Xian Yan’s Best Life
by Pamela Robinson, January 2019
From China to San Francisco, how does a positive mindset inspire Xian Yan to attain her best life?
“Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province. Chengdu history dates back to at least the 4th century B.C., when it served as capital for the Shu Kingdom. Artifacts from that dynasty are the focus of the Jinsha Site Museum. The city is also home of the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a conservation center where visitors can view endangered giant pandas and a natural habitat” (experitour.com).
This is a story about an amazing, inspirational 45-year-old woman named Xian Yan, born and raised in Chengdu, China. When she was a young girl, she lived in a house with her parents and two siblings. One memory she recalls as a young child is the time when her family was having hardships, as life in rural China then differed from that of urban China. “In the latest two decades, Rural Tourism (RT) has speedily developed and become an important concept of tourism in China. However, there remains little understanding in the western world about RT for its special role in China’s rural socio- economic regeneration” (Su 1438). Baoren Su, a research student affiliated with Zhejiang Gong Shan University, believes that “Nong jia le” tourism developed vigorously, at a good pace.
“As an distinctively Chinese version of rural tourism “Nong jia le” tourism, among with other forms of RT such as folk custom tourism, leisure farm tourism, and rural ecotourism, has been developed not only as a new style of holiday making among Chinese urban residents, but also as a new form of privately owned small enterprise among millions of Chinese farmers” (Su 1439).
Although Yan’s family lived in China when it was poor, “the government generously gave [Yan’s] family means to generate money through farming,” which helped make a big difference. When her family’s farming business started in the 1980s, she worked on the farm. Yan and her siblings had a lot of work to do around the house so they didn’t play with other kids in their hometown. Yan went to school at a time when education in China was excellent, better than it is now. She worked hard on the farm and afterwards went to school; however, her parents just needed to pay $1 for her to go to school. “When my mom died my siblings and I had to help with the housework, especially the cooking, help with the feeding of the animals like the pigs, chickens, and goose; although it was hard work it was a lot of fun,” Yan reminisces. While the uncertainty about life’s experiences sometimes influenced Yan’s mindset and her tendency to absorb negative energy, the positive effects of a happy farm home allowed Xian Yan to have a happy childhood. Yan can attain her best life by maintaining a positive mindset, surrounding herself with positive role models, connecting with positive people, and being mindful of her rights.
Can Xian Yan’s determination and will to survive alter her inner drive to achieve her goals? Yan viewed her parents as role models who always initiated their values and morals of hard work to inspire her at a young age and emphasized how school is highly recommended by everyone in Chengdu, China. Penelope Lockwood, Vice Dean, Academic Planning and Strategic Initiatives, at University of Toronto, wrote a study about motivation by positive or negative role models. Lockwood states:
“Positive role models, individuals who have achieved outstanding success, are widely expected to inspire others to pursue similar excellence. Accordingly, the accomplishments of star athletes, musicians, and award-winning scientists are often showcased in an attempt to enhance people’s goals and aspirations. People also seem to be motivated by negative role models, individuals who have experienced misfortune. Indeed, positive role models can inspire one by illustrating an idea, desired self, highlighting possible achievement that one can strive for, and demonstrating the route for achieving them; however negative role models can inspire one by illustrating a feared, to- be- avoided self, pointing to positive future disasters, and highlight mistakes that must be avoided so as to prevent them” (Lockwood 854).
While living in China, Yan was raised by two parents driven by integrity and a strong sense of self worth; however, is there a possibility for Yen to grow to her fullest potential through positive intervention and hard work?
Life is good for Xian Yan in Chengdu, China. She was married for about five to seven years and then got divorced. Afterwards, she worked hard to become a teacher in her hometown and owned an apartment and a store. In China, the internet became popular so she went online and met a man. The man she talked to was from the United States and “[she] would talk on the internet each day for more than 5 or 6 hours a day for eight months.” By getting to know him online, Yan felt they had the same will to survive. They felt the same way about each other, and shared the same feelings. Yan felt they were “very compatible.” All the positive conversations lead him to decide to go to Chengdu and marry Yan. Later, they decided to come to the United States to apply for Yan’s visa (a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizen). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on December 10, 1948 by the UN General Assembly, is “the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” The UDHR’s second article states, “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs.” Xian Yan’s life is good right now and positive thoughts about her husband inspire her hopes and dreams of building a new happy life here in the U.S.
Robert S. Chang, a second-generation Korean-American part of the Faculty Scholarship at Seattle University School of Law Digital Commons, announces an:
“Asian American Movement in the legal academy and an opportunity to reverse the pattern of discrimination against Asian-Americans. Traditional civil rights work in current critical race scholarship fail to address the unique issues for Asian Americans, including nativistic racism and the model minority myth. Space must be made in the legal academy for an Asian American Legal Scholarship and the narratives of Asian Americans. It is through solidarity that Asian Americans will gain the freedom to express their diversity” (1243).
“The Model Majority Myth: This history of discrimination and violence, as well as the contemporary problems of Asian Americans, are obscured by the portrayal of Asian Americans as a “model minority.”
Asian Americans are often portrayed as “hard-working, intelligent, and successful,” but the dominant culture’s belief in the “model minority” allows it to justify ignoring the unique discrimination faced by Asian Americans. The portrayal of Asian Americans as successful permits the general public, government officials, and the judiciary to ignore or marginalize the contemporary need of Asian Americans” (1258).
“An early articulation of the model minority theme appeared in U.S. News & World Report in 1966: In any Chinatown from San Francisco to New York, you discover youngsters at grips with their studies. Visit ‘Chinatown USA,’ and you find an important racial minority pulling itself up from hardship and discrimination to become a model of self- respect and achievement in today’s America” (1259).
Despite the language barrier that Xian Yan will have to overcome and learn, her positive thoughts and interactions with her English-speaking husband are going to help her to attain her best life.
Positive role models are mostly what Xian Yan is receptive to but perhaps a negative interaction will give some insight into one’s decision to achieve success in this new land. Yan finally arrived in San Francisco, with her daughter and husband and someone asked, “Is San Francisco everything you thought it would be?” Yan replied, “In San Francisco it is quiet and the people are very nice here too and China it is very noisy. San Francisco is like the whole world, all the rich people are here, and they say hello and also there’s a lot of Chinese people that are here too. In S.F. there’s a lot of diverse foods, diverse people, and you can eat different foods here too.” Adjusting to life here is much easier for Yan. Life is very easy going and it helps that her husband treats her family well. Yan knew there were going to be changes in the culture, the language, and school. English is a hard to language to learn to speak, but Yan learned to speak some English when she was in middle school in Chengdu. Yan was always good in school so her schoolwork ethics helped her to adjust to life here in S.F. Yan’s husband “doesn’t speak Chinese that well, but he speaks English,” and practices with her every day. As a result, Yan enrolled at City College of San Francisco to study reading and writing. Yan thought that her documentation of being a teacher in Chengdu would help her achieve a higher teacher credential in the United States but she found out it was just a piece of white paper not applicable to use in the U.S. Somehow, this negative response motivated her even more and as Yan’s English improved tremendously she knew, however, that if it wasn’t for “her determination and drive that lives inside of her,” the probability of Yan achieving her goal would have been small. Yan is living her best life with her daughter, Shi Shi; son, Jordan; and her husband. She speaks and teaches Mandarin to some students in S.F. and enjoys teaching very much. Yan always says:
“Teaching is my job, it is like the only job for my whole life, I love it! I really love it!” While the Chengdu Chinese culture can somewhat disappear in San Francisco it is an essential part of Yan’s life moving forward as a teacher to her children. Min Zhou, is a Professor of Sociology and inaugural Chair of the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Zhou’s main areas of research are on immigration, education, Asian America, etc. Min Zhou states that, “Chinese schools become an important physical site where formerly unrelated immigrants come to socialize and rebuild social ties” (17). Yan wasn’t sure how to adjust to the cultural change in life in San Francisco; however, Yan’s mother-in-law helped her remember some of the cultural aspects she had forgotten about her upbringing as elder Chinese women are more familiar and practice the culture more often than younger Chinese women. Yan has a child named Jordan and she teaches him the Chinese way, meaning the Chinese children need to respect their parents and grandparents and need to follow the order. In Yan’s Chinese culture, the teachers are treated like parents and Yan teaches her son the same things about how teachers and parents are on the same level. Even though Yan is more in tune with the American culture because she has other Chinese friends that have adjusted to the American way of doing things, Yan continues to grow in her new life.
Xian Yan has a beautiful outlook on life and says that “People are all different, like every color of the rainbow are different, like the textures of wood colors are different.” Yan’s outlook on life is so powerful as it connects with positive people, which makes her exceptionally different. Xian Yan celebrating her strength and resilience helped her to overcome her life struggles.
Chang, Robert S., Toward an Asian American Legal Scholarship: Critical Race Theory, Post Structuralism, and Narrative Space, 81 Calif. L. Rev. 1241 (1993). 16 Dec. 2018. https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1411&context=facult
Lockwood, Penelope. “ Motivation by Positive or Negative Role Models: Regulatory Focus Determines Who Will Best Inspire Us.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2002): Vol 83, No. 4, 854 – 864. 12 Dec 2018.
Su, Baoren. “Rural Tourism in China.” 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
UN General Assembly Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 Dec 1948. 16 Dec 2018.
“Welcome to Chengdu.” Experitour. www.experitour.com. 1 Jan 2019.
Xian, Yan. Personal Interview.
Zhou, Min. Community Forces, Social Capital, and Educational Achievement: The Case of a Supplementary Education in the Chinese and Korean Immigrant Communities. Harvard Educational Review, April