Tong Sin @ Hua Lien

On last Monday, I attended a talk and sharing around Tong Sin at Hua Lien club chaired by Andre Li.

It was a very good idea and the function was well attended by some fifty members of Hua Lien club.

What is Tong Sin?

As indicated on the Hua Lien ‘s invitation, we meant to discuss on sets of values that drive the behaviours of the Chinese in our multi cultural society of Mauritius.

tong sin

The scope of the subject is so vast.

When I read the  invitation notice, I was glad that some frames were given to focus on the theme. However after attending to the wonderful and very pleasant meeting, I came out with much learning from the various speakers and yet still hungry for more learning and hungry for an action plan for myself and a collective action plan. Was it meant to be only an awareness session?

I identified as part of the discussion would be on Culture and Values of the Chinese in Mauritius as practiced by our ancestry. The 2nd November being the day of remembering of the arrival of our forefathers, I thought that it would be an occasion to review the values and behaviours that drove the early settlers to succeed and transmit to them to the community. In the same time bring to light those values and behaviours identified as singular or of highest importance to the Chinese settlers and offer them for integration to the National heritage.

Whilst I argue that all human values may be the same for humanity, each community may well classify their order of preference differently. Respect to the elderly specially Parents, for example is rated amongst the top values in Tong Sin. This might not have the same rating in other communities. Duty to the community supersedes duty to self is very Chinese: yet another example which illustrates the hierarchy of values especially in this present  individualistic generating tendency.

It was interesting to deepen my thoughts on the meaning of ‘Culture’ in the context of Chinese culture as the word ‘Tong Sin’ seemed to signify. I quote here the Wikipedia definition:

Culture from  cultura stemming from colere, meaning to cultivate is a term that has different meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn  compiled a list of 164 definitions of “culture” in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions. However, the word “culture” is most commonly used in three basic senses:

  • excellence of taste in the  Fine art and Humanities, also known as  High culture
  • an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

When the concept first emerged in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it connoted a process of cultivation or improvement, as in  Agriculture  or Horticulture. In the nineteenth century, it came to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through  Education, and then to the fulfillment of  Nationalism. In the mid-nineteenth century, some scientists used the term “culture” to refer to a universal human capacity.

In the twentieth century, “culture” emerged as a concept central to Anthropology, encompassing all human phenomena that are not purely results of human genetics. Specifically, the term “culture” in American anthropology had two meanings: (1) the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with Symbol, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and (2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively. Following World War II, the term became important, albeit with different meanings, in other disciplines such as Sociology, cultural studies, Organizational psychology and Management studies.

I would single out the two definitions as pertinent to Tong Sin:

  • an integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning
  • The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group.

Roland Tsang was designated to be the scribe for the meeting and I shall be waiting for his report.

For my part I have observed  several traits of our ancestors who drove them to succeed in the early days. Based on the history books I have read on the early Chinese settlers, it would appear that they had a high sense of identity. The men would wear their Chinese hats and kept their long pleaded hair to go around the country attempting to sell their wares. Their dress and demeanor identify them and they proudly showed themselves in spite of unpleasant remarks from others.  Consciously knowing who they were, where they came from and where they were going gave them an unbeatable mental construct to wage all adversities.

They were 1. Emotionally resilient and 2. Persistent in their sense of duty, thus hard working with a sense of purpose.  Emotional resilience was their main asset: they have demonstrated positive behavioural adaptation.

This resilience is defined as a dynamic process that individuals exhibit positive behavioural adaptation when they encounter significant adversity or Psychological trauma. Resilience is a two-dimensional construct concerning the exposure of adversity and the positive adjustment outcomes of that adversity. Adversity refers to any risk associated with negative life conditions that are statistically related to adjustment difficulties, such as poverty, or experiences of disasters. Positive adaptation, on the other hand, is considered in a demonstration of manifested behaviour on social competence or success at meeting any particular tasks at a specific life stage.

At the meeting at Hua Lien, I heard one of the participants making a remark on his blurred  identity.

The question that I am asking myself now: In the light of the changing environmental factors are we as a community able to reproduce these traits & strength needed  for our survival or progress?

How our Tong Sin would nurture our behaviours to contribute to the nation? Would there need to search in our heritage of Tong Sin  traits, values and behaviours to be in congruence with today’s realities of a fast shrinking numbers of our community and cultural metissage? Are we today conscious of the necessity to reconstruct ourselves for the new environment we shall be faced in the coming years?


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