Manual Old China Through the Eyes of a Storyteller

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During the Christmas holidays, he plans to tell children family-oriented stories but will tell more scandalous tales — related to affairs, gambling and drinking — in the closing month. Born Gregory Robic to parents of Slovenian origin, he became interested in the similarities between Greek comedies by Aristophanes and the Japanese noh and kabuki dramas, when he booked a six-month vacation for Japan in Five years later, Robic was introduced to the Japanese monologue theatrical while at a yakitori restaurant in Yokohama, where rakugo shows were held monthly.

He was immediately struck by two kimono-clad male rakugo comedians who told their respective stories while kneeling in a small tatami mat room — ending with big punchlines, or ochi in Japanese, where comedic suspense crescendos before an unexpected finish. After completing his apprenticeship in , Sunshine became the first Western Kamigata Osaka style rakugo storyteller — a Canadian in Osaka and a Swede in Tokyo have since started apprenticeships — and began to perform in various countries at the invitation of embassies and consulates of Japan.

Audience member Remi Steele, a Japanese American middle school student, who discovered the comedian on YouTube and also watched him live at the SoHo Playhouse in , appreciates how a non-Japanese foreign national has delved into the ancient Japanese art form. Recalling her mother's ability to tell her the "Kweilin story" with a different ending each time, which indicates her mother's skill in talk story improvisation, Jing-mei one day discovers the true version of the story.

It is the story of how her mother escaped from Kweilin to Chungking during the Japanese invasion of China in On her way, the mother becomes so exhausted that she has to leave behind her belongings one by one. At last, she gives up her two baby girls.

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After the mother is rescued, she begins her ceaseless search for her lost daughters. However, Jing-mei's mother does not succeed: she dies without seeing her daughters again , Jing-mei's mother initiates the weekly tradition of the Joy Luck Club. This is an occasion on which Jing-mei's mother and her three aunts play mah jong and have a feast together. The year Jing-mei's mother dies, she was supposed to have been hostess. Jing-mei, as her daughter, is therefore seen as the best candidate to replace her.

But when, at this meeting, Jing-mei is asked to fulfil her mother's life-long wish and meet her mother's lost daughters in China on her behalf, feelings of doubt and confusion arise in her mind. She feels she cannot represent her mother because she does not think that she knows her well enough.

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The uncertainty Jing-mei feels highlights not only a generational gap between mother and daughter but also a division between two cultural and national identities: In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have bought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English.

They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these closed American-born minds "joy luck" is not a word, it does not exist Joy luck signifies different things for the mothers and daughters. For the Chinese mothers, the word "joy luck" points to their cultural origins and the past they cherish.

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But for their American daughters, the word does not mean anything; it simply does not exist. Although the Joy Luck Club symbolises a matrilineal heritage to be passed on from mother to daughter, it also signifies the differences that act as a boundary between them. Jing-mei's obedience to her mother's wish compels Jing-mei to fulfil her mother's quest.

However, as the story goes on, we are informed that Jing-mei's presence serves not merely as a replacement for her mother. It is also about her own quest for her mother. In the last story, "A Pair of Tickets," Jing-mei makes a trip to China with her father to meet her half-sisters. On this journey, she confronts a conflict of identities, struggling with her doubts about whether she is Chinese or not. But a sense of identification and belonging emerges as soon as she reaches China, her mother's home country: The minute our train leaves the Hong Kong border and enters Shenzhen, China, I feel different.

I can feel the skin on my forehead tingling, my blood rushing through a new course, my bones aching with a familiar old pain.

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And I think, My mother was right. I am becoming Chinese As if a miracle has happened, Jing-mei feels a transformation in her body and realises that she has become Chinese on arriving in China. By identifying herself as Chinese, she has also come to identify with her mother. Holding a pair of tickets, just before boarding the plane to Shanghai, she senses that she has come to China as both mother and daughter.

The moment she meets her half-sisters at the airport, her impression is confirmed:. The flash of the Polaroid goes off and my father hands me the snapshot. My sisters and I watch quietly together, eager to see what develops. The gray-green surface changes to the bright colors of our three images, sharpening and deepening all at once. And although we don't speak, I know we all see it: Together we look like our mother.

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Her same eyes, her same mouth, open in surprise to see, at last, her long-cherished wish What the daughters see in each other's eyes are multiplications of their mother. Although she is dead, she seems resurrected at this moment of reunion accomplished by the daughters. The quest turns out to be a mutual one between lost mother and lost daughters. Interestingly, propelled originally by her joy luck aunts, who function as substitute mothers, to attend to, narrate and later fulfill her mother's story, Jing-mei has unintentionally established a mother line that stretches both vertically and horizontally, linking mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts together.

In Jing-mei's storytelling, we have a daughter's journey to the voices of her mother and herself.


Drawing from a similar theme but working conversely, we also have the mother's narration in other Joy Luck stories. Nevertheless, because of the inextricably intertwined lives founded upon mother-daughter relationships, a mother does not necessarily confine her voice to that of a mother but refers occasionally to those of her other identities in the process of interacting with her daughter.

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For example, An-mei Hsu, the mother of Rose Hsu Jordan, speaks first as a mother in "Magpies": Yesterday my daughter said to me, "My marriage is falling apart. She lies down on a psychiatrist couch, squeezing tears out about this shame. And, I think, she will lie there until there is nothing more to fall, nothing left to cry about, everything dry Commenting on the way her daughter handles her almost broken marriage, An-mei uses her Chinese way of thinking to measure her daughter's behaviour.

Seeing that her daughter can only lie down and cry on a psychiatrist's couch and is doing nothing to save her marriage, An-mei resents her daughter's weakness in contrast to her own endurance in working things out. Then, An-mei shifts to a daughter's voice:. My mother was a stranger to me when she first arrived at my uncle's house in Ningpo. I was nine years old and had not seen her for many years. But I knew she was my mother, because I could feel her pain Being the fourth wife of a polygamist, An-mei's mother's position in the family is the lowest of the low. Surrounded by an atmosphere of jealousy and competition between the different views in the family, An-mei sees and feels her mother's suffering due to being neglected and despised. Later, An-mei learns the secret about her mother's marriage: she was tricked by Wu-Tsing and his second wife to bear them a son.

As her mother has been defamed as a seductress, her family is not able to forgive her. Towards the end, we are able to hear the daughter's anger and resentment against her mother's circumstances. Combining the two voices of mother and daughter, An-mei as a mother impresses on her daughter the strength and courage that she as a daughter receives from her mother's suffering Lindo Jong, the mother of Waverly Jong, speaks also with the two voices of mother and daughter.

Like An-mei, she speaks first as a mother: My daughter wanted to go to China for her second honeymoon, but now she is afraid. They already know you are an outsider. My daughter likes to speak back. She likes to question what I say In the first part of the story, we learn from the mother about her relationship with her daughter, which involves two cultural identities.

In the dialogue above, Lindo Jong denies that her daughter looks Chinese, because she knows that her efforts to combine two cultural characteristics in her daughter have failed; they just cannot work together She was sitting at her table with the big mirror. I was standing behind her, my chin resting on her shoulder. The next day was the start of the new year. I would be ten years by my Chinese age, so it was an important birthday for me. For this reason maybe she did not criticize me too much. She was looking at my face Lindo describes how her mother can tell her fortune simply by observing the shapes of her ears, nose, chin, forehead and eyes.

Looking at her mother's face, Lindo discovers their sameness and her desire to look like her mother. This desire stems not only from the mother-daughter bond but also from a collective Chinese identity. But Lindo's face is changed when she emigrates to America. Being in a different culture and society, Lindo has to disguise her Chinese face, her "true self," in order to adjust to her life in America Eventually, returning to the mirror scene with her daughter, Waverly, Lindo finds that there are more similarities between herself and her daughter.

Being mother and daughter, they have the same crooked nose and being both Chinese and American, they are also both "two-faced" This episode of mother-daughter mirroring expanded at a three-generational level reinforces the mother-daughter anxiety over and struggle with the differences caused by migration. Waverly Jong's conspiracy with her hairdresser, Mr. Rory, to have her mother's hair cut in an American style exemplifies the assimilating imposition of white mainstream American ideology upon immigrants who are racial and ethnic minorities. Aligning herself with such "an 'American mindset'" of disregarding and stigmatising her mother's true identity as a Chinese immigrant, Waverly Jong "sees her mother as 'other,' as 'outsider,' as 'intruder'" Ho In addition, her response to Mr.

Rory's comment on her similarity with her mother as shameful and unpleasant denotes the American daughter's matrophobia, because Waverly Jong's mother, Lindo Jong, is viewed as "the outcast Other" Ho Interestingly, as this episode is narrated by the mother, we are able to perceive at first hand her reaction to such enactment of racism and classism. Lindo's playing with her two faces, Chinese and American, accommodates her need to both survive and resist. Her display and mimicking of two faces blur the boundary between two national and cultural identities, Chinese and American.

Yet, more significantly, the mother-daughter matrix assists in reconciling such a conflict. Judging from the stories told by the two Joy Luck mothers, An-mei Hsu and Lindo Jong, we have, similar to Jing-mei's story, the formation of matrilineal narrative extending across different generations. By referring themselves as both mothers and daughters in a female descent line, both An-mei Hsu and Lindo Jong have built up their own matrilineage, creating a herstory of their own lives. Tan's Joy Luck mothers, to a great extent, also participate in what Hirsch has described as "a double voice" The way Tan presents the double voice in The Joy Luck Club is to locate maternity as its center, placing "subjectivity in the maternal" and deploying it as "a pivot between the past and the present" Heung , mother and daughter, and China and America.

As Hirsch has envisioned, "the multiplicity of 'women' is nowhere more obvious than for the figure of the mother, who is always both mother and daughter. In this hour, stories about finding your calling. A speech writer has a defining moment at the White House; a young Carl Bernstein gets his first job as a copy boy in a news room; a firefighter charges into his first big blaze; and a doctor struggles with duty and identity while serving in a medical camp in Syria.

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