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Book Reviews

Yee Hah! Remembrance and Longing, by Albert H. Yee,
Bookman marketing,
33 Industrial Drive, Suite 104, Martinsville, IN (800) 342-6068

Reviewed by Beverly Friend

In the midst of Albert Yee's book packed with the personal reflections of a 4th generation Chinese American, one chapter is of especial significance -- albeit with some difficulty -- for readers: "The Incomparable Chinese and Jews." Here psychologist Yee maintains that these diverse peoples are "psychologically similar and surprisingly compatible."

Yee opens his theory anecdotally -- citing his personal relationships with Jewish college professors and real estate agents -- before moving to more scholarly data based on his work with Rabbi Anson Laytner on "Chinese and Jewish Characteristics; a Preliminary Analysis,"  a jointly published article which appeared in the 2001 issue of Asian Thought and Society: An International Review."

In putting forth his evidence, he seeks to answer two the following seemingly simple questions but couches his answers in a language filled with psychological verbiage that obscures as often as it enlightens.
1. Why are the Chinese and the Jews the worlds "longest living, intact peoples, with the oldest enduring civilizations?" and
2. Why are the Chinese the "only people who have never discriminated against the Jews"?

His answers are brim with complexities.

Calling the saga of Jews in China "inspirational," Yee begins with a factual historical overview moving from Song Dynasty Kaifeng to the present before he begins his exploration of seven parallel compatibilities:

Messianic Impulse.  This is a complex assertion, and while Yee stresses a mutual sense of cultural self worth and identity, he is forced to admit that while Jewish Messianism is religious, Chinese focus on a naturalistic view which focuses on transforming society. He stresses the point that Dr. Sun Yat-sen was inspired by Jewish history and a parallel quest for freedom.

Family Values. It is easy to see parallels.

The Role of Women. Here, Yee moves from early patriarchal similarities and gender biases to more modern considerations for both groups.

Educational Values. Yee stresses how both use education as the chief means of social mobility.

Defensiveness and Retribution. Yee makes a large, difficult to support assertion that misrule and harsh existence affected both groups in ways that were unique and uncommon to others.

Inherited characteristics. Yee cites coping power and intelligence while also noting that the Jews are not as homogeneous as the Han Chinese.

The work becomes far more complex when Yee explains his perceptions with a subchapter titled "Social-Psychological Framework," complete with illustrative triangles described with such terms as culture-state dyad. Later headings are also reflective of textbook linguistics as Yee interweaves historical fact with theoretical interpretation: Social Equilibrium Theory, Patriotic Discontinuities, Sino-Jewish Dissociation, all of which culminate in his Stepping Stone Syndrome.

The latter, after graphic representation, is summed up by the assertion that "Sino Judaic compatibility, not just comparability, arises from the fat that Jews and Chinese are uniquely similar in their independently having strong positive culture-people bonds and negative state-people tensions and fears.

There is much meat in Dr. Yee's thesis, but it is not always easily digestible.