Diaspora refers to “legal or illegal practices of border crossings; and after being dispersed, diasporas (those who have dispersed) remain transitionally linked with a real or symbolical homeland.

— Chih-Yun Chiang (2010, p. 36)

Standing on the boundary between western residence and Chinese identity, I often feel slightly out of place. I am often told that I belong to the Chinese diaspora. But this never seems to quite fit for me, so I question this affirmation. My “group”, the Chinese diaspora, has been furthermore discussed by Chiang (p. 36–37) quoting the statement made by Klein (2004), that “instead of grounding one’s sense of identity in the dispersal community that exists in the present, travelers on diasporic journeys are settling down elsewhere and creating their sense of identity in a homeland that exists mainly in memory”.

Me, on the Way of Finding Myself, 2019

This work was shot and edited in Vancouver, Canada—my new “home”. My intent was to find a means to represent the contrast between an individual of the modern Chinese diaspora and an “old Chinese soul”. I was interested in exploring the qualities of these two separate but linked identities—ones that I consider myself to simultaneously possess. As a self-reflective piece, this work helped lay the groundwork and initiate the research I would continue to pursue in the subsequent sixteen months of my Master’s studies—a body of work where I have sought to demonstrate my personal position (both realistically and ideologically) in regards to the culture trajectories of Chinese people. As a contemporary individual with a Chinese origin, the traditional culture of China, including but not limited to customs, music, and languages, has always resonated. I pay attention to dates when traditional festivals happen and read online articles about those festivals. I practice Chinese calligraphy as a hobby, and like to listen to classical Chinese music. It is something I feel should be conserved and passed between generations. I am also aware, however, that my stance toward the importance of tradition can be contrasted by my own daily routines—when living in China, I adopted a contemporary lifestyle in order to fit in to the “mainstream” of modern China. This was the choice of wearing obviously westernized clothing styles, and speaking Mandarin Chinese instead of my regional dialect, Sichuanese.

My work,“Me, on the Way of Finding Myself” is a film that attempts to represent and convey how individuals from China living in the West might deal with assimilating with a contemporary Westernized “mainstream”, while also inviting the viewer to consider, the evolution and adaptation of traditional Chinese culture in modern Chinese society. 

The audio chosen for this short film (“Me, on the Way of Finding Myself”) was pulled from the soundtrack of a 1987 film The Last Emperor, a British-Italian biographical film about the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China. This film was written by two non-Chinese individuals Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci. Interestingly, like the non-Chinese producer, director, and screenplay writers, all but one of the eighteen pieces of music in the soundtrack for this film were composed by non-Chinese composers. I intentionally chose the music, titled “Lunch”, to play in the background for my short film, because it was composed by Cong Su, the only Chinese composer from the team of The Last Emperor.

References

Bertolucci, B. (Director), Bertolucci, B., & Peploe, M. (Screenwriters), & Thomas, J. (Producer). (1987). The Last emperor[Motion picture]. Columbia Pictures.

Chiang, C. (2010). Diasporic Theorizing Paradigm on Cultural Identity. In Intercultural Communication Studies XIX: 1 2010 (pp. 29-46).

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