Masculine Culture and Feminine Culture in China

by Linlin Xiong











(Tujia Minority Tribe)

As is known by all, China consists of 56 different tribes. Some of them are larger than others, in terms of population and territory; some of them are particularly small, only occupying narrow mountainous areas. The biggest tribe in China is the Han Tribe; as a result, the mainstream culture of China grows out from Han culture. As an example, mandarin could find its origin from “the language of Han”; ideological features of Han, including filial piety, perseverance, patriotism, self-discipline, are highly regarded by Chinese even thousands of years after the birth of those ideological values. In short, Chinese mainstream culture, featured by Han culture, is a highly masculine culture, putting particular emphasis on the invincible ambition of the individual.

However, unlike the highly masculine mainstream Chinese culture, the Tujia minority culture which I belong to features feminine characteristics.

Enshi, my hometown, is a main area for Tujia people. Situated on a river bank, and with hills surrounding it, Enshi embraces a dense growth of evergreen vegetation which creates the atmosphere of retreating from the outside world. Geographically blocked by a natural protective screen, this relatively small, underdeveloped town makes anything of grandeur seem out of tune. A skyscraper or a subway appears alien to Tujia culture; on the contrary, what is welcomed is smallness and slowness, such as a cup of buttered tea, typical Tujia waving dance and an afternoon promenade along the riverside.

(Traditional Tujia clothes and traditional waving dance)

My family lives beside the main river of Tujia, which, looking back, accompanied my childhood. It was after I grew up that I got to realize the fact that Tujia’s main river, the surrounding forests and mountains have tenderly witnessed and deeply participated in the growing up of all Tujia people. So the compatibility between nature and human beings, in other words, people’s responsiveness to the environment, is too strongly connected with Tujia spiritual consciousness to be neglected. We firmly believe that the speedy and erratic rhythm of life will lead to disorderly interaction between the inner being and the external “self” in the natural context; on the contrary, uninterrupted communication between the two conducts a harmonious orchestra inside the human body.

(Stilted building)

Besides, Tujia culture is relationship-oriented. The stilted building, a typical Tujia architecture, epitomizes Tujia people’s close interpersonal connections within the community. The special construction of stilted buildings, which consists of six supporting stilts rising high above average sized plants and also upper stories made of a wooden pavilion, is at first designed to protect residents from being attacked by seasonal floods and wild beasts haunting about. This communal way of life started Tujia people’s coexistence: people farmed and shared, collaborated with neighboring communities and feasted together during festival times. In modernized Tujia towns outside mountainous rural areas, such communal spirit reveals itself in the visceral greetings and sharing in the neighborhood. “A good neighbor is better than a brother far off” proves to be true in Tujia culture.

For the future of minority culture, hopefully, its feminine features can avoid being assimilated to the dominant culture; the ideal prospect for Tujia culture should be: “You jump on the band wagon; you can also play the instrument.”

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