From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fieldnotes From History (16)—Summer Morning

[a] Beginning/ending ritual RF
Part of an occasional Round and Square series that follows the blog’s main theme (east meets west, round meets square, and past meets present), these snippets from my early fieldnotes are reproduced as they were written by hand—and then revised on an ancient desktop computer—during my first fieldwork stay in Taiwan (1985-1987).  All entries are the way that I left them when I returned to the United States in 1987—some nicely-stated and some embarrassing. Although the series began with my assumption that the entries can stand alone, I have found that separate comments and notes might help readers understand a world that is now, well, history. These are always separate from the original fieldnote.

Rituals of "opening" or "beginning" are far more important in East Asia (I speak of China, Japan, and Korea specifically) than, say, in the United States, where they are hardly insignificant. Unless it is shirts-against-skins on the playground, a basketball game (or any other sporting contest) has a ritual beginning. So do legislative sessions and academic years. The difference, at least as I see it now, is that every school day begins with a brief ritual event. 

[b] Reading RF
Quibblers will note that there are such "beginnings" in the United States (pledges and announcements and the like). I do not deny it. How often, though, does the whole school assemble in the courtyard for the event? Well, not every day. That's what I mean. I had never thought about "daily opening rituals" before I wrote this note. Now I can't stop thinking about them. That is precisely why I included it here.

Let me add just one more point here. This almost meaningless little note is a good example (to my mind) of why we take down fieldnotes in the first place. As "data" it is irrelevant. Without moving from observation to jotting to fieldnote, however, I would not have focused as clearly on the rhythms of nature and culture as well as the theoretical possibilities wrapped up in opening rituals. The note in itself means little; the process makes all the difference in the world.
—"Opening" ceremonies are very common in at least larger companies and retail locations. I have always enjoyed watching the daily opening at the Quanjude Beijing duck restaurants. All employees stand together and sing the company song before reverting to their hierarchical roles and getting to work. This is just one small example of a phenomenon in East Asia that is so common it is often forgotten.
—Of course, the "Taiwan national anthem" to which I refer is, more precisely, the Republic of China national anthem. It is curious but not surprising that I and almost everyone else tended to say "Taiwan" for both.

29 May 1985
I awoke at 7:56 a.m. to strains—badly played strains—of the Taiwan National Anthem, followed by a nasal speech by the school principal, and a rousing finale of the school song. I was up for the day. For the past few days, I have rolled over after the festivities (they are all wrapped up in fewer than ten minutes) and gone back to sleep. No more. The school’s awakening is mine, as well. My academic day begins with the children, and I only wish that I could read Chinese as well as them.

Taiwan has no daylight savings time, so, in the summer at least, it doesn’t pay to be a night person. The sun sets at about 6:30, and it is dark by 7:00. The sun rises at 5:20, and it is light out well before five. It is not worth fighting it anymore. The rhythms of nature and culture have slapped me back into compliance, and my day begins with early-morning song and speech.
[c] Dismissed RF

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