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It was reported on several occasions that when a young person was asked to contribute Hsiang Yu, he shrugged his shoulders and replied: "What's that?" These incidents suggest to some Lung Kong officers the need for an explanation of Hsiang Yu to the young generation to be published in the Lung Kong Quarterly Magazine.
I was requested to do the writing. In order to write a readable and informative article on the subject I should consult with the many available Lung Kong scholars, make extensive book research, and do adequate on‑site observation. However, I consider Hsiang Yu is a light subject when compared to more urgent subjects such as: " How to Make Shaky Lung Kong Chapters Strong?" and "How to Disseminate the Lung Kong Spirit to the Young Generation?" which I have wished to write, but have not yet begun because I lack the energy to gather sufficient pertinent materials. Therefore I disregard the arduous preliminary investigation and rely on only my meager knowledge, yet hoping to produce an informative, useful and entertaining article.
In the 1850s when our countrymen were coming to the Golden Mountain in large numbers, everyone hoped that he would strike it rich quick and safely return to China. They believed nothing could help them to reach their goal faster and easier than supernatural power. So they built temples to install their gods to direct them to find gold and to protect them from danger. Money was needed to maintain the temples, but no one would think of asking a poor fellow countryman for hard‑earned cash even for a good cause. The discreet leaders avoided the embarrassment by borrowing from the temples and monasteries in considered discourteous. Presidents of less well‑to‑do chapters often donate several hundred dollars. Ample opportunity is available for expressing loyalty and generosity. Some chapters do not have membership registration. Thus a Hsiang Yu certificate serves as membership identification and permit to, participate in all the activities of the association.
Recently some progressive organizations dislike the religious tinge of Hsiang Yu. They prefer the term Hor Yi which means congratulatory gift. In the Lung Kong associations the traditional donations made at the beginning of each year are posted as Hsiang Yu, and other donations on special occasions are designated as Hor Yi. However, most organizations consider the two terms are synonymous, and which term is used in China the age‑old popular and euphemistic term Hsiang Yu. It literally means incense and oil. but when one request a donation of Hsiang Yu, he does not mean the real substances ‑‑ he means cash. Thus the connotation of Hsiang Yu is offering or oblation in cash.
By the end of the nineteenth century the alluvial gold in Northern California was exhausted and the railroads on the Pacific Coast were completed. Unemployment became rampant. Most of our disillusioned countrymen had to struggle for existence in a hostile environment and a prejudiced neighborhood. In this turbulent era the tongs, district and family associations were born for protection, recreation and mutual assistance. These organizations needed money to operate. Membership dues were purposely kept small to attract a large following. Other means to raise revenue for a strong organization was essential. The suave leaders adopted the unobtrusive and nominally voluntary Hsiang Yu method. It is certain that this method will be used as long as the associations will survive.
Posted in a conspicuous spot on the wall near the entrance of an association meeting hall are numerous 2x8 inch red paper strips. They are the Hsiang Yu certificates that record the names of the members and friends of the association and the amount of Hsiang Yu they have donated. The donations are often construed to reflect the degree of loyalty to the association and generosity to public welfare. It is a murky reflection for members of Lung Kong, U.S.A and Lung Kong, S.F. because their presidents have a tacit agreement to donate not over fifty dollars. To donate more than the highest officers is depends on the preference of the members.
Most of our countrymen observe Confucian ethics. They believe that "Reciprocity is the essence of etiquette." To return a favor is taken for granted. Whereas traditions command every member to donate Hsiang Yu, etiquette persuades everyone who receives benefits from the association to do likewise. It is not only good manners; it is a welcome expression of appreciation and support for the association.
Dear young people,
when you are confronted by a request for Hsiang Yu, do not be amazed. Just
think of Confucian ethics, or if you prefer, think of the Christian
dictum: "It is more blessed to give than to receive". And reach for your
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