Thor's China Diary

Sinned Against

go to end / go to China Index

 The seven deadly sins are richly represented in the Chinese character, unsullied on the whole, by any overlay of guilt from half remembered Christian tenets of the sort you find in Anglo culture. Not that Chinese people are any less aware of these tendencies than barbarians from the outer world -- they have a whole lexicon of idioms to nail the guilty party -- but redemption is not on the agenda. It's all part of the primeval soup as they see it, something that you probably have to live with for the duration. Maybe they're right.

A pretty lucid example of a Chinese reaction (or at least, a Chinese woman's reaction) to old fashioned bastardry emerges below. It is the response to an account that I gave an acquaintance of my fall from grace in the English Department at Central China Normal University. Interestingly, she does invoke the Christian god. The sense of responsibility for what happened to an outsider in "her" China is rather characteristic here; (I'm damned if I feel responsible for what eighteen million Australians get up to!). The lady concerned, a senior academic from a teaching college in another city, had videod my classes a couple of months previously, and been very complimentary.

Hi CT,

Nice to hear from you. I'll look forward to seeing that tape. You may or may not know that I no longer work in the English Department. Not long after you left I was fired (dismissed) from undergraduate classes and sent to teach reading/writing to non English-major postgraduates in the General English Department. The problem wasn't with the students, of course. What happened, I think, was that the Chinese teacher co-ordinating the group, ZJF, felt that he was losing face somehow, and decided to get rid of me. I have no idea what he told the department, but the move was very sudden. Ten years ago a team of young teachers from Yale (USA) left some teaching notes for the course behind, and the English Department has been using them uncritically ever since. They don't seem to have developed or improved a single idea from the notes. Being an experienced teacher, of course I tend to create and develop ideas all the time, and that may have been the source of the problem for them. Anyway, there is also a lot I can do to help the postgraduates (all 306 of them!) so all is not lost.

Best wishes, Thor

Thor: Me again, I have just read your email, and know that you have left English Department. I feel very sorry, anyhow this happened in my country. I know things here, and I know how complex things can be in China. That's why I quite often feel optimistic and pessimistic. People can do everything to their interests. We are unfortunately used to it, but I feel especially for you, because you are not Chinese, so you might be hurt deeper than us. I tell you what, one of my papers was selected by the editor of my college's Journal, but the president tried four times to remove it from the JOURNAL, only because his love is jealous of me. I felt outragious at first, but everybody adviced me not to be, as if it was I who did wrong. So,what I want to say is take it easy, thor, don't be too serious with it. Just do what you think good, leave the rest to God. nice to hear from you, Thor, thank you for answering me. CT

"Sinned Against" copyrighted to Thor May 1999; all rights reserved
go to top
  • return to Thor's China Diary index
  • Links to China-related Sites
  • go to top
  • To e-mail the editor, Thor May: press here