Everything I Understand About America I Learned in Chinese Proverbs
Author: Wendy Liu
Order No. 1056
6 x 9, Paperback
173 pages, 2009
20% off: $13.56
“You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl,” the English saying goes. For Wendy Liu, a former Chinese citizen who has called the U.S. home for the last twenty years, it has been more a case of “You can take the girl out of China, but not Chinese proverbs out of the girl.”
In Everything I Understand about America I Learned in Chinese Proverbs, Wendy Liu tells her experiences and views of America—its life, issues, politics, and China relations—with a Chinese angle. Following a dispute over free speech, for instance, she recalled the Chinese proverb “A great person’s heart is big enough to pole a boat in” and realized that a big heart was what everyone needed to tolerate differences in America. Observing controversies between the U.S. and China, she felt that with America’s complex relationship with the Middle Kingdom, it would be helpful if Americans were not sometimes “seeing trees only, but not the forest,” another Chinese proverb.
Wendy Liu believes that by sharing her understanding of America, she is contributing to the overall understanding of America as well as that of U.S.-China relations.
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Originally from Xi’an, China, now living in Seattle, WA, Wendy Liu has a BA in English from Xi’an Foreign Languages Institute and an MS in Technology and Science Policy from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Over the two decades in America, she has been as an independent China business consultant, translator and writer. Her writings have appeared in regional, national and online publications such as The Seattle Times, Northwest Asian Weekly, Chinese American Forum, American Chronicle, and Global Times in Beijing, China.
She is also the author of Connecting Washington and China—The Story of the Washington State China Relations Council.
Wendy Liu is one of the awardees of the American Humanist Association in 2010. Please click on the link below to view more: http://www.americanhumanist.org/What_We_Do/Annual_Conference/2010/Awardees_and_Entertainment
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part 1. American Life
Part 2. American Issues
Part 3. American Politics
Part 4. U.S.-China Relations
“You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl,” a friend once said to me, sarcastically, noticing something I did. Although I didn’t think he was right specifically, he was in a broader sense. The country he was talking about was, of course, China.
I have lived in the United States for twenty years now. One thing I have found out is that my Chineseness has sometimes come out stronger away from China. It may be because of the contrast against all the Americanness around. Ease with things Chinese is only a small part of it. The bigger part, I would say, is Chinese thinking, especially with Chinese proverbs and sayings, perhaps the most intense form of Chineseness.
Jewels of Chinese language and crystals of Chinese wisdom, Chinese proverbs and sayings are rich, colorful, fun, philosophical, merciless sometimes, earthy at others, but always interesting. A love since girlhood, they helped shape my thinking in China yesterday and are influencing my understanding of America today. And I couldn’t help it, when there were interesting stories, events, people and experiences begging to be summed up, that Chinese proverbs and sayings would pop up in my head.
Thus this collection of essays based on anecdotes and thoughts over the years in America filtered through some of my favorite Chinese proverbs and sayings.
Although they are Chinese, the morals in these proverbs and sayings are universal. And you don’t have to take my word for it. With the popularity of China, Chinese proverbs and sayings have also become popular among Americans.
On his historic visit to China in 1972, President Nixon, for instance, started the trend by quoting a saying originated from one of Mao’s poems: “一万年太久，只争朝夕。” (yi wan nian tai jiu, zhi zheng zhao xi.) or “Ten thousand years are too long. Seize the day, seize the moment.”
Most Americans, of course, know this Chinese saying, “授人以鱼, 三餐之需。 授人以渔， 终生之用。” (shou ren yi yu, san can zhi xu. shou ren yi yu, zhong sheng zhi yong.) or “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.”
But this book is not about Chinese proverbs and sayings. It is about the angle they provide to my understanding of America—its life, issues, politics, and China relations. Hope you find that angle interesting.
Hey, you might also find a favorite Chinese proverb or saying of your own!
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