Yunnan trip! - Some more commentary =p
It was intersting to go on this trip and do the reading for my course, which was a book that discusses the question, "what is a true missionary encounter with western culture?"
The book analyzes western society as follows - the scientific method has completely taken over the public realm, as evidenced through education. [Consider the hoopla experienced in Philadelphia when "intelligent design" was discussed.] This public sphere consists of the pure facts... what we can observe. Christianity, ever since the separation from the state in the 1800's, has been relegated to the private sphere, the sphere which discusses values and purpose. The problem with Christianity in particular, is that its advocated truths completely conflict with those facts of the private sphere.
However, other eastern religions, do not seemto be so radically conflicting. In fact, they can coexist within the constraints of the observable public sphere... Eastern mythology does not speak of purpose... reincarnation only happens as part of its due course.
This concept was evidenced very clearly to me in China. The strong spirituality of the inner countryside was very scary for me. Although I have seen many temples in different places, perhaps it is because the northwest region of Yunnan is very near Tibet (similar in terrain and obviously, the Jong peoples), which is similar to the strong spirituality of Thai buddhism (I realize I am extremely ignorant of the specifics of buddhism...) I was greatly affected by the spirituality of the land. Quite scary to me. It also really saddened me to see many people, including many on my tour, to pay respects when entering a temple.
I had a discussion with a friend once... when we were going around Hong Kong and visited [Wong Tai Sin] temple in Kowloon... she bowed when entering a room with an idol, and I asked if she believed in it. She said no, but explained it akin to entering someone's home... you say "hi" (or in Chinese culture, you "call" the respective name of the relative). Such a polytheistic acknowledgement was very interesting to me. In North America, it is more atheistic.
History of China
I have always been fascinated by the rich history of China, indeed, the history is so long. Unfortunately, I am not that familiar with the recent history (say, after 1911 when the Communist party started to form). And more unfortunately, a number of the places we visited were during this time period, relating to the grassroots of modern China.
During the debriefing session, it was eye-opening to me to hear about the strong support for the current government. I realize I have a negative attitude towards it, likely from reading of Jan Wong, in terms my disapproval of their religious non-freedoms, and of many, many extant negative sterotypes. It is undeniable, however, to remark on the economic success of the country (consider the ICBC IPO last week, haha, too bad E&Y is the "reporting accountants"), and to remark on the evidenced social developments. Even something like promoting education within a small region of Zhaojue to provide the very poor Yi youth with practical skills to make a living... the gradual opening up of the western regions... the government is clearly taking strides. And even as I mentioned about recycling, the Chinese government has moved much faster than Hong Kong in this respect. Hearing about the government's recent efforts in cracking down on corruption is also encouraging. Obviously, all governments have their strengths and faults, for, governments are only made up of very-broken people not dissimilar from any of us. But, I'll leave my thought as "eye-opening", as I realize it will take some time to not take anything with a grain of salt, but a truly negative stereotype is also unfair, and that I now realize.
So, I will just leave this off with some preliminary thoughts... something to observe in the near future... how will the Chinese people react to economic successes? I go back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, as, historically, it was arguable as to whether physical and security needs were met. Now that they are, how will they progress towards self-actualization? Something, arguably, that western culture has been grappling with. The observable shift from the industrial age to a society that weeks for work-life balance, of health and well-being... of purpose?