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My Heritage, My Legacy

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There are many four worded idioms in the Chinese language. One such idiom is “Kum Kei Shu Hua.” Kum stands for the ability to master playing an instrument, Kei stands stood for the ability to play Chinese chess or Go, Shu stands for literacy such as reading, writing and reciting literature, and finally, Hua stands for the arts such as painting and calligraphy. Back in ancient China, these were the four necessary skills of an educated person.

Education was important back then, because a high level of learning meant that the family had the wealth to educate their children; education was too expensive for commoners to afford. For boys, mastering the previously named skills signified him as a Scholar that is ready to undertake the challenge of the examinations for Governmental or Imperial Official Ranks. Securing a high ranks would raise his family among the social classes and provide him with the money to care for his family. For girls, mastering the skills of Kum Kei Shu Hua would give them higher status points in the eyes of the matchmaker, enabling a girl to marry into a higher ranking family and bring honor and pride to her family.

Even today, many Chinese parents force their children to acquire these educational skills, though maybe for somewhat different reasons. The main reason Chinese parents stress education is because for Chinese people education always stood for wealth and a high rank within society. An educated child was the pride of the family. For many parents, the opportunity for their children to escape the working class to a middle or higher social rank; parents did not have to worry over their child’s future any longer.

This ideology is rooted deeply within the Chinese culture and extremely prominent in the Chinatown neighborhood. All parents, and sometimes even grandparents, stress the importance of education to their children. I was one of those children who had this concept preached to me almost every day. In fact, many people expected me to be smart and enjoy the idea of studying and doing homework; something that I extremely disliked. These expectations forced me to raise my grades B’s which, according to many Chinese parents’ is a failing, to straight A’s and taking gifted or high level course works. Sometimes, I really wished I didn’t have to live in such a neighborhood with so many expectations. The pressure from my parents and neighbors often times made me stay up late into the night studying and working on test-prep work books. The horrors I still have when I think of those times when I was a slave under my neighborhoods’ expectations for me. Thankfully, I’ve grown accustomed to my workload and no longer cringe at the mountain load of study materials and school work. In fact I see test-prep books as my best friends rather than my worst nightmare come true.

There are also various good points to living in a Chinese neighborhood. For example, living in a Chinese neighborhoods has forced me to continuously refine my ability to speak Cantonese, and other various dialects spoken in Chinatown, such as Mandarin and Toishanese. Knowing the languages of my neighborhood allows me to interact with my Chinese culture on a more intimate level, such as having to celebrate this holiday or that festival on this day and that day, or having to eat this and not being to eat that on certain occasion. An example would be eating Moon Cakes on the Autumn Moon Festival that occurs on the fifteenth day of the eighth month according to the Lunar Calendars. Growing up in Chinatown allowed me the chance to immerse myself into my culture’s rich traditions and doing so, the knowledge and experiences I gain would forever stay with me until I share it with the next generation and the next.





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