USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘watermelon’
general
Humor
Kinesthetic

Watermelon Tai Chi

Daniel is an immigrant from Hong Kong who immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities and a better life for both him and his family. Living in a poor family with seven other siblings, he immediately went to work as a police officer after receiving his high school diploma in Hong Kong. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he worked as a computer technician, and subsequently, changed his career to a funeral counselor.

Original Script

I don’t know whether it’s true or a joke—I believe it’s a joke. For a tai chi master, he had a hard time to teach his disciple how to do the beginning steps of a sort of tai chi kung fu. Right now, I will illustrate in English:

One big watermelon. I cut it into two halves. This half I give to you, you don’t want it, I take it back. And the other half I give to you, you don’t want it too, I take it back.

And those are the steps of the beginning.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant heard about this tale from his friends during passing period in high school. His friends were taking tai chi at the time and demonstrated the moves of the watermelon tai chi to him. He believes the story is a joke, rather than the truth, because both the moves and the chant are humorous.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant at his house.

Tai chi is an internal form of Chinese martial arts used for its health benefits and defense training. Several styles of tai chi have developed over time; the five most common ones today are the Chen, Sun, Woo, Wu, and Yang styles. There are a few who believe that the watermelon tai chi was created because both tai chi and watermelons promote similar properties, such as improved blood circulation.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I first learned of this watermelon tai chi in my high school Chinese class. The teacher taught our class the moves and the chant; however, she did not mention that this form of tai chi was a joke, like the informant. When I performed the watermelon tai chi alongside the informant, I found the movements quite calming, but saying the chant in Cantonese was very amusing.

Folk Beliefs
Foodways
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Introduction of the Watermelon

Many many years ago Vietnam was ruled by a king who was known for his kindness. He only had one daughter so he adopted a son, who he loved as his own. Eventually the boy, An Tiêm, married the daughter, and they all lived happily together.

The king’s men, however, were jealous of the king’s kindness to An Tiêm, so they started spreading bad rumors about An Tiêm, saying he had plans to overthrow the king. When the king himself heard, he was distraught and decided that exiling An Tiêm would be the best solution, because he believed An Tiêm was able to survive outside the kingdom.

So An Tiêm and his family were sent away to a remote island where they had to farm and hunt their own food. One day though, An Tiêm noticed a flock of birds pecking on black seeds. He was curious what they were, so he took some seeds home. Eventually these seeds grew into plants that bore green fruits as large as people’s heads. The fruits had bright red insides that were very juicy and sweet, so An Tiêm called it dưa đỏ, or red melon. But later when the birds came to eat the fruit, they seemed to be calling “tây qua”, so they decided to call it that.

The watermelons sustained An Tiêm’s family, but after a while, the king started to really miss his children. One day An Tiêm decided to carve a letter onto a watermelon and cast it into the ocean, and the king finds the watermelon back at the kingdom. Discovering that his family was still alive and discovering the new fruit, the king was overjoyed and proud of his son. Because of that, the king sent for An Tiêm and they all lived back at the kingdom, happily ever after.

Informant is a Vietnamese American and a member of USC VSA, and grew up learning a lot about Vietnamese culture at home and at school. 

folk metaphor
Folk speech
general

Watermelons and Peas

The informant is recounting a Chinese proverb from home. He does not remember where he heard it.

“If you grow the watermelon, you will get the watermelon. If you grow the pea, you will get the pea.”

The informant says that this emphasizes the natural causal relationship of the universe.

I see the phrase as being  akin to the phrase “you asked for it” meaning that you shouldn’t be surprised by the result you get when you made designs on achieving that result.

[geolocation]