Cultural Ethnography Assignment Essay
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It was July 18th, the day I was anxiously waiting for. I dressed decently and headed for the Chinese family gathering party which was held at a home in New York City. I was able to arrive just on time, and luckily enough my friend Ch’ing who invited me for the party saw me before I got stranded in the huge crowd of visitors. She was grateful that I came and her joy was revealed in her face. We were all welcomed inside a spacious house with neatly arranged tables.
Every guest was shown his/her sitting position. The first thing we were offered was tea, I later came to learn why tea is so important to them.
Though Ch’ing was busy attending to the visitors, she found time to introduce me to some of her family members. I got a chance to befriend one of her daughters who became very resourceful to me when ever I had questions concerning their culture.
One thing that caught my attention was the offering of tea. I learned that it was traditional to give a cup of tea to any guest. It does matter where a guest is; whether at work, in a journey or home, the visitor is supposed to be given a cup of tea. The tea is offered using both hands to show respect. It was also amazing to note the cup should be three quarter full.
The visitor then takes the tea using both hands and drinks a few sips, it doesn’t matter whether he is thirsty or not. This is to show respect and gratitude (Fu & Chay 70). When visitors came to visit, they brought gifts with them. I was embarrassed because I didn’t carry any. The host would accept the gift graciously and thank him/her. The host was not to open the gift before the visitor because this was considered offensive. When the visitor decided to depart, the host is supposed to stand and watch him off turning back after saying goodbye is considered offensive (Jared 34). The table arrangement is focused around the main table.
Visitors are directed to the available tables. The first and the second table are usually set aside for important guests; it is good manners to wait to be seated by the host. Visitors are seated according to their supremacy, rank, kinship and even riches (Fu & Chay 67). In most Chinese banquets I discovered that chopsticks are used often and there are rules that must be applied; Chopsticks must be smartly arranged in pairs, an empty plate should not be hit with chopsticks, chopsticks should not be planted upright in the rice, one should not hesitate with chopsticks over the table (Roger 55).
It was amazing to see the joy of gathering as a family, I learnt that family was a very significant aspect in the Chinese culture; the Chinese have a saying “all things go well when the family is harmonious”. A harmonious family is blessed in and out of the home. When the family is together, the country is also ruled well and peace comes to all. A home is referred to as ria, and the character for home is a pig under a roof. The ancient Chinese were nomadic hunters. Later when they learnt to domesticate animals, they settled down in permanent places. The domesticated animals were reared in the homes and thus the word was formed (Roger 45).
Chinese people have several festivals done at particular times of the year each with a meaning attached to it. All the Chinese people celebrate Lunar New Year, Lantern Festival and Dragon Boat Festival. Majority of these festivals were started more than 5000 years ago. The Chinese honor family bonds, hence they place special importance on social dealings and festivals that call for reunions. Festivals indirectly strengthened such familial ties. When there is festival those who are away from home would always think of their families. On the eve of Lunar New Year, ancestors are prayed to, and tombs are cleaned during Clear Brightness Day.
During such festival people are able to learn more about their ancestors and lineage, thus increasing the bond of the family and nation. Chinese festivals embrace the cultural characteristics and spirit of the nation. Through such festivals people will have a deeper understanding of their own roots (Jared 50). Before the party was over, I got a chance to see beautiful sculptures and other pieces of art; I received one as a gift. One challenge I faced was the language barrier to effective communication. Many Chinese people could not communicate well with English.
In future, when doing a project in a different culture it is very crucial to understand their native language to facilitate communication. Through this project, my perspective of the Chinese people has changed, I have come to love them and applaud them because they love and respect their culture. References Fu Chunjiang, Chay Geraldine, Gateway to Chinese culture. Singapore: Asiapac Books, 2003. Jared, Diamond. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Penguin, 2005. Roger, Lewin. Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction 5th Ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005. .