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When Younger Generations Outgrow Their Cultural Values

As a server came up to Fei Yi Long’s table with a cluster of small white bowls carefully portioned with shark fin soup, she was the only one at the table of family members who politely declined. Her aunties and uncles would incessantly say that she’s too much of a hippie, Fei Yi said.

“My family prides itself in serving the soup at banquets,” said Fei Yi. “If it weren’t for my mom’s persistence, I wouldn’t have had it served at my wedding.”

It’s apparent that shark fin soup has a whiff of controversy around it that highlights this generational divide between the younger eco-friendly generation and the more traditionally bound older generation.

Fei Yi, a 25-year-old nursing major at San Francisco State University, said that Chinese culture needs to adapt to the changing environment, especially with the decimated shark population. Her mother, Huayi, couldn’t disagree with her more.

“The soup isn’t just a soup,” Huayi said. “It’s the embodiment of these prized Chinese notions of hospitality, generosity and, of course, saving face.”

Fei Yi believes that the proposed ban on shark fin is an opportunity for the older Chinese community to become more eco-conscious and not be ashamed to lose face in becoming so.

“My mom’s all about pride and prestige, and shark fin soup is all about that,” Fei Yi said. “I explain the importance of the ecosystem to her and how it outweighs the mystical properties of one soup dish. But I’m like her, stubborn and all.”

Though Fei Yi was weaned on shark fin soup that was cooked by her mother for special occasions, she ate it strictly as a customary ritual. After she discovered the soup’s impact on the ecosystem, she stopped eating the soup altogether. Shark fin soup serves as nothing more than a shallow means to boost one’s self-worth, she said.

“We’re really only putting a $100 price tag on our pride when we serve the soup,” she said. “That sure doesn’t justify the millions of sharks dying slow, painful deaths.”

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