Same-sex Closeness in China

chinese bros5x7

No, this is not an article about homosexuality in China.

This is a story about bros and sis, you know, those people who didn’t come from the mother as you, but somehow they just understand you so well and love you so much, that if they were to be gone you won’t want to be alive in a world without them. This is an article about those people.

After spending most of my free time observing and being a part of different schools in China, I have come to meet an interesting observation. In China, kids from the ages of elementary to high school often hangout and associate the most with kids of the same gender, this doesn’t mean that boys don’t play with girls or vise versa. It’s more that when they are free from the confines of class (when they have their own free will of choice), that these kids tend to play with kids of their same gender. You will see groups of boys all with their hands around each other walking down the street and you can see large groups of girls all holding hands walking around town as if they were like the cheetah-girls reincarnate, and this occurs very often in age groups that go up as high as 19. It is definitely not a common sight to see a young boy and a girl holding hands in public or walking together after school, the ones you do see are probably 20 or older (they just look young). It is only when one goes to college, do one observe more co-ed associations outside of class and required activities. As if all the influence of the parent’s nagging of “focus on school” and “study more” all go deaf to  these Chinese kids when they attend college at the age of 19 (national avg.), unless you are a momma’s boy, which is a popular choice among the current generation.

Contrast this to western kids, I do see more co-ed involvement starting as early as elementary school activities and developing into more social interactions between kids of different genders in middle school aka those “first crushes” or promotional dances, then materializing into actual relationships with events like prom and other little things in high school. The same cannot be said of Chinese student, where small tests in elementary schools develop same-gender study group, and bigger tests in middle school creates even stronger bonds with the same kids you studied with in elementary school, eventually materializing in huge tests in high school(where the scores will determine where you go in life) ,  this is also when students just get so into studying that they ignore human interactions in general. Ok, that might be slightly exaggerated.

But the point is the cultural difference between the seemingly more “free” and “open” West and the supposedly more “strict” and “controlled” East can be observed in the frequency of same-sex closeness and the age groups in which they occur. It’s much more interesting to see the phenomenal in person than to read about it from my choppy non-edited writing. So next time, instead of people watching in Starbucks, you should go people watching at schools, in China, and look at the same-sex closeness that would probably not occur in the US or other western societies.

But as usual, I might be wrong, about this whole thing.

In China, learning is moral; in US, cognitive

For Chinese families, Education is the emperor. Education is like respecting your ancestors. Education is Morality. No matter where you are in the world, as long as you are of the Chinese heritage, you must have seen/heard/tasted/smell/experienced a snippet of this during your early days of moral education (unless you have misfit parents like mine). Your parents might say “oh, you know the killing is no good, stealing no good, lying definitely no good”. But what is good? “Oh you know, the honesty is good, humility is good, but if you can’t do those two at least get good grades and straight As, understand?” Alright, that might been slightly exaggerated to an effect, but you get the point. The activity of Learning in the Chinese culture is not only a choice of whether to increase one’s knowledge and cognitive capacities (like it is in the West), but also a choice of being morally righteous or not.

But things weren’t always this way. China had a plethora of schools of thought during the period of/before the warring states, and people learned simply because they wanted to or had an intellectual question that they wanted an answer to. Then this dude, later named Confucius came along and had this whole “Confucianism” ideas along with his own “entourage” comprised of students, friends and family. And it was great, it was a new school of thought and added to the selection pool from which the rulers of each state would select his central principle to guide his policies. Flash forward 1,000 yr to the Song Dynasty, when some crazy-ass Education Minister named “Mr. Zhu” decided that it was too time-consuming to deal with so much variance in opinion and it might confuse the students to have more options in terms of education, so after some thought, he decided to select a few collection of writings (9 to be exact) and put it all under the umbrella of Confucianism and just shove it at all the aspiring young Chinese students. What of the other schools of thought? Well, most were politely banned until it got too tedious so he ended up burning the rest of the “variety of opinions”, so no one would end up being Confused by so many different opinions and it would create harmony. This was the first major act of standardized education in the history of China, and it forever altered d the educational landscape of China and deprived those who came after it (us and all the other Chinese students who lived since that point in history) of the opportunity and resources to re-create the Renaissance-like learning environment of Old China, which happened 2,000 years before their European counterparts.

Anyways, the main idea is that education’s role in the Chinese culture wasn’t always like it is now, and learning wasn’t also a moral issue. This cultural trend took time and many stimulus along the way to develop and catch-on, just like any other cultural practice. So it is a “safe bet” to assume when you meet a fellow Asian student, that their family probably values education somewhat A LOT, hell I mean they are in college, with you. But it is also a nice and considerate thing to probably read and research a little of how that cultural significance came to be, just a thought.

Things mentioned in the article above might not be entirely accurate, since I wasn’t alive to see all of the events unfold. But to be honest, who was?