I come from Guangzhou in southern China, which is a peaceful place with a lot of achievements and allegiance to culture. The area is well known for the best Asian footballers and “dim sum”. People living in the area practice the Lingnan culture. The language spoken in Guangzhou is Cantonese language. Guangzhou is also a good supplier of food, and feeds millions of Chinese population. This area prides itself of great cuisine with unique features: colour, aroma, and taste. Guangzhou is well known for traditions, peaceful environment, and good atmosphere. Xiguan houses indicate good examples of lingnan culture and traditions. Surrounded by banyan trees which are more than thirty inches tall and more than ten inches wide, Xiguan houses are located in a peaceful and romantic environment where even visitors from all over the world cannot help but just marvel. Even after hundred years of history, Lingnan Xiguan houses have been outstanding features of the lingnan culture.
Coming from such a peaceful environment full of traditions and a strong inclination to culture, my life has been shaped a lot since childhood. Walking underneath the huge banyan trees with such a cool breeze on a sunny day always gives me a good feeling; making me happy always. Anyone with such an experience will always want to maintain the status of what gives him such a wonderful experience. That is the kind of feeling I always have; to construct and maintain the peaceful experience of our land through maintenance of our culture, traditions and environment. I always want the Xiguan houses to last forever. I want the banyan trees to keep providing a peaceful shady and tranquil environment forever. Indeed, this peaceful traditional home has influenced my attitude. It has made me to appreciate nature, the environment, culture and traditions.
In terms of physical environment, the tranquility and peaceful shady environment provided by the banyan trees have led me to be proud of where I come from. It has made me happy and positive about everything. When I was Guangzhou, I used to walk underneath the banyan trees whenever I felt stressful about any situation, watching the magnificent Xiguan houses that gave me pride as a true practitioner of the Lingnan culture. This enabled me to grow psychologically fit and healthy. I learnt to regulate and contain my emotions by walking in the garden whenever I was emotional. I poured my stress, boredom and anger to the peaceful environment, and nature gave me peace in return. Until now I value peace, calmness and tranquility such as those provided by the natural environment of Guangzhou.
My culture and religion has enabled me to appreciate and love nature as much as humankind. My experience at Guangzhou and Lingnan culture has enabled me to learn that human beings were created as superior members of nature, and so we should take care of nature. I always liked walking in the garden during my leisure time. I enjoyed seeing wild animals and plants in their natural habitats. This love for nature has shaped me because it has enabled me to appreciate and be committed to protect the environment. I am always unhappy for the practices that seemingly destroy the environment. For instance, I strongly oppose the practices of cutting down of trees and killing of wild animals by poachers. The experience of seeing banyan trees whirling their branches to the tunes of the wind led me to understand the treasure of having a good tree cover in the environment. Life in Guangzhou has taught me to plant trees and build my home in a place that is well covered with trees.
The Cantonese language has also shaped my life. I often spoke it since I was young, and it has helped me to communicate effectively with other Cantonese; hence allowing me to be integrated into the community of Cantonese-speaking people. From the time I was speaking pure Cantonese at Guangzhou to today when English is my basic language at school, I have realized that Lingnan has shaped my life significantly. It has enabled me to appreciate diversity and to identify myself to a traditional language in various diversity fairs, shows, seminars and workshops. It has also enabled me to interact well with other Cantonese people across the world. This has improved my social life very significantly.
The food I got used to while I was living in Guangzhou have also shaped me in terms of health and food preferences. The sweet taste and aroma of food at Guangzhou still linger in my mind. I yearn for a time when I’ll experience such food again. It has made me healthy and changed my health completely. The food made to grow healthy and strong, and has created a taste and preference of good food in me. Lingnan food formed a significant part of my diet when I was growing up. The cuisine was not only meant for eliminating hunger, but also as part of the Lingnan cultural practices. It brought together and bonded families, friends, relatives and communities during festivals and other ceremonies. Offering lingnan cuisine to a friend in Guangzhou represents a good gesture of friendship and love. Through this experience, I have learnt the importance of helping other people and maintaining good relationships with other members of the community through sharing.
The love and unity that was also embraced in Guangzhou while I was growing up changed my life positively. In Guangzhou, people help each other and communicate happily with each other. There were never signs of hatred, envy, jealousy or any other thing that could cause misunderstanding within the community. Instead love, understanding, kindness, respect and compassion characterized every ideal Cantonese in Guangzhou. People treated each other with respected and helped one another in all aspects of life. No one was left on his own to fend for himself; the society handled things in unity and oneness. One man’s problems were shared among various members of the society. This spirit of communism and unity shaped my life a lot. I gained experience on community issues, and I developed good values that enabled me to relate well with people at school and my current home residents. I have realized that helping other people as I learnt in Guangzhou has enabled me to live a happy life. Whenever I treat other people with respect, I get respect in return. Whenever I help someone who is in need, I get help from him/her when I am in need of something. Every time I show love and kindness, my heart feels comfortable and I become happy. This has made me live such a worthy life with happiness and good relationship with others.
The Cantonese people of Guangzhou also shaped me in many ways. My parents, siblings, relatives, neighbours and friends gave me an opportunity to change my life through their explicit contribution to my success in life. Born of a religious and conservative family, my childhood was always characterized by routine chores and submissiveness to authority. My parents taught me good character and behaviour, and I have always observed the norms and ethics that define my community. I have been taught to be obedient to every elderly person. I have also learnt to treat other people with a lot of reverence and appreciation. This has given me an opportunity to shun selfishness and serve others selflessly. I understand that the community is made up of different types, each of whom has a role to play. Therefore, I appreciate everyone for whoever they are.
Lingnan has also shaped my character in different ways. Since childhood, I have always learnt to develop character traits that seem right to me, and not as perceived by others. Religion played a crucial role in determining my character. My parents also exercised their duties of shaping my character effectively by teaching me good morals and ethics regularly and routinely. Therefore, my life is mainly guided by good morals and ethics as taught to me by my parents. My parents were from a conservative and religious community who lived by the culture and religion of Cantonese people. Morality and good ethics were essential elements in developing a person as a responsible member of the community. This has indeed shaped my moral life. I have always learnt to abide by the norms of Lingnan culture.
The peace that was common in Guangzhou also led me to appreciate peace anywhere in the world. Hearing that there were wars and restlessness of other parts of Asia when I was living in Guangzhou, I always appreciated that we had our own peace at Guangzhou. Some people of the community believed that the peace we had was due to the fact that we observed our religion carefully and obeyed the laws set before us by the traditional community, guided by the Lignan culture. Whichever the explanation of the source of our peace, I understand that peace everywhere in the world is important. Peace has left me happy, uninjured, unafraid, fearless of anything, and free. Indeed, I enjoyed freedom and its resultant benefits ever since I was young, thanks to the peaceful Guangzhou environment.
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Moely, B. E., Billig, S., & Holland, B. A. (2009). Creating our identities in service-learning and community engagement. Charlotte, N.C: IAP, Information Age Publishing.