The Magpie Bridge

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3. In what way(s) does The Magpie Bridge contribute to the development of intercultural understanding? Having you ever had a try of the pig’s blood cake? It is a famous steamed snack in Taiwan that made of pork blood and sticky rice, sold on a wooden stick and eaten like an ice cream. Being popular among the Chinese society for its chewy texture and unique aroma, it is, however, selected the first place of the ten world’s most unusual foods by the renowned travel website VirtualTourist.com in England and later on even prohibited from selling in the United States. This shows an apparent existence of the cultural divergence between the dining culture of the Chinese and the Westerners. Regrettably, the intercultural differences do not end at this level. In Liu Hong’s novel The Magpie Bridge, we go through a series of intercultural differences between Chinese and Westerners as experiences by the protagonist and see how she resolves them. In the story, the protagonist Jiao Mei, a Chinese girl, has moved and started her new life in England with her father’s ex-lover, an English woman called Barbara after her father’s death. She falls in love with an English boy called Ken and is told to be pregnant by her dead grandmother, Tie Mei, who appears as a ghost and comes for revenge. As requested by Tie Mei, Jiao Mei needs to take back the bronze mirror from Barbara, which can both help Tie Mei to achieve her wants and save Barbara from her illness. At the end, although it doesn’t help to save Barbara from death but both Jiao Mei and Tie Mei are modified to be more mature and mellow. In these days of reexamining the past and present, as being surrounded by westerners all around, Jiao Mei experiences numerous intercultural divergences which she finds it hard to accommodate at first, but eventually accepts. In this essay, I shall first acknowledge that The Magpie Bridge contributes largely to the development of intercultural understandings and I will show how the intercultural discrepancies are presented in the book. Firstly, intercultural differences can be found in the ways that Chinese and Westerners get along with their friends. Growing up in different societies, Chinese and Westerners have obvious inconsistencies in the ways that they greet others. In China, people are used to nod and shake hands for greeting while westerners are used to hug and kiss their friends. This discrepancy surprises Jiao Mei when she first meets Barbara in her home in China where Barbara gives her “an unexpected gesture of greeting” by touching both her cheeks with lips (P.40). Apart from the greetings, Chinese and Westerners also vary greatly in welcoming guests. The Chinese way of welcoming guests is very zealous. The hosts always serve their guests very passionately. They will put down all their current works regardless of their importance, take out all they have and serve their friends. They won’t leave their guests alone since it is believed to be disrespectful. Compared to the Chinese way, the English way of reception is relatively tepid. Normally, every time when you visit your English friends, they will first greet you at the door and invite you to enter their home. They will then ask if you want a drink, just like what Daisy, Ken’s widowed mother, does to Jiao Mei and that’s the only hospitality provided. The hosts will leave their guests alone; let them serve themselves as if they are in their own homes. Although Jiao Mei is a Chinese, she adapts very well to the English ways of welcoming guests. When she is staying in Barbara’s brother Ted’s home, she sees the way that Ted leaves her alone and works on his own ordinary. She is used to it and she knows to ask for what she needs when she stays at a friend’s home since she knows “it was the English way, apparently” (P.207). Besides, Chinese and Westerners hold distinct believes in consoling their friends when they incur in some incidents. For example, both Ken and his friend Andy, who represent the...
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