Jade Snow Wong
American author and ceramicist
- For my whole life I had been bound by the tenets of Chinese culture. To be an artist was the option which would enable me ... to be free of Chinese culture’s relentless subjugation of women.
Interview in Nanjing, China (2002) edit
- My parents never complimented me; they never even said, "Thank you." If I reported any accomplishment to them, they would say disapprovingly, "If a flower is fragrant, people would naturally know it." Instead, I was constantly reminded to do my best to bring credit to my family and the name of "Wong". A disgraceful deed would downgrade my family, not just myself.
- So I always tried my best, but I chose a path different from my parents' Chinese expectations. My parents wanted me to marry a rich and educated man from their ancestral village. Not one of my high school girl classmates went on to college. But marriage was not the satisfying fulfillment that I desired for life. Neither was being famous part of my plan. I just wanted to follow where my passion led me. As long as I was not breaking the law, I was willing to depart from cultural norms in my drive for self-determination.
- I did pottery well because of the disciplined work habits instilled by my parents. Pottery as it was taught to me at that time required a student to know clay compositions , glaze chemistry and proportions of mineral oxides, the ability to throw pottery on the wheel, then trim and decorate it, the ability to apply glazes, to stack and unstack a kiln, the ability to tend to firing it to maturity-all this by myself.
- At Mills College, I felt favorable interest in me because I represented the Chinese culture to fellow students and my teachers. I also wrote about being informed upon graduation that there would be prejudice against employing me in the business world. And it was awareness of prejudice that motivated me to write my book. I feel that prejudice springs from ignorance. So I wrote Fifth Chinese Daughter as one personal effort to create understanding.
- If I only thought in the traditional way Chinese expect young people to think, I would never have dared to write my story. Because American studies developed my individual critical thinking, I gained an objective point of view. But because of my love of Chinese culture, my point of view is always sensitive to my heritage. This heritage values males absolutely above their consideration of females. I was acutely aware of this injustice every day I was in my parents' home. Only after maturity did I recognize that my parents were observing values of Imperial China, which they left a hundred years ago. They knew no other standards.
- Today's critics are using their yardstick of today to judge a past they did not know.
- But whether in the majority or the minority, young people will be growing up to find new values and activities different from their parents'. You may find that your meaning in life is so different because of your new experiences; you decide to break from your parents' demands. Each person must make his/her decision between his newly found values and his parents' established formula. Each must carefully strike a balance. Be considerate of your parents, for they nurtured you and think they know best. If you must break from them, do so as gently as you can.
- I believe that freedom must be accompanied by a sense of responsibility. If I can he considered famous because I have succeeded in my life goals, which were different from most other Chinese Americans, I achieved because of my unique combination : American freedom of choice, Chinese discipline in responsibility, my integrity, and willingness to work.