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The constant struggle between women and the Confucian system and the use of Taoism to manipulate it and their tension with American values, exemplified in Rose's broken marriage and her mother's opinion of it, is the cause of the tension between the American born daughters and their immigrant parents in the Joy Luck Club. Confucianism is a rigid set of social guidelines and rituals based on one's place in a mainly patriarchal society. Taoism is based on the harmony of the universe and the union of polar opposites-Yin and Yang; a philosophy that one lives their life by. In times of war, Confucianism is prevalent while Taoism is usually practiced during peace. The Joy Luck Club, the game the book is named after and center of their lives, was formed during war but continued well after in times of peace.
Confucius was a failed politician, great teacher, and Eastern democrat. It is said that culture provides a set of rituals to fall back upon in an unknown situation, like shaking hands with someone when meeting them for the first time. Living during a time of constant war, when morals and ethics were at an all-time low, he drew up a set of strict guidelines for the immoral man to follow. He loved tradition, for he felt that it was, "a potential conduit- one that could funnel into the present behavior patterns that could have been perfected during a golden age in China's past," (Smith 168). For Confucius, there was no self without relationships, "the human self as a node, not an entity; it is a meeting place where lives converge," (Smith 180). The five basic principles of Confucianism are Jen, Chun tzu, Li, Te, and Wen. Jen is the perfect human relationship that we should all strive for by having respect, charity, empathy, faith, and diligence.
Chun tzu is the real person, one who obtains Jen, "is never at a loss of how to behave," (Smith 173). Li deals with moderation, the five types of human relationships, language, and respect for one's family and elders. Te is the ruling power or ruling by good example. Wen is the arts and culture, for one is only half human without them. These five characteristics form an intense form of guidelines, which are the structure for this religion.
Taoism and the Tao Te Ching was written by Lao Tzu who, when disgusted with society, and moved away. At the gate, he was asked by a gatekeeper to write down his teachings. It is the way of the universe, reality, and human life. Taoism is meant to extract ch'i (energy) from life through herbs, movement, and meditation. Popular Taoism is spiritualism and magic, akin to "New Age" religions. By living a life of wu wei, ultimately active and relaxed, one can appreciate the greatness of life. One must work without working, be effective without looking strained, soft and yielding yet rigid and conforming. Most significantly, it is in direct opposition with Western values-meekness over pride, harmony with nature over domination, passive over aggressive, and simple over complex. This last one separates Taoists from Confuciusts; Taoist felt it silly to follow guidelines, too artificial, too constrictive. Polar opposites are not seen as directly opposite from each other (for life is a cycle), "no more than phases in an endless cycling process, for each turns incessantly into its opposite, exchanging places with it," (Smith 215). Perhaps, the opposite quality of Taoism is best expressed in its deals with grave issues in a refreshing, lightening, hopeful tone.
Ying-Ying St. Claire is the only character that isn't shown with her mother. Instead, her nursemaid, Amah, functions in the motherly role. She is first introduced as a child at the time of the Moon Lady ceremony. She questions the point of the ceremony and Amah tells her, "You do this and that, so the gods do not punish you...Light the incense, make an offering to the moon, bow your head, do not shame me," (Tan 66). The concept of being punished for bad acts is not Confucian, this is a theme of pop-religion in China. While the ceremony is neither Confucian nor Taoist, it serves as the cause of Ying-Ying's controlling fear of life being out balance, losing herself, and getting lost, a Taoist concept. The Moon Lady Play she watches soon after getting lost warps the principle of Yin and Yang as it applies to women and men being equals. "For woman is yin the darkness within, where untempered passions lie. And man is yang, bright truth lightening our minds," (Tan 82). This begins Ying-Ying's estrangement from true Taoism, weakening her Taoist perspective that would help her to deal with the grief in her life. It is said that Lao Tzu was found happily banging on a drum after his wife died. When asked why he was so happy, he said that death was a normal reaction to life, as sleeping would be when you're tired. This upbeat look at morbid events characterizes the Taoist Spirit that could have helped her throughout the trials i
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Lindo, Tan, Lao Tzu, Smith, An-mei, Rose, Yang, Lena, Waverly, tzu, Jen, Amah, Yin, Te, Wen, Ted, Chun, Wu, Peter Tavernise, Bing,
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Joy Luck Club, Duke University, Ethnic Literature Department,
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Confucian, taoist, Confucianism, her brother, social standing, a mother, Lao Tzu, yin and yang, Joy Luck Club, human relationships, American values, bad man, American born, a woman, Chinese character, the joy luck club, transference, Tao Te Ching, China, balance sheet, a golden age, a life, first husband, chess, wood, show, these things, wu wei, so happy, Polar opposites, guidelines, no respect, little brother, half human, patriarchal society, baby brother, no self, New Age, To love, a secret, rigid, burial grounds, Duke University, table manners, no alternative, a dream, a hill, a story, rich boy, traffic jam,