According to Choy (10), The Jade Peony, is a multigenerational narrative that depicts the story of three siblings who were sandwiched between alienation and assimilation during their Chinese-Canadian life. He notes that the narrative presents a story of three siblings who lived in the immigrant household in the Chinatown in Vancouver. He points out that each of the siblings, Jook-Liang, Jung-Sum, and Sek-Lung who were all born in Canada, has a unique story to tell that signifies their personal differences and flaws in connection to the family mythology. He notes that the fragmented stories that the siblings narrate signify their struggle for autonomy from the old views in an attempt to seek their personal identity.
Choy (1) points out that Jook-Liang, the only sister and the first child born to Father and Stepmother, is portrayed as someone who supports and encourages the old cultures, especially when she interactively promoted audience with Wong Bak. Additionally, he notes that Jung-Sum, the second brother whose parents died in British Columbia and was thereafter adopted by the Chen family, had to weigh down the childhood traumas, so as to find personal identity. Moreover, he points out that the third brother, Sek-Lung, is portrayed as the one who had difficulty in sorting out and coping with the traditional culture and history. He notes that Sek-Lung, who at times had been plagued with illnesses, equally found it difficult to find his own status due to the confusion caused by the complexities of the Chinese language.
The paper looks into how the Head Tax, Chinese Exclusion Act, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor affected the narrative of The Jade Peony. It highlights the importance of being completely familiar with the details of these historical events to be able to understand the impact of the story’s characters. On the other hand, the paper examines the significance of Wong Bank’s character, and also why Poh Poh has been given a central role in the narrative. Moreover, it discusses the extent of Wong Bak’s matriarchal focus by reflecting on Chinese (Or Chinese-Canadian) culture.
The Impact of the Head Tax, Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Bombing of Pearl Harbor
According to Chlumecka (3), in the late 1880s and early 1949, the Canadian government introduced the Head Tax, which required all the Chinese in Canada to pay a tax of $50. He notes that the aim of constituting the Head Tax was not only to make a profit off the Chinese people, but also to discourage the Chinese from immigrating to Canada. This was clearly portrayed in The Jade Peony narrative by the arrival of Wong-Suk, the “Monkey Man,” at the Customs House in Victoria. Chlumecka (3) notes that a few years after the arrival of Wong-Suk, the Canadian government increased the Head Tax to $500 which could not be paid off by the Chinese immigrants. Even though the increased Head Tax fetched the Canadian government more than $23 million at the time, most of the Chinese immigrants who could not pay it were either deported back to China or separated from their families.
Chlumecka (4) points out that the increase of the Head Tax by the Canadian government impacted positively on The Jade Peony narrative that intended to bring out the plight of Chinese immigrants who were suffering from tax imposition. He notes that the non-compliance with the tax regulation by the Chinese, as depicted in The Jade Peony narrative, presents a worsening situation between the Chinese immigrants and the Canada authority. For instance, Wayson’s The Jade Peony illustrates the deportation of Wong-Suk back to China due to lack of proper documentation that legitimizes his stay in Canada and compliance to the Head Tax regulations (Chlumecka, 4). He notes that Wong was working at the Canada railroad, and his wage was not enough to pay the increased Head Tax.
Chlumecka (6) points out that the increased Head Tax led to the isolation and adoption of the Chinese people into new families. He notes that Wayson wanted to demonstrate through the narrative that even the adoption of the Chinese people into new families just as “paper” relatives was not sufficient to drive away the aspect of being an alien. In The Jade Peony, Jung-Sum immediately became an outsider after being adopted due to being Chinese.
On the other hand, the Chinese Exclusion Act had an impact on The Jade Peony. According to Rimmer (1), prior to the increased Head Tax, most of the Whites in British Columbia advocated and demanded exclusion of the Chinese immigrants. This led to the enactment of the Exclusion Act in 1923, which came into effect after World War II. He notes that Chinese Canadians who felt discriminated against by the act fought against the Canadian Army, which resulted in the repealing of the act. He notes that the Chinese Exclusion Act brings some new characters into the narrative, such as Frank Yuen. He points out that Frank Yuen, who was an ally of the Canadian Army in fighting against the Chinese Exclusion Act, is portrayed as one who constantly engages in war to become a Canadian. This shows how the Chinese fought stigmatization associated with being alien and struggled to find their personal status.
According to Roy (213), the bombing of the Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in the 1941 resulted into perceived fear among the white British Columbia and Canada of being oriented by the Asian groups. Roy notes that the whites viewed the Japanese and Chinese immigration into Columbia through a political perspective. She points out that the bombing of the Pearl Harbor brought out the perceived influence of Asian on the politics of the Britain. This led to the enactment of various anti-Asian policies that were intended to preserve the white race while undermine the Asian race. She notes that these policies introduced minimum-wage regulations not only as away of preventing Japanese and Chinese social reform, but as a political treatment tool of countering the fear of economic competition.
As Choy (32), points out, racism was an eminent factor among the Chine and Japanese who were working on the construction of railway line in Canada. For instance, he notes Chong-Suk being referred to as “monkey,” by his fellow white workers and his boss. Moreover, he points out that the minimum-wage laws were so intense on the Japanese and Chinese of which they were only able to pay for the raised Head tax after two consecutive years of regular working.
Yes It Requires Complete Familiarization of the Historic Events to Understand the Story’s Character.
As pointed out by Roy (221), people basically depend on written scholarly records in understanding the historical events of which are not exhaustively inhibited by a character in the story. Kirk (1) points out that, Choy deploy the aspect of allusion in his story that makes the reader understand the real events, and places where the story originated from, yet refraining from bringing out the concept of Japanese and Chinese orientations. He points out that Choy did not enhance a solid study on the Japanese and the Chinese that would bring out their perspective towards their perceived context. He notes that by not incorporating the Asian perspective in countering their missed perception in the story, the reader is insightful knowledge towards the story’s character is narrowed down.
Even though, Jade Peony story incorporate the element of allusion in trying to make the reader understand the Chinese-Japanese conflict, it does not elaborate on the events that led to such conflict (Kirk, 1). He notes that The Jade Peony present Sek during his play, to mimic attacking the Japanese army, yet it does not illustrate why the story’s character had such perceived notions. Therefore, it requires complete familiarization of the historic events so as to understand the story’s character.
Why Choy Gives Poh-Poh a Central Role in the Novel
According to Lee (135), Choy makes Poh-Poh a central character in order to display her as an enforcer of Chinese culture and traditions for the younger generation represented by the three siblings. He points out that through her stories of magic and ghosts highlight the traditional culture of the Old China, Poh-Poh intendeds to educate the three siblings in accordance with the traditional norms that they should emulate. Moreover, he points out that Poh-Poh bestowed greater inheritance of rich cultural values and heritage on the grandchildren and stressed the need for them to hold on to the old ways of living. Therefore, Choy demonstrates that Asian women have an important role of ensuring that their children and families preserve traditional ways of life.
On the other hand, Lee (137) points out that the autocratic matriarch that Poh-Poh inhibits to adjust the family life by announcing the invitation of Wong Bak, the old Chinese friend, clearly reflects Chinese culture of hospitality. He states that Choy portrays Chinese or Chinese-Canadian culture as one that values and honors poor family members who had been either discriminated against or exploited in one way or the other. He notes that Wong Bak is portrayed as a victim of labor exploitation, as he was left without resources and was instantly referred to as the Poh-Poh Family by authorities. In a show of honor and hospitality, Lee points out that Poh-Poh dressed up her jade hair ornament as a sign of honor to Wong. This did not only illustrate how Chinese or Chinese-Canadian culture respect visitors, but also how they see them as a means of encouraging their traditional ways, as was evident through interacting audience between Wong and Liang.
In conclusion, the paper has used Wayson’s The Jade Peony narrative to show how people tend to defy their traditional ways to seek personal identity in a foreign country. It has demonstrated the need for writers to apply an element of allusion in their story, so as to enable the reader to have a clear picture of historical events that affect human beings. The paper has also pointed out the need for women to instill good traditional norms in their families, which shows the positive aspects of their culture.