Western media webpages are inundated with news about China’s economic miracle. Latest fashion trends, regardless of culture or creed, are dictated by bands hailing from the Korean Peninsula. Younger generations in the Western Hemisphere are at the cusp of obsession when it comes to anime and Japanese computer games. As westerners, we know so much about East Asia, and yet so little. What lies beneath that veil of mystique, that impenetrable mask of tungsten steel which shields from sight the myriads of cultural gems crystallised after years and years of refinement?
East Asia is more than scaremongering predictions that China will eventually conquer the world, and the birthplace of highly fetishised women. Rather than being infatuated by notions of grandeur, East Asia embraces the practical. Instead of lavishing individualistic ideals with indomitable praise, East Asia emphasises group harmony. The Joy Luck Club tells the breathlessly poignant yet immensely reflective tale of Chinese immigrants in the United States. They struggle to find their identity in the strange, star-spangled land of liberty and poverty. Yet, the biggest challenge is to reconcile with their American-born children: spirits trapped in a ‘no man’s land’, as they often ponder where they actually belong. Men without Women, a collection of short stories, and Kafka on the Shore by the legendary Japanese author Murakami, are contemporary, must-read masterpieces. His delicate prose weaves through Asian taboo themes of love and lust, modern Japanese life, and the archipelago’s inexplicable obsession with cats.
While Latin American authors talk of magical realism (think Love in the time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez), East Asian authors talk of the individual’s rebellion to established notions of piety and pride, an audacious declaration of war to archaic concepts such as male preponderance and stigmatisation of mental health disorders. In contemporary East Asia, the tigers within its younger generations begin to rouse from their slumber. Thundering roars and vehement anger galvanise attempts to dismantle the hierarchical structures of a suffocating mould. East Asia is tantamount to a phoenix reborn from its ashes. The grace and beauty of its essence remain, as obsolete attestations become discarded.
East Asia is not Trump’s ‘kung flu’, nor is it where allegedly ‘feminised’ men come from. It is a region of such profundity and depth that merits a closer look.
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