I grew up in a Chinese family in Indonesia. My grandmother is a native Indonesian.
For most of my life, I was expected to be ashamed of my Chinese identity. For a long time, the Chinese community in Indonesia has maintained the stereotype of unpatriotic and parasite greedy outside. They believe that the Chinese only care about how to make profits by colluding with corrupt officials. It is precisely because they lead corrupt officials to make no contribution to the country.
In the new order era after 1998, as Indonesian Chinese, the country and other races expect us to abandon Chinese culture and fully integrate into the local culture and population.
To a large extent, that's what my family did. We didn't really practice Chinese culture in life, whether in public or at home:
• we never and still can't speak any Chinese at home. My father and friends in my hometown generally speak Javanese.
• our family has religious beliefs, but we have never been to a Chinese temple.
• we can't cook Chinese food. Indonesian food is the most common food at home and in restaurants.
• we only celebrate some Chinese festivals and only celebrate low-key at home (such as celebrating the Spring Festival and Qingming Festival), but we don't put the ancestral tablet at home.
• we are crazy about Indonesian pop culture and rarely hear about Chinese literary works.
• we learn and actively understand the local culture and history of Indonesia. Although China has a long history, there are always barriers.
• we believe that we are not Chinese citizens, but Indonesian citizens.
• many of my family members are married to Indonesian natives and actively integrate from culture to ethnicity.
However, as Chinese, we still face discrimination and hostility.
Even some teachers in my primary school once made ironic comments on Indonesian Chinese. At that time, I was a child and the social atmosphere was very unfriendly to us, but we had to face this.
After a period of time, whenever I face racial discrimination or hostility, I cringe and feel guilty about my racial identity to some extent. Under these circumstances, it is clear that I am a victim, but I feel guilty for being discriminated against.
But then I began to learn more about the Chinese community in Indonesia, and I found that all these common stereotypes were not true.
• Indonesian Chinese have contributed to the country's struggle for independence. Some Chinese may support the colonial government, but there are also many local Indonesians. The majority of the colonial army consisted of Javanese, ambonese, manadonian and other ethnic groups. The makasa were mercenaries of the Dutch trading company. After the massacre in Batavia, the Chinese in Java launched a rebellion against the Dutch, but we are described as the Dutchman's forever loyal servants? This is ridiculous.
• Indonesian Chinese have made great contributions to the economic development of the country. Yes, I don't deny that some people get rich by colluding with corrupt officials, but they do so not because they are Chinese, but because they are unscrupulous businessmen.
More Indonesian Chinese become rich through honest efforts. In the era of authoritarian new order, the boldest public critic against the collusion between the government and businessmen was an Indonesian Chinese. At that time, most local public intellectuals were afraid to make any remarks or works on this issue.
• corrupt business practices are not the patent of Chinese businessmen. Now Indonesia's national anti-corruption efforts are increasing, and we are beginning to see many local businessmen arrested for bribery and collusion with corrupt officials.
• Indonesian Chinese have also made great contributions to the cultural and social development of the country. In the past and now, there are many Indonesian Chinese who have made contributions as artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, doctors, journalists, intellectuals, craftsmen, athletes, businessmen, scientists, educators and scholars, although the work of Indonesian Chinese in state universities and the government is severely restricted.
So now I no longer feel guilty about my Chinese background. So now, whenever and wherever I see racism, I will cry out, not only for the racism of Indonesian Chinese, but also for the racism of Indonesian Chinese against local people.
Am I proud of being Chinese? I will not emphasize this point in particular. I was born like this, just as I was born in Indonesia, but I am not ashamed to say that I am an Indonesian Chinese.
As I grow older, I pay more attention to tradition. Now that the Indonesian government has lifted the ban on Chinese culture, Indonesian Chinese can show and celebrate their culture and festivals in public again.
The Chinese New Year is now a public holiday, and there are public celebrations in many parts of the country. Just 20 years ago, this was unthinkable (my school threatened to close classes if we celebrated the Spring Festival after school at home!). Since then, lion dance has been very popular. People even perform lion dance in activities of other races.
So now we have the opportunity to practice our traditional culture. I am very grateful. If you have experienced its lack, you will cherish it more.
Let's talk about what it means to be a Chinese.
For me, being a Chinese is to cherish and show Chinese tradition and culture. Although I can't speak, read or write any Chinese, I still study Chinese history as much as possible in order to understand the history of my ancestors.
I also learn as much as possible about the history of the Indonesian Chinese community, so that I can correct the wrong stereotypes and prejudices against the Indonesian Chinese.
As an ethnic group and a civilization, the Chinese have a long civilization of about 5000 years. Ancient Chinese people were frugal, tenacious, resourceful and wise. They have experienced wars, famines, droughts and political turmoil until today.
For a person living in the so-called "Chinese Diaspora" (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore), we need to understand that these cities or regions are not the origin of the Chinese people. Chinese civilization began along the Yellow River. The ancient Chinese in 3000 BC were a mixed group of farmers and nomadic tribes from the northwest grassland.
According to Professor Wang Gongwu's works, Chinese immigrants to Southeast Asia are said to have started in the Southern Song Dynasty in the 12th or 13th century. Chinese fishermen from Fujian (Fujian), Guangdong (Guangdong) and Hainan constitute the main body of new immigrants; The descendants of these early immigrants later formed the native Chinese culture, which is the characteristic of the Chinese born in Southeast Asian countries in the 19th century.
For Southeast Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia, there are relatively many Chinese people outside the Chinese mainland compared with other countries. We need to understand that the Chinese and Singaporean Malaysia's predecessors emigrated to these two distant countries because they face enormous difficulties in China.
In the second half of the 19th century, immigration to Singapore, Malacca and Penang was very common - that was a period when China faced humiliation in the two Opium Wars in Britain; It was also a period of conflict in central and southern China, which was destroyed by the Taiping rebellion.
As the ports in southern China (such as Xiamen and Guangzhou) were forcibly opened to trade by Western powers, Chinese farmers who were able to escape domestic dangers emigrated whenever they had the opportunity. With the hope of obtaining more employment opportunities and better living conditions in Nanyang, a large number of men and women "fled" to Malaya and Singapore. Nearly a century later, with the independence of Malaysia and Singapore, the descendants of these early immigrants became citizens of countries far away from mainland China.
The Chinese leaving the motherland is a long story of human migration. This is a story full of tears, sweat and blood - a story similar to the story of Anglo Saxons immigrating to the new world and West Africans immigrating to the United States in the era of slavery. Therefore, the word "Chinese" itself cannot represent nationality, but it does have an ambiguous right to declare itself a symbol of one's race and heritage.
For me, being a Chinese is the descendant of the great ancient Chinese people, the descendant of Chinese history and values, and inherits the spirit and attitude of the ancients who are tenacious and strong in the face of adversity.
In order for Chinese people from different countries to really understand each other, we must go beyond what people think of as national boundaries and learn to understand that in the past, their ancestors were a family united under a common ethical and cultural system.
I'm neither proud nor ashamed. I didn't make any efforts to become a Chinese. I was born like this. This is not my achievement. It's like asking me if I'm proud of my short or tall, handsome or ugly. I don't think the Chinese are greater or smaller than other nations, so I'm neither proud nor ashamed.
For Chinese, the most representative of them must be race, not nationality. Even if I were Chinese, I would not impose the meaning of "nationality" on the word "Chinese". Even though this country has been reduced to a semi colonial power as it used to be, I still consider myself a Chinese rather than a registered residence in China.
I believe that attaching "nationality" to a cultural concept almost always restricts rather than develops it. Although race is a convenient definition, I still think it may be too strict, but considering the binary choice, race is certainly broader and more accurate than nationality.
Our life requires us to "connect the distant past with the distant future". Therefore, tradition and modernity carry forward the past and forge ahead into the future, keep the valuable tradition alive, let us understand the present and bring it into the future.
"What is patriotism? Isn't it a love of the good food we ate in childhood? Everyone wants to eat, just as everyone will face death, which can best reflect the brotherhood of the world." This is my favorite quote from Chinese writer and philosopher Lin Yutang.
I think it captures the key virtue of Chinese culture, that is, emphasizing practicality, but also showing a detachment in humor, so that the Chinese people can take it calmly in the face of turbulence and trouble.