Eco-Map Assignment


Xing Zhang
 Sociology 100 - Section 962

Borough of Manhattan Community College of

The City University of New York


Dr. Komla S. Ganu

Fall 2011






            In 1987, I was born into a family who were living in a communal compound in a rural countryside in the People's Republic of China at the time when the country was trying to get a few of its people to get rich first by re-opening its doors to the outside world. The compound was constructed with huge stones, big and durable timbers, large amount of dirt and whatever the constructors found applicable. Even though the compound was built in the era when China’s last feudal dynasty was struggling to hold its feet on the toppling ground in eighteenth century, it is still very livable and composed of more than ten households during my childhood. It has more than twenty units with different functions. Some used as bedrooms, some as kitchens and others as storage rooms or livestock keeping hutches. (Because of the generally low living standards at the time around 1990s, almost every bedroom in the compound had to be used to accommodate a whole household which often exceeded 5 members.) All these units connect together with one another and they are enclosed by a tall wall with a huge front gate facing where the sun sets. There is a huge hall in the middle of the compound functioning as a venue for wedding ceremonies, Buddha worshipping activities, superstitious sacrificing events and etc. (The Buddhism I am talking about throughout this whole article is one of the sects of Buddhism in China. This particular sect of Buddhism does not only worship Buddha exclusively. Instead, it is mixed together with Taoism and many other folk superstitions and traditions.) Buddhism plays a very important role in the compound. Every now and then, almost all of my neighbors in the compound and my family would mobilize to worship some Buddhist related deity, celebrate some deity’s birthday or hold some Buddhist related activities. When these activities are being held, every household in the compound would display their[KSG1]  best offerings on their [KSG2] table that were set in the middle of the hall. Even though I was little and had a very vague idea about the religion, in those occasions I would emulate the adults to pay my reverence to all divine objects, be it Buddhist statues, Buddhist Sutras or incense burners, by burning joss sticks, kowtowing in front of them, and chanting Buddhist songs that I did not even think was the language that I understood. When I was still little, I was always told that if I pay unconditional and absolute reverence to those religious objects, I would be protected and blessed by them. Growing up in this compound with this kind of thick religious air, I had to watch what I should say and should do around the divine objects. In my childhood, I had never dared to question the existence or the power of the Buddhist deities for I was told that if I dared to question them I would be punished, whatever that means. Usually, if any daring child in my compound says something profane to the religion in front of adults, they would no doubt be demanded by those adult to take back what they said, and be scolded or even punished physically. As a result, I had never said anything offensive against my religion out loud or in my heart, even though this religion was instilled into me involuntarily and I did not even get a chance to choose my religion. I was led and told to hold my faith to it and never betray it.
            There was one thing in the compound that struck me strange when I was learning religions as a child. There would always be two households in the compound that would avoid all the Buddhism related events. What was even stranger to me as a child is that whenever I tried to share the foods that was used as offerings to the Buddhist deities with the kids from these two households, they would always turn me down saying that they were forbidden by their parents to even touch those foods. I was confused and befuddled about the fact that they should reject the foods that were not only expensive but also only available in very rare holidays. I was even more curious when I saw many unfamiliar people from outside the compound would gather together at their units on every Sunday. My curiosity was shared by my playmates. Therefore, once we tried to go and see what they were doing on a Sunday gathering. However, our parents shunned us away from them, demanding that we should not listen to or watch what they were doing in their units on Sundays. Despite the fact that our parents forbade us to go near their Sunday gatherings, our parents have never objected us to play with the kids from these two unique families. These two families live harmoniously and get well along with the rest of the families in the compound. Even though I later became aware of the fact that those two families are Christian families, I was still confused as a child about why the two religious groups could not share foods or even faith together.
            As a result of all the preaching and lecturing of Buddhism given both from my family and my neighbors, I am involuntarily programed to show unshakable faith in Buddhism so that I will feel a little appalled and guilty even if I accidentally touch some religious objects that are made for non-Buddhist religions. My heart and ear automatically shut down to other religions, so to speak. Even now after I have dipped deeper into the study of Buddhism and realized that it is not so much a religion as a philosophy of life, I still cannot fathom the idea of me going to visit some Christian church or dating an Islamic girl.
            Besides some religious issues that I encountered in the compound, I also got a chance to watch closely what other families were like in my compound. Every family in the compound has one or two kids of my age. However, to my surprise, I had never found in the compound any parents of my parents' age with more than three children. Therefore, I was deeply confused when I found out that both of my parents have more than two siblings. In my father's case, he has five siblings. When my curiosity intensified, I embarked on some investigations of my own. I found out that almost all the parents of my parents' generation have more than three siblings. Some even have more than eight siblings. So you can imagine how frustrated I was when my mother told me that I could not have a baby sister. Only after I went to middle
[KSG3]  high school did I get to know the reason behind it. There was one textbook called Politics in my middle high school in my seventh grade. It explained to me that we have a One Child Policy in China that allows each family to have only one child. Because most Chinese parents prefer boys to girls, the government allows each couple to have a second child if their first birth is a girl. Besides the information I got from the school textbooks, I also heard from my neighbors that a woman would be forcedly sterilized or aborted if the woman was found out to give birth to two boys. And later I found out why my mother did not want to give me a baby sister. She was sterilized after she gave birth to me because the government found out that I was her second boy. However, it seemed unfair to me that my grandparents' generation could give birth to as many children as they would like to while my parents' generation would be punished if they violated the One Child Policy. How they could have this unreasonable policy, I wondered. So I went to ask my Politics teacher who told me that the first chairman of the People's Republic of China Mao Zedong [KSG4] advocated his belief that “the more people we have, the more powerful we would be.” As the reality proved it to be wrong, the government after Mao’s administration soon adapted a cruel yet effective method, the One Child Policy, to curb the exploding population. It was the first time I became aware of the government's powerful hand on its people. At the time when I heard about the reason behind the One Child Policy, it seemed to me that the Chinese government was trying to save the country. However, as my later experience found out that what they actually did was different from what I felt.
            This fearsome and arbitrary government did more than just deprive me the right of having a baby sister. During the 1990s and early 2000s in
China, television was still a rare and luxury home item. Whenever I was left alone, I would always go for TV for companion. There were not many shows at that time. However, I could still find abundant shows showing how citizens showed their respect to the government officials, how governmental officials exerted their means to help the poor, and how our central government tried to lift the people out of the poverty lines. Only when I became sophisticated enough about these government’s propagandas did I get to know that these TV shows were actually trying to brainwash and hypnotize the people in China. They wanted the people to live submissively and harmoniously. Ironically, what I saw in the local government was totally contrary to the central government’s propagandas. In my own village, there is a huge well-equipped-three-storied governmental office building whose walls are covered with beautiful white tiles. I did not know when the building was constructed, but I found it to be of magnificent grandeur and out of place the first time I laid my innocent eyes on it. I just could not comprehend the huge contrast between the houses in my village and this single and unique palace. Most of my village's houses were only one storied and looked rather old at the time when I was a teenager. There were few villagers who were able to build a brick two-storied house, let alone decorating their walls with white tiles. But this governmental office building has always struck me as a palace whenever I laid my confusing eyes on it. As I later found out, almost all the governmental office buildings in China are intimidatingly grand. People found it intimidating to just watch them, let alone go near them. As a teenager, I just could not understand where they got the money to build these palaces. What looked more striking to me is that all the local officials I saw walking in and out of my local governmental office had this glowing skin that radiated wealth and power. To the contrary, most of my villagers’ skin were carved with bitter lines and darkened because of hard work in their crop fields.
            The disparity between the villagers and the local officials did not just stop expanding thereto. Three years ago, when I was still in China I started to hear some rumors that a railroad would be constructed across my village whose three sides are enclosed by mountains. When the local officials of the local government confirmed the news, they started to hire people outside of the village to go into the mountains to chop down trees in order to pave the railroads and remove anything that would get in the way of the railroad construction. Many villagers' crop fields were in these mountains, and most of the villagers’ life depended on these tiny amount of crop fields. However, it seemed strange to me that no villagers put up any resistance to those leaders who were trying to take away their properties. It seemed that they could do nothing about this powerful hand. What was more outrageous is that the local officials received a huge amount of funds from the upper government to reimburse the damages that the railroad construction would cause to the local people, and yet the villagers received almost nothing. At first, in order to show their nominal concern towards our villagers, the local government symbolically gave a tiny fraction of the funds to compensate the villagers whose property were taken away because of the construction. But this little money could hardly make up any villagers’ losses. Some grievance started to spread across the village. In order to suppress down the frustrated people, the local officials hired some local rogues to threaten anyone who dared to make any noise. Besides putting the funds into their own pocket, these local officials sold the chopped-down trees to some timber dealers. They again make a fortune and yet no villagers got a share. By the time I was leaving
China for the U.S, a part of my village's mountains had become bald of trees. Some small hills were even removed despite the fact that many villagers' ancestor's tombs where[KSG5]  set there.
            The ecosystem in my village was damaged more than once by those officials. When I was in my boyhood, there was a green and clear river flowing by my village. However, no sooner those local officials found it lucrative to let some business owners to set up coal fining factory and pigs farms by the river than they transformed it into dead water. Now, no villagers are willing to wash clothes with the river water because it smells; no villagers dare to fish in the river anymore because they fear that the fish in the river might have already been poisoned. Besides having contaminated the river, the local officials even allowed some mineral mining business to come into our village to mine the minerals. Those miners used explosives to detach the mineral rocks from the mountains. Every evening when I was around twelve years old, I would hear thundering explosives exploding. All these "investment" by these local officials seemed to make no money to our village because I never heard of any one receiving any. Perhaps I was wrong. At least I had seen those officials starting to have cars and moving to big city where they have their apartments. As a school student, I had always been told that the government would strive their
[KSG6] best to help its people. It seemed that I was fooled. And yet when I look at the growing economy in China, I wonder whether my contempt hold against the Chinese government is legitimate.
            When I was quite young, my father left
China for Spain to earn money to support our family. When Spain offered him little opportunity, my father again changed his life by going to USA. By the time my father applied for my mother, my brother and me to immigrate to America, I had already embarked on my journey to learn English. When my classmates in high school were still struggling to take as many test exercises as possible to prepare for the college entrance examination, I was concentrating only on improving my knowledge about America and my English. By the time my father's application was approved by the American government, I was already in my senior year in a language college. I did not know whether it was my fortune or my faith, but I got to befriend a group of quite "wealthy and powerful" young people in this college. These young people had at least one thing in common. They all had powerful parents of means. To give you an example, there was one in the group whose father is the head of a municipal police station and the father has connections with the current vice chairman of China who is going to be the chairman in 2012. Because of their parents, these young but rich people's pockets have always been full and they seemed to me to have all the things done the way they wanted them to be done. There was no sayings such as “if you work hard enough you will eventually get paid off” among them. Their future had already been paved by the time they went to college. I was the only one in the group who did not know how to order food when we went to a fancy restaurant; I was the only one in the group who did not know how to drive a car--owning a car in China is still considered being rich; and I was the only one in the group whose birth could not be described as a capital. This list could go on and on. It was actually the first time I became fully aware of the disparity between me and wealthy kids in terms of social status, wealth, power and the prosperity of the future. Here is why: I was the one who worked the hardest in school, yet I didn't have the charisma that was nurtured into my friends by their parents; I was the one whose transcript was the best, yet I didn't have the opportunity to go to high-class social occasions where I could meet influential and powerful people while my friends had already been made known to quite a few important governmental and business people. These kids are born to be in advantageous place, they strive less yet they get more. Sometimes they didn't even have to learn some skills that are essential to survive in this highly competitive world, because their growing environment had already nourished them with those skills. People are taught to believe that if you work hard you would get to the top. However, the things I saw say differently. Even though I grew cynical around this group of friends of mine, I did get to learn one important life value from them—social network. They go for one another for helps and favors. They value one another's values and they are willing to share even though they don’t intend to. In this way, they utilize each other’s values to the most.
            When I learned the significance of social network, I did not get to use it because I thought it to be taking advantages, especially when I was in the less advantageous place. When I finally came to
New York on the 4th of July in 2010, I was completely lost in this crazy and busy metropolitan city. Even though I spoke English as well as I trained myself to, I couldn’t get any job. Eventually, after 2 months, my brother hooked me up with a job as Sushi Bar waiter apprentice in the city. I tried to learn as hard as I could. However, it seemed that something was amiss. I found that my co-workers there were not that enthusiastic in helping me learning the routines of the work. One night my brother told me that I had to get well along with these co-workers. I thought hard about what he told me. I was an apprentice in the restaurant, I was willing to learn. However, what I would learn depended hugely on what my co-workers would teach me. The very next morning when I arrived at the restaurant with my brother, he went out to buy some nice breakfast for my co-workers. As soon as my brother handed those foods to my co-workers, I finally understood. Since then, my brother would occasionally buy some breakfast for my co-workers who in return showed more willingness when they were training me for the job while I would also do little favors for them. However, only a couple of months later, I quit this job because I applied for an interpreter job in an immigration law firm. My work performance was lousy during the first few weeks there. I made constant mistakes and I was afraid to ask for help from my colleagues who looked like fish in water with their jobs. Again, at the time, I forgot about social network. I was trying to do things independently. I thought that if they could do their jobs, I could too. Besides, I thought that my colleagues would get annoyed if I began to ask for help. I was wrong again as the truth turned out. One day, my boss could not take my mistakes anymore, so he asked me to go to his office. I prepared for the worst scenario. Instead of firing me, he asked me why I was working like a lone wolf. I told him my reasons and concerns. Then he gave me a big lecture about how important it is to have a social network working for oneself. The very next day, I approached the best colleague whose job performance was very satisfiable[KSG7]  to my boss. Contrarily to my original concerns, she taught me step by step about how to translate some certain documents, how to fill out some important forms and how to file applications to the immigration office. She did it quite nicely without showing any annoyance. Therefore, I tried harder to weave my social network amongst my colleagues. However, this job did not work out. I was not very happy in this job and my work performance was not very pleasing to my boss. Therefore, I was let go after four months of work. I was conscious of my limitation in terms of my ability as well as my English. To my own surprise, I did not get much upset for being fired. It was actually not a bad situation against me because I had long been thinking about going to college in New York to further my education and expand my social network. Now, here I am in the Borough of Manhattan Community College exploring my life.


Xing –

            This is an excellent work!  The eco-map has never been articulated better than this in that it covers all the various systems and structures that have helped to shape and define the person you are today.  The organization and scholarship displayed in this work is very impressive. You also displayed a tremendous flare for writing.  Your grade for this paper is therefore an A.




 [KSG1]Change this to “its” for agreement with the antecedent “every household”


 [KSG3]Perhaps, “junior” would be appropriate here instead of “middle”

 [KSG4]Is this name also spelled as Tse-Tung?

 [KSG5]Change this to “were”

 [KSG6]Change this to “its” for agreement with the antecedent “the government”

 [KSG7]Change this to “satisfactory”