Taoism has been a major influence in China throughout much of its history and The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, reflects this influence through its infusion of Taoist principals. One of the fundamental concepts within Taoism is that of Wu-hsing. Wu-hsing is a way of understanding a matter by dividing it into five and is often represented by five phases, elements of directions. This is an unfamiliar concept to a western perspective, which tends to divide things into four. Understanding this fifth additional element, however, is essential to understanding The Joy Luck Club.
This fifth component is most clearly represented in The Joy Luck Club through the directional aspect, which is clearly represented at the Mah Jong table, which the women gather around at the Joy Luck Club meetings. Each of the women represent the direction which they sir at on the table and the center of the Mah Jong table represents the fifth direction. In Taoism this fifth direction is the harmonious center where the traditional four directions meet and from which they originate, it is their beginning and their end. In the book the Joy Luck Club meetings serve as this fifth dimension.
It is in this fifth direction, the center of the women and the Mah Jong table where the game and story of the Hoy Luck Club is played out. As the game begins the women first "wash" the tiles in a chaotic mixing motion and then work together to structure these game tiles into an orderly creation in the center of the board (Tan 22). This is the effect of the fifth direction in the women's lives as well. As the members of the Joy Luck Club bring the chaos of their lives and find peace through the combined effect of their relationships with each other.
This process of bringing peace from the midst of chaos is first seen when the first Joy Luck Club is created in Kweilin. In Kweilin Suyun finds herself in an extremely chaotic and violent environment, which is the result of the refugee-camp-like city, and the...
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