Friday, February 15, 2013

The Preservation of the Hookien Culture

In the Philippines, when people typically meet new Chinese friends, they tend to ask the same few questions.  One of which is "Why do the Chinese only marry their own race?"  I've been asked this same question several times and would usually give a decrepit response without giving much thought.

Traditional Glutinous Rice also known as Tikoy   
Due to circumstances, I’ve stayed home to help out my mom and consequently spend a lot more time with her.  Like the general Chinese culture, the Hookien or Fujian Chinese culture is ingrained with a lot of traditions, an amalgamation of ancestor worship, peasant practices, Taoist and Buddhist festivals.  Most of the customs aim to protect and prolong the family line.  Similar to the Hookien dialect, the practice of such traditions are done through word of mouth and are never taught in school.  Most of the traditions I know, I learned by observing how my mom did it. 

This brings us back to the question, “Why do Chinese parents prefer Chinese partners for their children?” I don’t think it’s a racial thing but rather a collective effort to preserve a cultural heritage.  Traditionally, sons are expected to learn how to earn a livelihood while daughters are expected to practice and preserve family traditions.  In a way, marrying a non-Chinese bride threatens a way of life and a cultural heritage preserved through the centuries. 

Both of my sisters in law are non-Chinese and are clueless about most Hookien practices and will probably remain to be so.  Since I’m the one usually home, it falls unto me to help my mom prepare for festivals.  A cultural heritage ultimately defines a person’s identity.  It would be such a pity if centuries of traditions just die out.  I do hope that regardless of gender, more Hookien Chinese would learn and preserve their culture.