08
Feb
08

I Came As A Rat

I’ve never really understood the significance of the different years of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. The new year being celebrated here is the Year of the Rat, and we’ve just completed the Year of the Pig. But I just stumbled upon an article here about what this being the Year of the Rat portends. Mind you, I doubt many Chinese actually believe this stuff – unlikely to be a much higher percentage of the population than that of Americans who believe in astrology. (The two are about the same, anyway). But it’s fun to read about nonetheless.

Speaking of the Chinese New Year, I’ve learned from Allison that the government here has taken it upon itself to promote the greater unity of the nation by insisting that all Chinese citizens celebrate the same holidays. This would be obnoxious enough in its own right, but the Chinese government includes, in this directive, ethnic minorities that share little culturally with the majority Han, in particular, the Tibetans and the Uyghurs. As the above article suggests, the Chinese zodiac and animal-year system derives from very old Chinese traditions and folk beliefs. The Tibetans and Uyghurs especially find these beliefs almost as alien as the typical American.

To get an idea of what an insult this is, imagine that President Bush were to one day insist that all ethnic and religious minorities in the US celebrate the same holidays as the Christian majority. So Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and so forth should all stop celebrating their own holidays (if they have any, since Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t), or at least tone them done, and get full square into the spirit of Christmas and Easter, and thus further promote the unity of the nation. I’m thinking that if anything, this would actually generate resentment and offense, and there by engender disunity. With guns pointed in their faces, I imagine that Uyghurs and Tibetans may smile and go through the motions, but this is just the kind of thing that would make them and other oppressed minorities bitter, and reinforce just how unalike they are to the Han. Call it yet another example of the perversity of unintended consequences. This doesn’t mean that those groups or others will revolt tomorrow, but certainly it’ll make revolting all that much more attractive.

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