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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hokkien, me?

Chanced upon this timely article from Singapore's Straights Times. A real big question of who am I. I used to imagine that i knew what it meant to be who I was until I realised that I could try asking myself that question in Chinese. Then I tried. And I found a radically different person.

Read on!


Hokkien, me?
By Stephanie Yap

published on Asia1 website July 21st.

WHEN I went to replace my lost identity card recently, the officer at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority took the chance to update my particulars in the Government's database.

Besides asking me for the usual biodata, such as my marital status and education level, she also asked me to verify that my dialect group is Hokkien.

Though I admire the rich diversity of dialects in the Chinese language, I find this categorisation quite meaningless in my situation. After all, only one of my parents has ancestors from Fujian province and I don't speak Hokkien anyway.

At any rate, when I collected my new IC, I found that my dialect group did not appear on the card. What is listed however is my race: Chinese.

I am not against racial categorisation per se. If I were to commit a crime and go on the run, it would help the authorities somewhat if they knew which race I belong to.

However, this incident did start me wondering about such ethnic categorisation and how little it says about an individual's self-identity. For example, I am officially classified as Chinese and thus Mandarin is considered my 'mother tongue', even though my ethnically Chinese mother speaks English and Hainanese and not Mandarin.

I picked up Mandarin only in primary school. And since scraping through my Chinese exams, I have had limited contact with the language, as I don't read Chinese newspapers, listen to Chinese music or speak to my family and friends in Mandarin...

Eager to read more? Click here.

The Significant Figure of this blog entry is - - -
1500 BC -

first recorded history of China during the Shang Dynasty, perhaps the earliest of all the Chinese dynasties, as they were the earliest one that could archaeologically accounted for, or perhaps not. There is growing evidence of an even precursor dynasty before it, The Xia, which some argue (I like this) is a myth. Have always enjoyed myths. Myths. More hugging than legends, more departed from facts.