Re: Left/Right Culture

Erik A Mueggler (mueggler@JHUNIX.HCF.JHU.EDU)
Wed, 30 Mar 1994 15:45:37 -0500


A respected scholar of minority cultures in China named Liu Yaohan, has
written about left and right in respect to a bunch of related groups off
folks in Southwestern China officially designated by the umbrella term "Yi."
According to Liu Yaohan, while Han indeed associate the left with
Yin, feminine, negative, passive, dark, damp, and with Taoism as opposed
to Confucianism, Yi do the opposite. In Yi cultures, left is associated
with older generations, men, day, etc. I don't think Liu makes this
point, but perhaps this is in response to the overwhelming dominance of
Han culture, much in the same way that Taoist valuation of the left, Yin
and the feminine might have been a response to dominant Confucian values.
Incidentally, I did fieldwork in an Yi area and saw little evidence of
the preference for the left that Liu describes -- though his sources cover a muc
h wider area both in space and
time than mine. People where I worked seemed to use space in other ways:
to associate activity and the positive with the upriver ends of things,
the sunny sides mountains, and heads as opposed to tails and feet.