Crossing Cultures & the Meanings of Things

One interesting side of living in China is seeing our own culture-of-origin reflected back at us in Chinese eyes — discovering the myriad ways that Chinese (mis)appropriate or expose our own traditions and bits of culture. Sometimes your knee-jerk reaction is, “Ha, they totally don’t get what that’s about.” But then on second thought you realize that they actually understand at least part of it better than you do; their outsider perspective lets them see some facets of our culture more clearly than we see them ourselves.

Christmas provides plenty of visual examples. I’ve written before about how Santa and the God of Wealth often rub shoulders in China, and here’s a photo a friend in Tianjin took the other day:

This particular Frosty statue, which is apparently on display all year long, sits next to a common money frog (金蟾), which is next to some Buddhist good luck trinkets, which are next to an equally ubiquitous shrine to the Daoist God of Wealth (财神爷). All these things (aside from Frosty) can been seen in pretty much every other Chinese business; they’re meant to bring wealth and good fortune.

Some related stuff:

2 thoughts on “Crossing Cultures & the Meanings of Things”

  1. Like he’s up to no good.

    I probably see the Buddhist stuff on this kind of display less than the others, but the Buddhist things seemed pretty popular with my students (r their parents at least) and taxi drivers.

    I also see pixiu (or piqiu, I forget) less often that Caishen or the golden toads, but they are around. Someone ought to catalogue all the commonly displayed prosperity charms and make a cartoon series out of it.

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