May is one of the most busy and beautiful months of the year. Mother’s day, World Press Freedom day, Endangered Species day and International Day for Biological Diversity, a long list of important days can be found throughout the month of May, there’s also the ongoing month-long celebration like the following one.
The Asian Pacific Heritage celebration is a time to honor and appreciate Asian heritage and contributions to the growing and prosperous communities within North America. This is an opportunity for people to celebrate the multicultural heritage and explore Pan Asian history and traditions in Arts, culture and business. People like May as the month of sunshine and flowers, in UK it’s National Smile Month, and it’s commemorative month of Asian Pacific Heritage across North America, in the US it’s called Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, in Canada it’s simply called Asian Heritage Month.
When we say Asia, what comes to your mind firstly? Panda, green tea or lotus…Check out some Asian cultural icons and find out their meanings in oriental traditions and philosophy. Many Asian people see green tea as green mindset. Tea culture has thousands years of history in Asia. Over a thousand varieties of tea can be found in Eastern Asia and beyond, one of the main types is green tea. With mild smell and light taste in general, green tea has spread across the oceans from Asia to the world. Behind its popularity and health benefits of drinking, people really enjoy the oriental culture and traditions such as mindfulness, meditation, peace and harmony.
Be like a lotus, let the beauty of your heart speak, be grateful to the mud, water, air and the light.
~ Amit Ray, Indian author and spiritual master
Everything in nature has a spirit, and lotus is one of the most spiritual symbols with profound cultural meanings. The lotus is to the East, as the rose is to the West.¹ Lotus is a summer flower that rises from the muddy water and blooms gracefully like a pure beauty. In Eastern cultures, people love lotus for its purity and serenity with long and deep roots in the mud. Live like the lotus flower, be enlightened by peace and harmony: the deeper root you have, the stronger growing you are.
Culture connects us
Every culture has its profound identity and deep root through the generations, it connects people, enriches our life and defines our communities from historical footprints to cultural milestones. From Asian people to Asian community, we have seen many success stories coming from this diverse, vibrant and growing community in all aspects of life.
With the importance of transmitting culture and heritage across generations, Asian descendants and immigrants contribute actively their talent to the thriving and diverse society. To emphasize the valuable contributions by women of Asian descent, here are some notable Asian figures who have made a significant impact in different fields of arts, culture, sports, entrepreneurship and business.
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.
Since 3 decades, Asian American writer Amy Tan has written some stories about Chinese immigrants and how they embraced Chinese heritage. Her best seller The Joy Luck Club explores Chinese American experience, Chinese culture and family relationships between two generations. As the former Governor General of Canada, Asian Canadian Adrienne Clarkson, has played an active role in multicultural environment with a long and successful career in broadcasting from journalist to arts show producer.
The award-winning geneticist and broadcaster David Suzuki is widely recognized as a world leader in sustainable ecology and environmental protection. He has received numerous honors and awards throughout the lifetime, his work, documentaries and books about nature and the environment are inspiring others “to find the ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that does sustain us.”
CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai grew up in India, studied at Stanford University, and has worked at Google to the top is a remarkable personal journey and success story to inspire many people. The professional basketball player Jeremy Lin is one of the few Asian Americans to play in the NBA with impressive athletic achievements through the years. Talented and humble, he represents a younger generation of Asian descent with higher education background and influential public image today.
From the East to the West
The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people, and the beauty of life is in living it with different traditions and cultures. Open, pacific and colorful, Asian culture is well characterized by the peaceful mindset and vibrant spirit. As one of Asian culture icons, Asian food is extremely popular across North America. Noodles, General Tso’s Chicken, sushi and fortune cookies…have a look at some famous Asian food and learn more about Eastern cuisine and culture in good smells!
General Tso’s chicken is sweet and deep-fried chicken dish and almost universally available in North American Chinese restaurants. It’s named after a Chinese military leader in the history, and the origin of the dish can be traced back to over 200 years ago with the stories connecting to Chinese traditions and history. The making of dish replicates traditional Chinese cuisine of Hunan province, it’s lightly battered and covered in a mildly spicy sweet & sour sauce in a way that adapts the recipe to fit the western taste. No doubt this chicken dish represents a typical Asian American experience about cultural connections and integration.
Healthy and fresh, sushi is another typical Asian food combined with a variety of ingredients such as cooked rice, seaweed, seafood, vegetables and more. As many other Asian cuisine, the sushi culture is rooted in Eastern traditions and Japanese lifestyle. Traditionally, sushi is served on wooden platter along with soy sauce, pickled and sliced ginger, wasabi and chopsticks. With a colorful presentation and aesthetic style, making sushi is more like crafting a work of art with different combinations and recipes. In North America, the western-style sushi has evolved to become something completely different from its Japanese origins. By inventing some new types like brown rice sushi and latin flavored sushi burritos, sushi art has become more and more interesting and creative with mixed cultural influences.
How can we talk about Asian cuisine without noodles? Unlike Italian pasta, Asian noodles are typically handmade from fresh dough which is stretched, extruded, rolled and cut into a long and thin shape. As a staple food originated in China, noodle is a symbolic cuisine of representing Chinese culture and traditions everywhere. In the animated movie series of Kung Fu Panda, Panda Po had a dream about noodles but finally becomes a Kung Fu warrior, and his father Mr. Ping is master of noodles having a secret ingredient to make noodles and run the shop…From movies to real life, making noodles is an art of perfection with passion and inspiration behind its long history and culture.
Fortune cookies are another staple of Chinese cuisine in Chinese restaurants within North America, they’re crispy and sugary wafers and folded around a small slop of paper written with a so-called lucky message. People love cracking it to open one of them at the end of a meal, be delighted or surprised to read the words: good things come in invisible packages, accept the next proposition you hear….whatever is wisdom quote, Confucius phrase or vague expression, it’s fun and entertaining by the end. Now this bite-sized dessert has become an iconic symbol in North American culture, inspiring many businesses and cross-cultural communication between the East and the West.
Cultural diversity in business
Over the last 2 centuries, immigrants have journeyed to North America from all parts of Asia, they bring in a rich cultural heritage of many languages, ethnicities and traditions. Now more than 200 million people of Asian decent are living on this land, mainly Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesians and Mongolian etc. Like many diverse communities out there, Asian Pacific communities have a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit that continues to grow and strengthen local economy.
Natural diversity is essential for a healthy ecosystem, and cultural diversity is in the lifeblood of vibrant economy. By integrating into local communities, the emigrated Asian Pacific Islander people have made various achievements in every aspect of life including entrepreneurship and business. In the US alone, there are 1.5 million Asian American Pacific Islander – owned businesses, with more than 500 billion of sales and 2.8 million workers, they are certainly fueling job creation and strengthening local communities and American economy.
Cultural differences makes the world more complex and interesting, especially when it comes to some differences between Eastern and Western cultures. Eastern culture is deeply rooted in its long history of traditions and based on a wide variety of concepts and philosophies from Confucianism, Tai Chi to Yin and Yang. Extremely complicated and profound, it emphasizes the balance of Yin-Yang and highlights the harmony through the energy movements in tranquility of Tai Chi.
Western culture has its roots in Christianity and European civilization, it has developed many themes and traditions in arts, humanities, philosophies and scientific evolutions. Based on logical and rational concepts, it focuses on the values of legal system and innovative creation through technological revolutions and discoveries along the way. Physically and culturally, Asian descendants and immigrants are different and identified with oriental colors, Asian traditions and pacific culture, but we all represent the big image of multicultural heritage, belong to the culturally diverse and prosperous communities.
The East is East and the West is West, neither is better nor worse than the other. In global community and digital age, the cultural integration and diversity are more important than ever, a good understanding of both cultures is truly practical and valuable in doing business effectively. Diversity is colorful, beautiful and powerful with the strength to broaden our mind, create the opportunity and encourage people to reach their full potential and participate positively in all aspects of life from communities to business.
Culture connects us, it brings people together to celebrate our rich and cultural heritage and promote the harmony in our communities.
To the end, culture is a tool of communication by all measures, it’s a great way of learning from each other and understand the world. Identity, language, tradition and heritage…culture is everywhere, it enriches and enlightens people’s lives from hearts to souls. In the multicultural environment, cross-cultural communication is effective for people to collaborate and grow together since it’s a creative process to interact and share with different perspectives through an open and dynamic conversation. Culture inspires people, it reminds us that we always have the power to change ourselves and make the world a better place.