The Gang Gets Sinicized

My name is Tom, and I am a rising sophomore at Davidson who hopes to major in Chinese. With my sleep cycle normalized and my body well rested, I believe I can string together a few thoughts into a reflective post.

In China’s long history, many groups of people and sometimes entire civilizations have assimilated themselves into the Han Chinese culture. Most famously, Kublai Khan and the Mongol Empire conquered China in the 13th century and established the Yuan Dynasty. Despite halving the Chinese population, the invasion led to China’s second “golden age.” Increased trade outside of China helped spread and enrich Chinese culture. Science and religion simultaneously progressed, and numerous public works projects improved China’s infrastructure. While a typical imperialist invasion involves a stronger country conquering and forcing its customs and government structure upon a weaker neighbor, China ended up absorbing the Mongols into their government and culture.

The previous paragraph is admittedly a simplification of over a century of Chinese history. But Sinicization, or “a process whereby non-Han Chinese societies come under the influence of dominant Chinese state and society,” has occurred several times throughout Chinese history for good reason; Chinese culture is as admirable and enticing as it is complex and unique.

Americans have the unfortunate reputation of feeling too comfortable in our own skin. In other words, some of us stubbornly possess the belief that our culture and government is superior to others, and thus look down upon or even take offense to the cultures of other countries. I can proudly say that this reputation does not fit myself or anyone on the Davidson research team. Speaking for myself, living in a society I have studied for the last five years is an experience I will never forget. Others in the group have taken to Shanghai in their own ways, ranging from the development of a genuine addiction to baozi to wandering for hours in Yuyuan gardens.

Our first few days in China were overwhelming because we tried to take in more than our minds could handle. Having settled into a semi-normal routine, we will now begin our work: gathering information about food within the context of Chinese culture, processing this knowledge, and converting it into a format that will allow us to share our findings. We are all excited about the opportunities that this upcoming month will offer us, and aim to capitalize on them.