Welcome to the World Wide Web Home page of Road to East Asia
Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.2, no. 1 November, 1996
Maria Nadeau: They both seem to overlook the obvious fact that they themselves alone are in charge of their own destiny. She has chosen to "embellish" the dead rather than brides because she wants to. She will also end up alone because she want to. Liu claims to be "a dreamer," and this is true because he is not a doer. He seems convinced that he will be happy only when China is free and when the Chinese people no longer stay in "their individual shells of security." He should listen to his own advice. he must break his shell of security in America and fight for himself before he can fight for China as a whole.
Daniel Sun: Maria's arguments are valid. I am in agreement with her. If Liu really regrets the predicament of the Chinese people, he should have adopted more drastic measures to liberate them instead of passively writing about his political convictions. He is a dreamer rather than a fighter. It is true that "the pen is mightier than the sword," but couldn't he have followed his own advice by taking "action as the Korean students had, or as the Burmese students were doing right then" in 1988 (p. 281)? Now those responsible for the killings of the students in Korea have been put on trial and sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
Han Ki-Dongt: The Kwangju massacre in 1980 alone claimed the lives of more than 200 Korean students and injured a large number of civilians. People's awareness of such an event may discourage similar occurrences in the future.
Derrick Choy: I agree with Maria. Liu stays in his shell of security in the United States where he can say whatever he chooses to say about the Beijing government. If he really wants to "fight for China as a whole," maybe he should try to go back to his homeland and fight for democracy underground. He is not a doer, but rather a dreamer.
Micahel Kociuba: Who is a dreamer? Is it one who sleeps all day and dreams, or is it one who goes out and seeks an idea of great proportions? Could a dreamer also be one who will not rest day and night until one's dream becomes a reality against all powerful odds? Liu may be the one who dreams the impossible dream--a China free of the tight shackles of communism, a giant awake, realizing the country's potential.
Megan Donnelly: I am not convinced that Liu Binyan is controlled by fate and even considers himself a victim of fate. When Liu says he "was pushed by the tide," he means that the unexpected historical events had prompted him to criticize Beijing even at his own risk. He portrays himself as a "dreamer," a man of vision, whose epitaph could reasonably read: "Here lies a Chinese who had done what he should do, and said what he should say" (p. 281).
Jessica Martin: Respect and admiration are the feelings I have for Liu Binyan. He does not shun the role he is destined to play even at the risk of his life. Such an attitude demonstrates courage. he does not see the challenges fate has dealt him as excuses to give up on life, or to abandon his mission as a critic of Beijing's high-handed policies. he takes advantage of his experiences and uses those to teach the Americans about Chinese culture and politics. "I have survived, and hope to live to the end of the twentieth century and see the light of hope over China" (p. 280), he says. The fact that he is so positive about his future prospects despite his unfortunate banishment from his homeland is inspiring.
Hilaneh Mahmoudi: I can appreciate the sentiments expressed by Liu Binyan in his description of the Tiananamen incident because my country went through a similar kind of tragedy. The government killed thousands of student demonstrators in a recent revolution. It is most unfair and barbaric to slaughter demonstrators just because they tell the government that it has failed to live up to their expectations or to provide what they want in life.
Candice Wong: I was in Hong Kong on June 4, 1989 when the killings started at Tiananmen Square. At 14, I watched the momentous events on television and read about them in the newspapers. Shocked and scared, I couldn't believe what was happening. Now I don't have much to say except that it is difficult to have faith in Beijing's promises.
Brenda Lo: I believe in fate, and in fact I don blame everything on fate. I sympathize with the narrator in "A Girl Like Me" because no one has ever defeated invincible fate, which decides all events in our lives. I just let everything take its natural course, which is always being influenced by the mighty policy-makers in Beijing. The strange twists of fate make me believe that the destiny of the Chinese people is unalterable.
Shelly-Ann Gunness: It has been my experience that the Chinese tend to put a strong emphasis on fate. I have always questioned the validity of this approach to life. In "A Girl Like Me," the narrator has decided that she must take whatever life has in store for her. Liu also seems to take this passive stand, and lives his life as an outcast of Chinese society. neither of them abandon ourselves to what we believe is our destiny, we may live forever in regrets. If control is taken, we may have the possibility of happiness.
Kevin Perkins: Happiness is a state of mind. Xi Xi's narrator has no faith in human compassion or understanding. Had she taken a chance in believing people's ability to accept her, her dreams might have turned into reality. She lives in constant anguish of losing something she has not yet gained. Liu Binyan, on the contrary, remains committed to the liberating cause despite the persecution he has suffered. He continues to believe that the Chinese people have the power to change their country's political system.
Michael Kociuba: The narrator in Xi Xi's tale appears to be dying spiritually. She alienates herself as if she were death itself. The life story of her aunt, who has reduced herself to a walking corpse, should have been a lesson for her. Staying in the older woman's shadow, the narrator becomes her "carbon copy" (p. 109), and "an extension" (p. 109).
Obviously, she craves for human attention. She uses a dramatic monologue to show what makes her tick and to underscore her misery. Ironically, having abandoned the world of living, she has only the companionship of the dead. "Perhaps I should say to those sleeping friends of mine: Don't you think we're the same, you and I?" she asks (p. 114).
Julie Shim: I appreciate Liu Binyan's perspective because the Chinese tend to cherish self-effacement and attribute whatever happens in life to fate. As a Canadian with Chinese roots, I was raised to believe that a woman should be submissive to and caring for her elders. But Canada is a liberal and fairly democratic country, which has fostered my strong belief in freedom. I feel sad that Liu misses his homeland, but I think he should be more appreciative of "the value of freedom" (p. 283) he "suddenly rediscovered" (p. 283) at Harvard Square, one morning after June 4, 1989. By the same token, the make-up artist should have stood up for herself.
Han Ki: Contrary to her complaints, the make-up artist has a number of options. She could have been a teacher or a waitress. It is her own choice to work for the dead, for the profession offers her job security and she is not a risk taker.
The narrator seems to have an identity problem. If she had self- esteem and confidence, she could have emerged from her aunt's shadow and have chosen independence as her brother has done. Perhaps she feels safer to follow in the steps of a trodden path than carve out a new career for herself.
Benjamin Bacola: If all you eat is sugar, it will gradually lose its sweetness. Liu Binyan reflects on his life with all its difficulties, yet he says, "I have received much more from life than what I lost or had to give me" (p. 279). Had his life been invariably rosy, he would not have appreciated "the value of freedom," the blessing of peace (p. 283), or the joyous moments of kite-flying with his grandsons at Tiananmen Square as much. His trials contrasted with happier times in such a way that the meaningful aspects of life stand out all the more, making his "political misfortune" (p. 279) somewhat "worth it."
Neena Gill: I believe that one has the ability to decide, at least partially, one's own destiny. If one has been given a choice in any situation, then one must accept the consequences of one's decision. When a person is not given a choice or the power to control the course of events, then he can blame fate for his predicament. In such a case, there is the idea of an unalterable, already prescribed course of events. It is irresponsible to blame fate for everything that goes wrong in one's life. Only a coward is afraid to take control of his life, and denies the responsibility for his indecisive actions.