Harvard Arts Medal Recipient Fred Ho on being Chinese-American

by Lingbo Li

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Fred Ho, recipient of the 2009 Harvard Arts Medal, has very definite stance on his relationship with China and Chinese culture. He self-identifies as a Chinese-American, not a Chinese person, and despite being invited to perform in the Middle Kingdom, has avoided traveling to the first half of his hyphenated identity.

When asked if he sees himself as a Confucianist, he dismisses the thought.

"Am I a Confucianist? No. Confucianism is not the entirety of Chinese culture," he declares. "It promotes subservience and submission."

He also draws a strong line between being Chinese-American and Chinese. "What I've learned about Chinese history culture and identity, I've learned it as a Chinese American," Ho says. "I don't believe I'll learn more about being Chinese American by going back to China. I refuse to be a tourist.

Finally, he sees modern day China as a "polluted cesspool," filled with traffic jams and biohazards. He wouldn't want to travel over there without financial support in the name of cultural exchange. Besides, "I don't know how accepted my music and views would be in China," he says.

Ho's assumptions pose an interesting question of how identity and imagined homelands fit into art. What do you think he should do?

Fred Ho will be honored as the 2009 Harvard Arts Medalist, 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13 at New College Theater, where he will be interviewed by WGBH commentator Callie Crossley. For FREE tickets: http://ofa.fas.harvard.edu/cal/details.php?ID=40662.

Ho will also perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14 at Lowell Hall. For info: http://ofa.fas.harvard.edu/cal/details.php?ID=40540