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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration

The Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration as a Site of Harmonious Intercultural Communication
Zeshun You & Jianping Chen Guangdong University of Foreign Studies Abstracts: This article is an effort to find out how Chinese Spring Festival celebration is constructed discursively as a site of harmonious intercultural communication, how the construction is historically and socially influenced, and why it is constructed in such a way. It adopts van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach to analyze Chinese news reports and commentaries and Wodak’s discourse-historical approach to scrutinize the historical and philosophical origin of the discourse. The analysis demonstrates that Chinese writers struggle hard to elaborate the “harmony” enmeshed in the celebration held in intercultural settings by literal reiteration, selective use of pronouns, cultural symbol depicting and social activity description. The “harmony” being referred to is emphasized in the construction because it is the core value of traditional Chinese Taoism and Confucianism. It has become a kind of historical discourse which penetrates into every corner of Chinese society; the discursive strategies are chosen not at random, but in fact they fall right into the established cognitive framework of Chinese people which makes the construction better accepted. [China Media Research. 2008; 4(4): 92-101] Keywords: Harmony, Chinese Spring Festival, critical discourse analysis, socio-cognitive approach, discoursehistorical approach, intercultural communication Spring Festival, the New Year’s Day according to Chinese Lunar Calendar, is China’s most important traditional holiday and has long been celebrated in ceremonious ways in China and a few East Asian countries. In recent years, it gradually went beyond Asia to become known to people in other parts of the world (Xiao, 2006: 14). It has been considered as an important folk festival and celebrated by both overseas Chinese and the local government in some countries outside Asia. It has even been established as an official holiday in a dozen states in the United States and each year, the American president extends his good wishes to overseas Chinese in the country during the festival by meeting their representatives or writing a public letter to them. These promising developments are so encouraging that many Chinese, common people as well as scholars, begin to cheer and, far more than that, to advocate that the festival celebration held jointly by Chinese and nonChinese is an indicator of the harmonious intercultural communication between Chinese people and those from other parts of the world and the increase of the celebration of this kind, both in numbers and in scale, will attract and help more and more non-Chinese to understand Chinese culture, which, in return, may lead to the reduction of intercultural conflicts and the improvement of intercultural harmony between Chinese and others. Following suit, reports and commentaries focusing on the issue have been in print or in screen shower by shower and more and more people are triggered to get involved in the turbulent discussion, willingly or unwillingly. This thesis makes no plan to add another touch to the scrawling picture of those arguments but to work as an attempt to find out how they construct it discursively, how they are historically and socially influenced, and why it is constructed in such a way. To fulfill the task, this thesis will adopt as a research perspective critical discourse analysis, mainly Wodak’s discourse-historical approach and van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach. It is assumed that the sociocognitive approach will help us to understand how the harmony is constructed discursively in those writings and how it is accepted by others, and the discoursehistorical approach will enable us to dig up the social and historical origin of the “image” constructed and the discursive strategies. Chinese Spring Festival Celebration and Its Cultural Implications Spring Festival, originated in the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC) and marked on the first day of each year according to Chinese lunar calendar, was called nian (the year) at about B.C. 1000 which means “great harvest". The celebration was held then to thank gods for the harvest (Zhao et al, 2007: 46). It has been added with more and more activities during its historical development and its original meaning has undergone great changes as well. Nowadays, it comes into being a celebration full of rich and colorful traditional activities, embellished with modern elements. The activities, unusual and alienated as they may seem to be from the perspective of other cultures, are not carried out with no reason, but with in-depth Chinese cultural implications. Traditionally, every member, no matter how far away they are, will try their best to come back to enjoy the family reunion feast on the eve of the new year, eating jiaozi (in north China) or niangao (in south China). Eating jiaozi means wealth in the coming year because its shape resembles the

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration Chinese yuanbao (a kind of money used in ancient times); eating niangao implies being promoted in the following years, for the pronunciation of the food gao is the same as the character “being promoted” in Chinese. In short, the big feast does not simply mean enjoying delicious foods but it also means to get reunion and pray for good luck. People set fireworks and firecrackers and paste red scrolls with complementary poetic couplets (one line on each side of the gate) during the festival so as to frighten away a legendary fierce animal called nian, protecting themselves from being attacked. For the animal nian, which is said to go out on the eve of each Chinese new year to attack human beings, is afraid of thunderous sounds and red color. By frightening rather than killing it, Chinese people hope to live peacefully and harmoniously with the animal, and the custom illustrates their strong desire for peace and harmony. People also paste the Chinese Character fu on the center of the door to show their great hope for being happy, for fu in Chinese means “good luck” or “happiness”. Furthermore, people pay new year visits to express good wishes to each other. On the first day of the festival, younger people salute the elderly by offering good wishes. The older generation, in response, gives yasuiqian (usually a red packet with money inside it) to the unmarried young showing their best wishes for the young to have a long life, for sui implies suisui ping’an (to be secure year after year). Obviously, it is an occasion for the elderly and the young to extend their mutual respect, though in different way, for each other and the salutations actually work as a catalyst to maintain the harmony in the family which is the keynote of Chinese culture (Chen & Starosta, 1996: 78). People also greet one another with “happy new year” by dropping in at friends' houses, by telephone or by email; they smile at and say “happy new year” to each person (including strangers or the used-to-be enemy) they run into during the festival. In sum, the activities in the celebration convey such special cultural implications as “peace”, “harmony”, “reunion” and others with which Chinese people try to reduce conflicts, keep a friendly relationship and promote solidarity among their social networks. When Chinese reports and commentaries surge forward to discuss the expansion of Spring Festival celebration around the world, those culture-specific views are naturally extended to intercultural settings and the celebration is discursively constructed as a site of harmonious intercultural communication. Theoretical Framework for the Analysis It must be stressed that critical discourse analysis has been adopted to explore issues in intercultural context not for the first time. X. Shi and Wilson, for example, propose “a social-constructionist discourse studies approach to intercultural communication” in which they “draw on existing critical traditions, such as Critical theory and Feminism, and shift attention to undermining power practices and creating new and helpful ways of communication” (2001: 77). Y. Ji makes a tentative effort to introduce critical discourse analysis into intercultural communication studies and, with the analytical model established in the book, he carries out case studies of remarks by US/UK politicians and Chinese leaders in various intercultural contexts so as to “present various frameworks for students in IC programs to come to a critical view of intercultural discourse” (2007: 341). The two researches, varied from each other in their approaches though, each put on the top of their agenda disclosing the power relations, power practices and struggles in intercultural settings by exploring discourse from both sides of two different cultures. The present effort, nevertheless, is likely to be a bit different in that it examines only the articles and reports written in Chinese by Chinese writers and focuses on how they construct the harmony of Spring Festival celebration in intercultural settings. It uses “critical” mostly with its original meaning of “discover or interpret the truth”, stressing not exclusively the power struggle in communication process; it explores the discursive construction in Chinese news reports as a socio-cognitive process and a historical process. Discourse as a socio-cognitive process It is now generally accepted among critical discourse studies that discourse — language use in speech and writing — is “a kind of social practice” (Fairclough, 1989; van Dijk, 1993) in which discourse and society play interactive roles in constructing each other. This dialectic interaction, according to Wodak & Fairclough (1997: 258), occurs between a particular discursive event and the situation(s), institution(s), and social structure(s), which frame it — the discursive event is shaped by them, but it also shapes them. The dialectic view enables us to understand the interactive impact that language and society impose upon each other from a macro-perspective, but it tells us little of how it happens at the micro level and how the macro level is related to the micro level. Noticing the weakness, van Dijk pointed out, “to clarify their relationship by simply saying ‘discourse as a form of social practice’ remains rather vague and is in need of further specification in order to explain which properties of text and talk typically condition which properties of social, political or cultural structures, and vice versa” (1993: 107). In his view, such relationships are not direct, but should be framed within a theory of social cognition’s role in processes of social, political and cultural reproduction, that is, the mutual construction between discourse and society is mediated by social cognition in such a formula as “discoursecognition-society”. To be more exact, (1) discourse is

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration actually produced/interpreted by individuals, but they are able to do so only on the basis of socially shared knowledge and beliefs; (2) discourse can only “affect” social structures through the social minds of discourse participants; (3) social structures can only affect discourse structures through social cognition (ibid: 110). Socially shared knowledge, which is represented in scripts about stereotypical social episodes, is formed through inferences from repeated shared models and, conversely, is used to understand new episodes through (partial) instantiations in models of such episodes (ibid: 111). Once the shared knowledge becomes a more or less permanent social cognition of a group, it will be taken for granted and considered as “common sense” when in fact it is a kind of ideology. The ideology, then, provides a framework for people to produce and interpret new ideas. In social practice, fragments of such models may be expressed or interpreted in discourse, using a number of detailed linguistic and discursive strategies. In other words, linguistic means and discursive strategies are the medium through which the triangular relationship is formed and regulated. This socio-cognitive view, combined with the above dialectic view, opens a new window to watch clearly and closely how discourse and society interact with each other from both macro and micro perspectives and how the macro level and the micro level are interrelated. As far as the discursive construction of Chinese Spring Festival celebration across cultures is concerned, the upsurge of the reports and their usual ways adopted in the construction does not come by chance but as a result of the efforts by those “wellintentioned” writers to linguistically reflect, partially at least, the increasing celebration activities in different parts of the world and the “harmony” sensed inside. Once the reports of the similar vein are read from time to time, they help establish and instantiate people’s cognitive frame of understanding the celebration and become a potential source of shared social knowledge. When people finally take as a truth what the reports say and begin to believe that “harmony” is pervasive in the celebration in intercultural settings, the construction becomes “common sense”, a kind of ideology which in return helps frame people’s view toward this social event (i.e. social reality). By analyzing the linguistic means and discursive strategies in the reports, therefore, one is expected to be able to reveal how the ideology “harmony” is constructed in the Spring Festival celebration in intercultural context. Discourse as a historical process In her studies of discourse, Wodak also sticks to the dialectic view that discourse is socially constitutive as well as socially conditioned (Wodak & Fairclough, 1997: 258). The analysis of linguistic means and discursive strategies in the discourse, in her view, is helpful for people to reveal what ideology is inside and how it is constructed. Nevertheless, she found that writers of prejudiced discourse do not always make their statements explicitly, rather, they tend to produce utterances implicitly by using allusions “which readers can only understand if they know the objects or background which are referred to”, for the strategy “enables them (writers) to back away from responsibility easily as they have not made their statements explicit” (ibid: 266). To uncover the prejudice inside, researchers should not take a particular discourse as a completely insulated fragment which has nothing to do with the others, rather, they should adopt “discourse-historical analysis”, according to which discourse should be understood historically as “a complex bundle of simultaneous and sequential interrelated linguistic acts, which manifest themselves within and across the social fields of action as thematically interrelated semiotic, oral or written tokens, very often as ‘text’, that belong to specific semiotic type, i.e. genres” (Meyer, 2001: 22). The analysis, then, should try every means “to integrate texts of as many different genres as possible, as well as the historical dimension of the subject under investigation” (Wodak, 1999: 188), or, to put it in another way, it should make painstaking efforts to “integrate systematically all available background information in the analysis and interpretation of the many layers of a written or spoken text” (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997: 266). In sum, discourse is a historical process, so researchers should try to integrate, into their analysis, historical background and the original sources in which discursive events are embedded. Besides, researchers should explore the ways in which particular types and genres are subjected to diachronic change (Wodak, 1997). Although Wodak’s comment is targeted mostly at prejudiced discourse, the adoption of “allusion” and other historical background information actually occurs in almost all utterance or writing, prejudiced or nonprejudiced, to help convey the inner thinking of the language producers. Therefore, discourse-historical approach should be applied to the analysis of the discourse concerning Spring Festival celebration in intercultural context, for the discourse is most likely to be constructed with many Chinese cultural and historical elements which researchers might not be able to detect with pure linguistic analysis. In other words, discourse-historical analysis, by taking context and history into consideration, will enable researchers to disclose not only the “harmonious” intercultural atmosphere of the festival itself in the discourse, but also the importance of “harmony” and the way to achieve “harmony” in Chinese culture and Chinese history. It is by adding historical analysis to pure linguistic analysis

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration that it can really help readers to understand how and why the celebration has been constructed as a site of harmonious intercultural communication. In summary, van Dijk’s socio-cognitive analysis will be adopted mainly to explore how the “harmony” is constructed in news reports and how it is accepted, while Wodak’s discourse-historical analysis will be used to explain from cultural and historical perspective why the “harmony” is constructed and why it is constructed in such specific ways. The analysis will follow the three-step procedure — description, interpretation and explanation — proposed by Fairclough (1989: 26). Detailed Analysis The corpus to be used for the analysis consists of more than 40 newspaper articles printed mostly from 2003 to 2008, amounting to 40,826 Chinese characters. They are reports or editorials in Chinese in People’s Daily, Guangming Daily, PLA Daily and a few other local official newspapers, collected from the website (http://dlib.cnki.net/kns50/scdbsearch/cdbindex.aspx). To be selected as a sample to compose the corpus, a text should cover at least one of such topics as follows: 1) the involvement of non-Chinese cultural elements in Spring Festival celebration; 2) the joint celebration of Spring Festival abroad by Chinese and non-Chinese; 3) the influence of Spring Festival upon non-Chinese. The texts are segmented manually into words (so that it can be decoded by computer software) according mostly to Modern Chinese Dictionary (2005). Both qualitative and quantitative modes of analysis will be used in the research. The former will be adopted to determine what will be searched for in the corpus and what can be considered as a component of the construction, it will also help explain the historical and social origin of the construction; the latter, with the help of corpus software Antconc to sort out sentences containing specific terms, can be used to provide a basis for judging the tendency of the discourse and supply evidence to testify the argument. The analyses will demonstrate that, to extend the intracultural “harmony” into intercultural context and to construct the Chinese Spring Festival celebration across cultures as a site of harmonious intercultural communication, Chinese news reports and commentaries make use of both linguistic means and contextual cues to show, on one hand, that the celebration activities in intercultural settings carry the implications of “harmony” that is not greatly different from those in domestic settings and, on the other hand, that Chinese and non-Chinese both take the opportunity, though in different ways, to show their great hope of developing friendly relationships with each other. The analyses, because of limits of space, will deal only with lexical reiteration and the selective use of pronoun we/they, belonging to linguistic means, and with cultural symbol depicting and social activity description, belonging to contextual information building. Lexical reiteration The analytical result shows, not unexpectedly, that, compared to other Chinese words with cultural meanings, those words carrying such specific implications of the Festival as “harmony”, “good wishes”, “happiness”, “friendliness”, “peace”, and “reunion” occur in high frequency in those writings, as exhibited by Table 1.

hemu; hexie; xianghe (harmony, 41 [4.1]) youhao (friendliness, 16 [4]) zhufu;zhuyuan (extending good wishes, 34 [8.5]) heping (peace, 19 [4.7]) xingfu; kuaile; huanle (happiness, 42 [10.5]) tuanyuan;tuanju (renunion, 40 [10]) Table 1: Frequency of words highly relevant to Chinese harmony. The number in [ ] refers to the frequency of occurrence every 10,000 characters. Obviously, those words are adopted so frequently not at random but for helping writers to instill “harmony” into the discourse, since word choosing in language producing, as pointed out by researchers, is not only one way to help language users express themselves better, but also one of the means to implant ideology into discourse, or in Trew’s words (1979:156), “all perception, which is embodied in lexicalization, involves ideology”. That is why “to analyze the lexical choice ... would allow the critical discourse analyst a peep into the underlying ideological meaning behind newspaper reporting” (Toe, 2000: 14). One easy and commonly used way of choosing word is lexical reiteration and patterning, which, as Flowerdew stressed, “is the most obvious way of establishing the major themes of a corpus” (2004: 1565); besides, lexical concentrations are markers of a fundamental preoccupation of the given discourse and the variations of lexicons between different texts and different periods, according to French “political lexicometry”, reflect different political ideology and the changes of discourse over times” (Groupe de SaintCloud, 1982; Boffafous & Tournier, 1995. cf. Wodak, 2006: 16). The frequent occurrence of those culture-loaded words, accordingly, serves the purpose of persuading readers to believe that those celebration activities in intercultural settings are full of similar “harmony” that is Chinese Spring Festival celebration in domestic settings. The idea of harmony is expressed directly by such Chinese terms as hemu, hexie, xianghe, or is

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration conveyed indirectly by other terms which, in the present case, include zhufu, zhuyuan, xingfu, kuaile, huanle, youhao, heping, tuanyuan, tuanju. The two text extracts containing respectively the lemma hexie and zhufu in the following illustrate this point quite well. A festival in Spring (i.e. Spring Festival), a symbol of harmony, will not work as a cultural barrier and cultural shock to others. (People’s Daily, 06-022006) Can you imagine that every day in England, a country far away from China, you will meet some “big-nose” Englishmen who will extend, in Chinese, their good wishes to you. (People’s Daily, 12-02-2006 ) In short, those words are used in a relatively frequent way to indicate that the Spring Festival celebration in intercultural settings is carried out in a harmonious atmosphere that is not greatly different from one in domestic settings. The selective use of pronoun we/they In the process of socialization, people are taught to identify themselves as a member of some groups, called ingroup, and label others as a member of another group, called outgroup. The ingroup/outgroup distinction actually creates possible situational obstacles to harmonious communication (Lustig & Koester, 1996: 315-316). Chinese writers, to highlight the harmonious atmosphere in Spring Festival celebration in intercultural context, try as much as possible to reduce the ingroup/outgroup distinction between Chinese and non-Chinese in their constructions. Linguistically, the distinction is achieved partly by the manipulative use of personal pronouns which play a crucial role in the construction of social identities and social relations (Koller & Mautner, 2004: 221). That is, personal pronouns I, you, we, they “have a special function in producing a social and political space in which the speaker, the audience, and other are positioned” (Chilton & Schaffner, 1997: 217). The first person plural we, us, our, can be used to construct group identity, coalitions, parties and the like, either as insiders or as outsiders (Chilton & Schaffner, 1997: 218); the third person plural pronouns can also be adopted to refer to people who belong to US-group or Others; sometimes, we and they are not directly used but are replaced with the “historically expanding we” (Wodak et al., 1999: 46-47) and they, e.g. “Chinese” for we and “foreigners” for they in the present case. Naturally, people, by analyzing the manipulative use of first personal plural, the third personal plural and their substitutions in Chinese reports and commentaries, are expected to discover how the distinction is reduced in their constructions. The analytical results in table 3 demonstrate how we, they and their “historically expanding substitutions” are used to refer to US-group (Chinese), US-Others (both Chinese and non-Chinese) and Others (nonChinese). Others (non-Chinese) women (we, us, our) (5) tamen (they, them, their) (50) waiguoren (foreigners) (36) laowai (foreigners) (11) yingguoren/meiguoren/faguoren (English/American/Frenchmen)(26) …

US-group (Chinese) US-Others women (we, us, our) (135) women (we, us, our) ( 8) tamen (they, them, their) (24) tamen (they, them, their) (1) zhongguoren (Chinese) (100) zhonghuaminzu (Chinese) (31) huaren (Chinese) (260) huaqiao (overseas Chinese) (75) … Table 2: The manipulative use of we, they and their substitutions. The number in the bracket refers to the frequency of occurrence. We and they, as indicated, are both used to refer to US-group, US-Others, and Others. To be more exact, we refers mostly to Chinese, but it is also used to mean non-Chinese or both Chinese and non-Chinese in direct speech produced by non-Chinese who are expressing their appreciation of Chinese Spring Festival; they refers mostly to non-Chinese, but it is also used to mean Chinese or both Chinese and non-Chinese in indirect speech produced by Chinese who are describing the activities of Chinese people. We occurs sometimes as historically expanding we, such as zhongguoren, zhonghua, huaren, and huaqiao, they as waiguoren, laowai and yingguoren/meiguoren/ faguoren. Clearly, the personal prouns and their historically expanding substitutions referring to US-group (Chinese)

occur far more often than those referring to Others (nonChinese), which means that Chinese writers tend to delineate Spring Festival celebration, primarily, as a cultural phenomenon that is Chinese-specific. On the other hand, those related to Others, occurring only when they have to, are used not to highlight how Others differ from US-group, but to illustrate, in most cases, how Others appreciate and join, willingly, the activities of US-group and how the two groups communicate harmoniously in those activities, for example: During the Spring Festival each year, Chinese restaurants in Paris often have far more customers than usual because Frenchmen get used to celebrate the new year with Chinese and they hope to eat something of original Chinese flavor then.

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration (Fortune Today, 06-03-2007) In the front of Paris Municipal Government building, one group of “foreigners”, with their golden-hair and blue eyes, joined Chinese Spring Festival parade, performing “lion dancing”. (Guangming Daily, 10-03-2003) This way of using personal pronouns related to Others, obviously, functions to show that a new social cohesion is produced over the course of situated interaction (the Spring Festival celebration), “through a mutual commitment to practice, by persons who have little in common beyond the encounter” (Rawls & David, 2006: 470). In short, Chinese writers, by manipulative use of personal pronouns, expect to demonstrate, on one hand, Chinese cultural symbols hongdenglong (red lanterns); wushi/long (lion/dragon dancing); baozhu/bianpao (fireworks/firecrackers); jiaozi (jiaozi); miaohui (temple fair); kuaizi (chopsticks) … that Spring Festival celebration is Chinese specific, and, on the other hand, that the celebration reduces greatly the US-group/Others (ingroup/outgroup) distinction created in the process of socialization and leads to a harmonious intercultural communication between Chinese and non-Chinese. Cultural symbol depicting As is known to all, each culture boasts some things which are typical of its nation and are symbols of their national identity. They may be daily utensils, buildings, places, ornaments, holidays, etc. Those Cultural symbols, as the analysis shows, are made use of by Chinese writers in their efforts to construct the intercultural harmony between Chinese and nonChinese in the Spring Festival celebration.

Non-Chinese cultural symbols Oxford street; The city hall of the Hague; State Empire Building; Avenue des Champs Elysées; Trafalgar Square; Flushing district; Eiffel Tower … Table 3: some Chinese and non-Chinese cultural symbols in the texts The power of a symbol in intracultural context which plays a positive cohesive role in bringing the national group together turns out to be a barrier to a smooth communication in intercultural settings when people from different cultures emphasize too much on their respective cultural symbols, ignoring (or even discriminating) others’. To clear away the barrier, all parties, as Chen & Starosta (1998: 288) pointed out, “must actively search for a mutual symbolic ground that allows the fullest and clearest possible exchange of ideas”. This kind of mutual ground, in Chinese writer’s views, are created in Spring Festival celebration across cultures, since cultural symbols, both Chinese and nonChinese, are introduced into and mixed up on the occasion. The depiction of the coexistence, therefore, is a strong evidence to support the argument that the celebration is a site of harmonious intercultural communication. Social activity description The most important element in intercultural communication is human beings, for they are the actors in the whole process and any discourse in relation to communication can not be free from mentioning the participants from different sides and their activities. A successful intercultural communication depends firstly on whether all the participants really feel voluntary to get involved in, based on “the ethical principles of mutuality and respect” (Chen & Starosta, 1998: 289).

The typical way of construction in the reports is to describe the coexistence on the celebration of culturespecific symbols from China and other countries, for example: The big red lanterns are hanged on both sides of Oxford Street, located in the city center of London. (People’s Daily, 18-02-2007) In Manhattan Chinatown and Flushing District where a large number of Chinese live, people are allowed to set fireworks during Spring Festival. (Xinhua News Agency, 13-02-2005) Trivial as the description seems to be, it is capable of confirming that the celebration is full of intercultural harmony. The reason is that symbols, according to Bourdieu, are not minor things of little use but are “instruments par excellence of ‘social integration’: as instruments of knowledge and communication, they make it possible for there to be a consensus on the meaning of the social world, a consensus which contributes fundamentally to the reproduction of the social order” (1999: 166). It is the symbolic power that creates “a homogeneous conception of time, space, number and cause, one which makes it possible for different intellects to reach agreement” (ibid). To put it in another way, social solidarity depends largely on the sharing of a symbolic system which works together with other minor things to create a kind of “familiar surroundings” for people to live in.

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration Taking notice of those facts, Chinese writers, to construct the harmonious communication, try hard to describe how people and organizations at different levels of the society, both Chinese and non-Chinese, jointly take part in the celebrations, voluntarily. Officials actors British Prime Minister Blare; French President Chirac; Chair Dev of EuroSino Friendship Group; The Philippine government; U.N headquarters; US president Bush … Officials and government involvement The first group of participants described by Chinese reporters is officials and government and sentences concerning their activities are used in a more than needed way in their writings.

Text extracts in relation to official involvements British Prime Minister Blare has published his congratulation letter and extended his good wishes to Chinese in the U.K during Chinese Spring Festival. (Guangmin Daily, 17-02-2006) To celebrate traditional Chinese lunar new year, U.N headquarters holds an art performance titled “The Voice of Harmony”. (People’s Daily, 26-02-2006)

Table 4: Text extracts in relation to official involvements. Those official or government activities in the writings are detailed because they are likely to impose a more overpowering impact upon readers. As van Dijk stressed, in news reports and commentaries, any sentence in relation to government’s policy or highranked official’s practice is usually considered more authoritative and is bound to catch more eyes; even “statements by prominent news actors may be newsworthy in their own right, simply because they express the interpretation or opinions of important news actors” (van Dijk, 1991: 152). The descriptions then are expected to convince the readers that officials and governments of other countries not only extend ritually their greetings to Chinese during Spring Festival, but also try to “legalize” the festival and participate in the Non-governmental groups Chinese art team “Little Flower”; Austrialian “Bangler” dancing group; The Association of Japan-China Friendship in Meguro; Indonesian Association of Confucianism … celebration and, as a result, Spring Festival celebration is becoming a site of harmonious intercultural communication between officials and governments from China and other countries. Non-governmental organization engagement Non-governmental organizations’ engagement is also described to indicate that Spring Festival celebration is not only a kind of social activity but also a kind of cultural activity which, in intercultural settings, attracts many non-governmental organizations to become involved. Text extracts listed in table 5 describe the enthusiastic efforts made by non-governmental organizations that help organize and carry out celebration activities.

Text extracts related to non-governmental groups In Sydney, “Bangler” dancing group , one of “Australian national treasures”, will perform with Chinese artists on the same stage during Spring Festival. (People’s Daily, 16-01-2008) In the same day, Indonesian President Susilo went to attend a grandeur entertaining meeting, organized by Indonesian Association of Confucianism in Jakarta. (People’s Daily, 07-02-2006)

Table 5: Text extracts in relation to non-governmental group’s engagement. By emphasizing the engagement of nongovernmental organizations in Spring Festival celebration outside China, Chinese writers attempt to demonstrate that non-governmental organizations have offered, in their own way, many opportunities, which the governments cannot offer, to promote harmonious intercultural communication between Chinese and nonChinese. Businessman’s activities It is not uncommon nowadays to find that during Spring Festival businessmen arrange a “holiday sale” in many Western countries. The goods sold are Chinese culture-specific and prepared especially for Chinese customers. This kind of “holiday sale”, in Chinese news reports or commentaries, is then constructed as an activity which indicates the harmonious communication between Chinese and non-Chinese because non-Chinese get the opportunity to enjoy goods culture-specific to Chinese and to learn Chinese culture. All while Chinese feel they are being respected by the shopkeepers who are considerate to prepare goods especially for the Chinese traditional holiday.

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration

businessman/store/shop Galeries Lafayette Paris; a farmer from Britannia; all supermarket in Paris; all department stores in Bangkok …

Text extracts showing “holiday sale” in the West During Spring Festival, a farmer from Britannia gave a pair of Chinese chopsticks as a gift to anyone who buys his cheese. (People’s Daily, 26-022007) During Spring Festival, almost all supermarket in Paris open a special count, selling ‘Chinese foods’ or ‘Chinese commodities’. (Guangming Daily, 10-022003)

Table 6: Text extracts showing “holiday sale” in the West during the Festival. The description of the “holiday sale” to construct the “harmony” in the celebration, actually, is a trick in discourse production of, what Fairclough often criticizes, “commodification”, in which discourse has to be drawn into “the commodity model and the matrix of consumerism” (Fairclough, 1992:116) so that it can be better accepted. With the commodity language, Chinese writers hope to impress the readers that the holiday sale outside China during Spring Festival is also an occasion of harmonious communication between Chinese and others. Ordinary people Frenchmen in Paris; local people in London; Russian friends of Chinese reporters; an old Englishman; one group of “foreigners” in Paris … Ordinary people’s participation Other than the description of official, organizational, or business involvements, one way that is considered, by Chinese writers, most effective to convince readers of the harmony in Spring Festival celebration across cultures is to delineate how voluntarily and enthusiastically ordinary people, especially non-Chinese, participate in the celebration. Text extracts in Table 8 show the description of those activities that occupy a large space in the reports and commentaries.

Text extracts showing ordinary people’s participation It becomes a usual practice during Spring Festival for many Frenchmen in Paris to go watching Chinese parade, eating Chinese foods, and buying Chinese commodities. (Fortune Today, 06-03-2007) In Russia, Chinese reporters often receive new year greetings in telephone calls from their Russian friends. (People’s Daily, 06-02-2006) In a Spring Festival parade (in London) joined by several hundred people, an old Englishman is extending, in a typical Chinese gesture, good wishes to people on both sides of the road. (Xinhua News Agency, 06-02-2006)

Table 7: Text extracts showing ordinary people’s participation. The participation of ordinary people is usually depicted in three ways: appreciating the celebration as a spectator; joining the celebration in his/her own cultural way; integrating themselves into the celebration in a Chinese way. All of them, actually, aim at convincing readers that there is “harmony” enmeshed in the celebration. In summary, social actors from other cultures, in the reports, are depicted as equal and voluntary participants in the Spring Festival celebration in intercultural context who, rather than constituting difference, exclusion, and boundary, share with the Chinese mutual orientation toward the same situated practice, and, as a result, “a type of situated solidarity and a new type of morality develop through shared commitment to interaction” (Rawls & David, 2006: 470). That is to say, Chinese and non-Chinese are constructed as social actors from different cultures who ?nd themselves now bound together in an essential dance that enables them to overcome their borderline and to achieve equality and harmony. Discussion and Conclusion The analyses exhibit that it is by emphasizing “harmony” that writers discursively constructed the Spring Festival celebration outside China as a site of harmonious intercultural communication. The question now arises is why it is constructed in such a way. To answer that question, people, in Wodak’s view, need to have a peep into the discourse of historical origin — in the present case, the traditional Chinese philosophical thoughts, among which Taoism and Confucianism are regarded most important and have imposed greater influence than others upon Chinese culture. One point which needs to be stressed especially is that the two schools both insist on the prime importance of “harmony” in the world. In Taoism’s yin-yang philosophy, everything is the product of the two dynamic forces of yin

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China Media Research, 4(4), 2008, You & Chen, Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration and yang, in which neither compromise nor repel each other but attract each other and thereby build a composite whole. Neither yin nor yang is good or bad, rather, they, through their active and dynamic interaction, need to be connected to one another, building a harmony (Chen, 1989: 159). The view, when extended to the organization of human society, advocates that the interpersonal relationship should be established on the basis of a harmonious coexistence in which all sides interact and interlock with each others. In Confucianism, “harmony” has also been elaborated emphatically. According to G. M. Chen (2001) and Yum (1988), Confucianism advises that all human communication behaviors should be guided by three cardinal concepts: ren (benevolence, humanism), yi (justice, righteousness), and li (propriety). That is to say, people in interpersonal context should show love to others, behave in an appropriate way, and follow proper social norms so as to avoid embarrassing confrontation and keep the harmony between all sides. In short, harmony is set as an overarching goal in Confucianism which human communication should try to reach (Chen & Starosta, 1998). Dominated by Taoism and Confucianism, ancient Chinese put in the core position the value of “harmony”. The idea, accepted and reproduced by people in the process of social development, has penetrated to every corner of the society and has become a kind of historical discourse which is likely to be enmeshed in all kinds of tokens, whether linguistic or nonlinguistic, and tends to be expressed in different contexts. Spring Festival celebration, originally as a social, cultural, and historical phenomenon in China, cannot be free from being guided by the “harmony” even when it is celebrated outside China and joined by both Chinese and non-Chinese, and any discourse related is bound to include this historical discourse. Accordingly, Chinese and non-Chinese in the celebration are constructed as intercultural groups who show love to others, behave in an appropriate way, and follow proper social norms to achieve harmony and who interact and interconnect with each other to compose a harmonious whole in the similar way as yin and yang do. The “harmony” is constructed with the help of such linguistic and discursive strategies as literal reiteration, cultural symbol depiction, selective use of the pronouns we/they, and social activity description. These strategies, according to the research on differences between discourse strategies across cultures, seem to instantiate the established cognitive framework of Chinese people in communication and make the construction better accepted. As is well-known, communication in all cultures is carried out with the help of both direct verbal expression and contextual information building, but people in different cultures see the role of the two meanings in different ways. Hall, in his studies on high- and low-context communication (1976), discovered that people in high-context culture (e.g. China, Japan) highly value harmony and tend to talk around the point, camouflaging the most important information in the contextual cues and avoiding direct verbal expression. When the “inclination” is specified in the organization of exposition, a Chinese paragraph seems to be developed by “turning and turning in a widening gyre”, that is, the circles or gyres turn around the subject and show it from a variety of tangential views, but the subject is never looked at directly; both the relevant information and the “irrelevant” information are supplied to form a context and the “irrelevant” is sometimes considered more important than the relevant (Kaplan, 1966). The findings, if accepted, explain quite well why Chinese writers, besides tactical use of lexical reiteration and pronouns (linguistic means), spare a lot of time and space describing the coexistence of different cultural symbols (i.e. the contextual cues) and the participant’s activities (i.e. the seemly trivial and irrelevant events). In conclusion, the analysis of the data, mainly with socio-cognitive approach, demonstrates that Chinese writers, in their writings, focus on elaborating the “harmony” enmeshed in the celebration held in intercultural settings by frequent use of words in close relation to “harmony”, strategic use of the pronouns we/they, depicting the coexistence of cultural symbols from Chinese and non-Chinese society, and listing in a trivial way the social activities of participants coming from different levels so that the readers will get the impression that people from different cultures are carrying out friendly and harmonious intercultural communication in the occasion. The idea of harmony is emphasized because it is, according to the examination of Taoism and Confucianism, the core value of traditional Chinese philosophy and the historical discourse that has guided the communication for centuries in Chinese society. The discursive strategies are chosen not at random, instead they fall right into the established cognitive framework of the Chinese people which makes the construction better accepted. Correspondence to: Dr. Zeshun You Center of Linguistics and Applied Linguistics Guangdong University of Foreign Studies Guangzhou, China. 510420 Telephone: (0086) 020-36317483 Email: youzsh@fjnu.edu.cn References: Bonnafous, S., & Tournier, M. (1985). Analyse du discours, lexicometrie, communication et politique. Mots, 117, 67-81. Chen, M. E. (1989). The Tao Te Ching: A New

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