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.