Americans and Chinese: Passage to Differences

Americans and Chinese: Passage to Differences

Americans and Chinese: Passage to Differences

Americans and Chinese: Passage to Differences

Excerpt

We have hypothesized that the Chinese have a situation-centered way of life while that of the Americans is individual-centered. It is now necessary to test this hypothesis in a common sense way -- by examining the specific realities of life with which we are familiar.

For this purpose we shall examine art, especially painting, literature, and the patterns of conduct between the sexes.

There is a popular misconception that creative efforts of the individual may transcend time and place. (This concept, incidentally, is typically Western in its individual-centered origin.) No anthropologist will agree with this. In the first place, the creative individual, like others, is the product of a particular cultural context. In the second place, even if a practitioner of any one of the arts produces something totally foreign to this cultural context, such a creation has little chance of general acceptance. Anthropologists have found, through their study of many diverse societies, that among any given people both the form and the content of their art and literature show a high degree of consistency both historically and with reference to the total cultural context. Chinese and Americans are no exception. Seen in this light, art and literature are much more than the cerebral-emotional products of creative individuals. They are fundamentally what may be described as mirrors -- or, as the psychoanalyst says, projective screens -- of the society to which the creative individual belongs. We shall look first at art and literature, for these mirrors register not only the surface concerns of the people in question, but also their deeper yearnings which often are not consciously recognized.

After viewing the pictures presented on the projective screens of art and literature, we shall scrutinize the conduct between the sexes . . .

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