The Prosperity of the Chinese
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  It’s Chinese New Year once again – this year, on January 25. The celebration is based on the lunar calendar that considers – among other things – the positions of the moon, from the viewpoint of the earth, within a certain stretch of time, the lunar year. Then the particular zodiac sign, under which the lunar year falls, is determined.

Curiously, the Chinese New Year is not only observed by the mainland Chinese, but by many other societies throughout the world. Yes, within these other societies are groups of Chinese that lead the celebrations, to which the rest of the general public joins in. Whole non-Chinese communities have since not only participated in the ostentatious Chinese New Year celebrations, but adopted Chinese superstitions as well.

Some people believe that the main lure of the Chinese superstitions is the fact that, in general, the Chinese are economically prosperous, or at least economically secure. This is true almost everywhere where there are Chinese, except perhaps for some Chinese who remain in their homeland.

Economic prosperity is quite a common achievement among all other ethnic groups outside of their own native lands. The reason perhaps is that people simply struggle and work harder when away from the felt assurance of support when around family and relatives and long-time friends. They don’t mind doing odd jobs, of the types they would be embarrassed to do amid the sneering faces of people back home.    

In the Philippines nowadays, the Chinese stand out when it comes to economic prosperity. Although the local Indian, Spanish and other non-native communities are undoubtedly as prosperous, the Chinese are perceived to top them all. What’s interesting is that when the rest of the population looks at the Chinese, no one sees all the hard work and frugal living at the base of the amassed fortunes; they only see the superstitious practices.

The dragon dance performances, the lighting of joss sticks, the hanging of prosperity door chimes, and the wide array of imitation gold coins, green frogs and golden dragons, various representations of the Buddha and other such good luck symbols are unmistakably Chinese. The unthinking outsider immediately connects these to the Chinese prosperity, omitting all other, more important Chinese traits. He then follows the Chinese rituals he has seen or heard of.

Whether the acquired practice works or not, it is done, time and time again. People do not question it or bother to assess it. They do it “just in case it works.” In time, the practice is passed down; it becomes a tradition, a dear one at that because it’s now coming from respected elders.

When what’s to come is uncertain, people do anything to insure their future. They work hard, and they pray for blessings from divine powers, whoever or whatever they are. The praying part even eventually becomes a big festival.  

Simply abiding by tradition is the easy way to go through life. Figuring things out every time can be so mentally tiring, indeed. Besides, there’s no guarantee that our personal view of anything is the right way of seeing it. So we take tradition hook-line-and-sinker, trusting that our parents, grandparents, and great, great grandparents who handed them down to us couldn’t be all wrong. 

But when it comes to the prosperity of the Chinese, for sure tradition and superstition do not bring it on as much as hard work and frugality do.

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