tendencies of these ABCs – yellow on the outside, yet white on the inside.

The term “cultural assimilation,” as defined by Wikipedia, is “is an intense process of consistent integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural group, typically immigrants, or other minority groups, are “absorbed” into an established, generally larger community. This presumes a loss of many characteristics which make the newcomers different.” (Source)

Personally, I have been born into a family in which my parents both immigrated with their own families from Hong Kong in the 1960’s and attended high school and college in the U.S. I was born in San Francisco, California and have lived in this state for the entirety of my life without ever stepping foot in my native homeland. Growing up, I attended American-English school without having been sent to Chinese school when I was younger, so I didn’t start learning how to read/write Chinese until my Freshman year in college when I took a course in Mandarin Chinese. So what makes you so interested in Chinese culture? you might ask…

Well, to tell you the truth, it might be a number of factors. It may be the fact that I took a course called “Chinese American Personality” during the first college semester of my Sophomore year and that perhaps elevated my interests in discovering my heritage roots. It may also be the fact that I’ve befriended a number of Asian born friends in college who indirectly taught me the importance of realizing my own cultural background as Chinese, and that is my ethnic identity. Or it may even perhaps be the fact that I live in a urban enclave with a large Chinese community and that may have a lot of influence as well.

Through postings in this journal and the rambling of my thoughts, I hope to not only bridge the existing gaps between Eastern and Western cultures, but establish a consciousness of the importance of realizing one’s own cultural identity – whether you may be Asian, Caucasian, Middle-Eastern, African, Latin…or whatever! In this particular blog, I will touch up on a variety of categories and aspects within both U.S. and Chinese cultures – including entertainment, food, news, the Chinese language, Eastern/Western lifestyles, and much more!

This blog will ultimately reflect the journey of this ABC in the cultural exploration of her Asian American and Chinese identity. Stay tuned for future postings!

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