Chinese Metaphysics: Why Westerners Should Embrace Humility in Learning
Western culture has always been fascinated with the exotic and the unknown, and this has led to the spread of certain misconceptions about Eastern cuisine and Chinese metaphysics. Let's take my restaurant experiences into this topic. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of blending traditional Asian recipes with Western influences. However, this has led to some misconceptions about what constitutes an authentic dish. As a Chinese Australian, I have experienced this firsthand, especially through my business ventures selling Malaysian cuisine in suburban Australia.
One dish that has been particularly popular is curry laksa, a spicy noodle soup that originated from the Southeast Asian region. To make it truly authentic, we didn't include broccoli in it. However, according to local eating habits, nearly all Chinese restaurants or takeaways that offer curry laksa in Australia will put broccoli in it. This is something you will never see in Malaysia or Singapore.
(Image source: https://www.taste.com.au/recipes/tofu-coconut-vegetable-laksa-recipe/9q0am6oj)
It's not just broccoli either. Many people, including Chinese not from Southeast Asia, can only imagine a curry laksa that looks orange or has a red spicy paste. They believe that curry laksa must be red, which is simply not true. In fact, in the northern part of Malaysia, we have curry laksa without curry, and it even has pig blood curd in it. (yes, it is, the pig blood curd is made from real blood from piggy.) While this may not be acceptable to the Western palate, it is a welcomed dish in the Min Nan region, which includes the Hokkien ethnicity and Taiwanese who love it. You can find pig blood curd everywhere in Taiwan's street food.
(curry laksa without curry...)
The removal of vegetables like broccoli to curry laksa is not acceptable for many Australians, who prefer a more vegetable-balance diet. However, curry laksa is an oily-based food, with a thin layer of curry oil on top of the soup, making it unsuitable for garnishing or cooking with leafy vegetables. As a result, broccoli is the vegetable of choice for many Chinese restaurants in Australia.
Ironically, this blending of Asian and Western cuisine has led some Australians to believe that a curry laksa without broccoli is not authentic, and some even accuse restaurants of trying to rip them off. This narrow-minded thinking is not limited to food, and it can be seen in many areas, including Chinese metaphysics.
As someone who understands Chinese metaphysics, I feel compelled to address this issue. Westerners who have studied Yi Jing, feng shui, or bazi for 30 or even 40 years may think they understand these concepts, but they are missing a crucial component: the Chinese spirit that is inherited through their education.
Many Chinese do not read or purposely learn Yi Jing, but they already understand it on a deeper level because it is a part of their cultural education. Concepts such as 高处不胜寒 (gāochù bù shèng hán), which means "he who stands too high will feel the cold," and 物极必反 (wù jí bì fǎn), which means "things will always turn in the opposite direction when they reach their extreme," are ingrained in the Chinese psyche. It is something that any primary schooler already learns at school.
My main point in writing this article is to urge all Yi Jing learners to approach this subject with humility. I understand that there are many "unqualified" people teaching Chinese metaphysics, which may lead some Westerners to believe that they have a deeper understanding of the subject. However, the reality is that the great and authentic knowledge only exists on the Chinese side. (It will also in the Non-Chinese side, if something changes) This is similar to the example of the broccoli in curry laksa. Ten years ago, finding a curry laksa without broccoli in Australia was a rare occurrence. The Western perception of authentic Asian cuisine is often a fusion of different styles, which is not necessarily the original or traditional recipe. So, unless things changed, otherwise, the Australian will always be eating curry laksa with broccoli. Thank god, things changed in Australia.
When a Westerner is about to criticize a Chinese person's knowledge of Yi Jing, they should ask themselves, "Am I really smart enough to criticize them?" Most of the time, if we are unable to comprehend something, it only means that we are not knowledgeable enough, and we must admit this. Why? Because Chinese metaphysics is not an easy subject, and it is hard to be supported by scientific evidence. In other words, it is beyond science and therefore, it is difficult to evaluate. So, how can we be so arrogant as to question it? (Like how Australians question my curry laksa? You are even yet to taste a curry laksa without curry. There is always something deeper...)
In conclusion, whether you are learning Wen Wang Gua, Bazi, Feng Shui, or any other Chinese metaphysical subject, it is crucial to approach it with humility. I know some people who learn these are doctors or lawyers by profession, a profession that can only handle by those who are born to study well. However, being a doctor or lawyer does not necessarily mean that you are qualified to handle Chinese metaphysics. It takes time, effort, and cultural understanding to truly comprehend the subject. So let us all strive to be humble learners and deepen our understanding of this ancient and fascinating field of study.