What is Chineseness? a working definition …

If you are a laowei, a foreigner, and you can speak a little Chinese, and know a little history, people will tell you that you are half Chinese. It’s a nice compliment, but don’t be fooled. You aren’t half way there. Many Chinese, many foreigners, have written about what it means to be Chinese. No one has a simple definition.  Geremie Barme, the preeminent China scholar at Australian National University, tells us that "today Zhonghuaxing 中华性, ‘the ineffable nature of that which is Sinitic’ has been used to denote a kind of Chinese cultural essentialism, with overtones of ‘racial’ uniqueness."   That sounds right to me.

As a working definition, I am using this -

Chineseness seems to be a certain detachment from modernity even while modern, an insouciance that borders on being oblivious, and a deep respect for cultural traditions that may have fallen by the wayside elsewhere, with a level of care within the family that is surprising and a level of disinterest in others that is equally surprising.

We can start with that. I hope to show aspects of this definition in the chapters that follow.

Chineseness good and bad is going to open doors and minds in the next hundred years. We should begin learning now.