What is the Chinese conception of masculinity? Chinese masculinity is a spectrum of personal traits and values. It works in a dualistic system, similar to yin-yang. The two elements are wen and wu. Wen is associated with the gentleman-scholar; wu is associated with the military man.
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The wen element corresponds with refinement, enlightenment and attractiveness. The wu element comprises brawny disciplines, such as martial arts and warfare. No man is lacking in either wen or wu. Ideally, the scholarly man is no more and no less masculine than the military man. However, wen has been the dominant ideal in Chinese culture for millennia.
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In Chinese history, the ruling class had been comprised of civil servants, who were the most intellectual people in the land. The warrior class was beneath them. Exploring the intricacies of Chinese masculinity does more than recast our self-image as Chinese-American men, it creates another bridge between our modern day existence with our culturally rich and ancient heritage.
However, there is a problem that immediately arises when accepting Chinese masculinity outright: We are in the U. Chinese-American men have continuously faced mockery from mainstream American media and culture.
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We could forgo our customs and conform with Western masculine norms, but this will not lead us toward acceptance by American society. Our other choice is to embrace traditional Chinese masculinity, but for Chinese men living in the West, this would further perpetuate emasculating myths, since Chinese masculinity has a strong component of scholarship.
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Neither path is gratifying. We cannot cling to either contemporary Western or traditional Chinese masculinity. My hope is that the Chinese-American community can have an open discussion about gender identity. There are so many questions that we have to answer. First and foremost, how can we earn the respect of the American community if we cannot recognize our unique identity as Chinese-Americans?
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Chinese masculinity gives us the tools necessary to deconstruct our current perspectives of masculinity by letting us celebrate our unique identities. In a country where we supposedly tolerate differences in culture, it is tragic that Chinese-American men are not afforded the same dignity as their American counterparts. Henry Cao is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at henrycao u.
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