Tribune. A few years ago, when I was in Taiwan attending a literary festival, I went to a night market in search of tangyuan – those sticky rice balls that are traditionally eaten on the last day of the Chinese New Year festivities. I had recently had to go into exile from mainland China, and I hoped that these tangyuan would quench my thirst to see my country again.
After a long search, I found a small Chinese dumpling stand and asked the old landlady if she had any tangyuan. She replied that she had sold them all, but that if I bought a bag of tangyuan Frozen at the supermarket across the street, she could cook them for me on her stove. That’s what I did. She served them to me in a large bowl, handed me a spoon, and invited me to sit at one of the wobbly tables. Then she categorically refused that I pay her. Savoring these translucent, boiling rice balls stuffed with sweet black sesame paste, I felt close to home, far more so than in years.
It wasn’t the rice balls per se, nor the memories they evoked, that gave me that impression. It was the kindness of this old woman who didn’t know me. This kindness struck me as being all Chinese. She was imbued with what we call the renqing : this emotion, this feeling which pushes a person to do a favor to another, simply because he can, without expecting any reward.
Such feelings united traditional Chinese society. They are rooted in Confucian values of benevolence, righteousness and decorum. And at their heart is the idea that in order to lead a good life, one must treat others with compassion; that every human being is potentially good, deserves respect and dignity. Almost five centuries before the birth of Christ, Confucius defined his golden rule: “When you leave your house, treat every stranger as if you were receiving a guest of honor. Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like to be done to you. “
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However, in China, these ancestral values have been beaten up by the seventy-year rule of the Chinese Communist Party. Since Mao’s time, the CCP has clung to power through violence, propaganda and lies, viewing citizens as foolish pawns that it can blind by promising them a utopian future, while confining them to a hellish present.
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