White like Paper

January 31, 2008 / Daily Life / 7 Comments

In Chinese class, we were discussing about the involvement of elementary and middle school children in business transactions and its consequences on their moral character. Apparently, children in China have been renting out their GameBoys, PSPs, books, magazines to their classmates for a fee. They have also be charging for help with homework. My textbook presents a multitude of opinions ranging with “what’s wrong with making money?” to “money will corrupt children’s innocence.” But the most interesting bit was the description for innocence. The textbook states (along with my rough translation):

“孩子的心灵洁白如纸, 过早的金钱意识会污染他们的天真”。
“Children’s (mind, body and) spirit is purely white like paper; the premature awareness of money (business transactions) will corrupt their innocence.”

So this girl asked the professor, “why is it white like paper? I mean, isn’t ‘white like snow’ more common?” His reply was nothing less than insightful, and surprisingly, very close to the Western notion of tabula rasa. The prof said:

Paper is a better description because you can draw a painting on it. And that painting will determine the how the child sees and reacts to the world as he grows up. Snow will just melt.

When he said that I couldn’t help but mentally picture the drawing below for the children who sell out for monetary gain. I think it’s kind of sad if children never develop relationships out of a business setting. I mean, what kind of heartless, capitalist monsters will they become? I think knowing the importance of money is a valuable trait to have – just not at the expense of the development of social relationships and some inkling of morality.

Qian, Drawing for Money

As for me, I think my personal picture is described as ‘tian’ better know as sky. The sky constantly reminds me how small I am in comparison to the world; it humbles me. The sky is a representation of what I want to reach in my life as the pinnacle of success and in my death as a symbol of heaven. The sky is what I want to be – a blanket to protect those I love and a prison to isolate those I don’t.

Tian, Drawing of the Sky

So what about you? What do you think of little children making money through helping others with their homework and renting out gadgets? What do you think is carved upon your little piece of paper? If you have time, I encourage you to make your own 350 x 200 pixel of paper. I’ll display it (and link you if you have a website) in the next entry.


  • k

    heh heh… the drawing on my paper would be a sun in the shape of a heart… lighting up people’s lives with love and driving away the darkness. i’m bad at drawing though, so i shan’t attempt. hehe

    i think it’s ok for them to make money, to learn the value of money; it’s a different feeling to use money that you’ve earned rather than getting money from you parents without any effort. BUT not at the expense of human relationships… there always has to be a balance.

    because they’re so young, the outcome could swing either way really – they could either grow up learning the value of money and helping others with what they have, or they could grow up into heartless, money-making machines….

  • I like the whole “sky” thing that you wrote…

    As for me, I don’t think that kids should be making money at a young age. I don’t think they know the importance of money just yet. I think if they start young with this whole “business” thing, then they’re just going to be money-hungry in the future, and that’s not necessarily a good thing…

  • It definitely shows that society everywhere has a bigger focus on money now… but I also think its pretty clever! When I was a kid, I was always trying to have lemonade stands or do chores for my parents (they’d pay me a quarter to rake leaves or something.) Kids are just having to be more innovative now!

  • China is getting far worse than US. They’ll be the #1 corrupt nation in the world — and not the powerful one.

  • Thanks for the insightful post 🙂 I’m getting worried that kids nowadays place more importance on material well-being and wealth over integrity and dignity. In primary school I was taught that we shall never make any monetary transacitons with each other – our teacher explained to use that doing favours for each other, like lending gameboys, helping you with your homework (not copying, though), finding your lost schoolbag, fetching your textbook from your locker, are out of goodwill and trust, thus money shall NOT be involved. If you want to do it, do it from the bottom of your heart, and not because you’re motivated by monetary gains and such.

    I’ve read in the papers that kids in other countries are doing the same thing – some would pay someone to disguise as their parents to sign / collect their report cards, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard. And this social malaise gets carried on when the kids grow older – now we can see college and university graduates paying for girlfriends and boyfriends to satisfy their parents and etc.

    isn’t it horrifying to learn that kids know that… Money for making the world go round at such a young age? Money for being the driving force behind almost every human action? It really spookes me.

    As for the white paper vs white snow part, the teacher / lecturer explained it really well, I’m so enlightened 🙂 thanks for sharing his response!

    If I had a piece of paper, I will doodle on it, or probably draw many people holding hand in hand surrounding earth – I hope that in the future there will only be unity and trust, no racial tension, cultural fault lines, conflicts, skirmishes and war. That’s definitely an idealistic world, but hoping for that it happens is better than hoping that human beings will bring upon their own demise (as seen in millions of apocalpytic scenarios depicted in books and films)…

    Have a great weekend 🙂

  • I am bit surprised about those kids renting out their stuff for a fee. It never happened in my elementary school in early 1990’s. We rent out/borrow each others’ manga for free. Yeah, it’s kinda sad for me to see China transforming from a red spirit to a corrupted capitalist…

  • i think western education has taught us at a very young age to share (kindergarten!).

    and i think it’s very wrong. kids need to learn to share and be giving and not expect anything in return. otherwise they’ll grow up to be selfish…

    a beautiful thing about childhood is that they have no concept of money.

    nevertheless…kids are so corrupted nowadays…i am worried for the future.