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Christmas 2006 (1/07)

Basketballs bounce in Xi'an

Zhangye, a deeper look (7/06)

China comes to Virginia (7/06)

Winter Conference 

Happy Birthday, Amity, 
Part 1

Part 2 (11/05)

Bringing Sunshine,
Part 1

Part 2 (10/05)

Summer 2005: (7/05)

Needed: China volunteers

Bluefield College in China

Lantern Festival (2/05)

Village of God (2/05)

Summer 2004:

FBC Richmond (5/20)

Opposites attract (5/26)

Mission Impossible (5/24)

Rules for a new mother (10/24)

Brocade Museum (10/24)

Barbara Diggs at NIM (4/4)

Fujian Earthen Houses (2/14)

Zhangzhou Puppets (2/14)

Merry Christmas

JIE's 50th Anniversary

Oral English Competition

Sam's Page

Virginia Baptists arrive for 2002 SEP, Shanghai - Nanjing

Part 2: in Jining, the program begins

Inner Mongolia's grasslands

Baotou and Wudang Temple

Abby and Sarah in Xi'an

Discovering the Nestorian Pagoda

Eating Zongzi June, 2002

Mary Washington comes to China, Part 1
Part 2 May/June 2002

Xi'an May 2002
Terracotta soldiers
   The Nestorian tablet





Sam's Page:

This page has been provided for my young friend Sam Burnette, who lives in Fayette, Alabama with his father Larry, and his mother, Cathy Butler. Sam is being homeschooled and is preparing to study about China.


This is the way the name Samuel is transliterated into Chinese in the Chinese Bible. It might be interesting if Sam tried to write his name in Chinese this way. It is pronounced "sah-moo-are," more or less.

The life of a Chinese high school student:
During a recent oral English competition in Nanjing, this skit was performed, outlining the heavy burden of homework and pressure high school students to study hard. the pictures show a girl, a senior in high school, who has come home from school. Her father has cooked a meal for her, which she has just finished. The clock shows 7:30 p.m. The girl must now work on her homework. The next photo shows 11:00 p.m. She wants to go to bed, but her mother has brought home an extra book which is reputed to be useful in preparing for the college entrance examination, so the girl must continue to study. The third photo shows that it is midnight, and the girl is finally allowed to go to bed. While this kind of schedule is especially true for those about to graduate, Chinese students generally study very hard.

Senior 1.jpg (77288 bytes)  Senior 2.jpg (81177 bytes)  Senior 3.jpg (82209 bytes)

The Great Wall
Even people who know nothing about China, know about the Great Wall. In fact, when I went to China for the first time in 1987, I knew little more than that, myself. Since then, I have walked on the Great Wall many times. 

Many people, particularly Chinese, think that the Great Wall is the only man-made structure that can be seen from space. I checked out the Internet on that subject and here is what I found from the website, www.straightdope.com, quoting astronaut Alan Bean: "The only thing you can see from the moon is a beautiful sphere, mostly white (clouds), some blue (ocean), patches of yellow (deserts), and every once in a while some green vegetation. No man-made object is visible on this scale. In fact, when first leaving earth's orbit and only a few thousand miles away, no man-made object is visible at that point either." So, so much for this lovely myth. But, the Great Wall is still great, and is very big, even if you can't see it from space.

The Great Wall isn't just one wall, nor was it built all at one time. According to Tales of the Great Wall by Liu Wenyuan, these walls were built over a period of more than 2,000 years, from the 5th century BC, and perhaps earlier, to the 16th century. Each emperor who built defensive walls selected those portions of the border that were most susceptible to invasion from the north. Sometimes there were parallel walls. The guidebook, Rough Guide, says if today's surviving sections were placed end to end, they would stretch from New York to Los Angeles, and if the bricks used to build it were made into a single wall 5 meters high and 1 meter wide, it would more than encircle the globe.

Chinese folklore has many fantastic tales. One of several regarding the Great Wall is about Meng Jiangnu, whose tears tore down the wall. First, her origin is mythical. She supposedly sprang from a large gourd that grew on a vine planted in one yard but which bloomed and bore fruit in a neighboring courtyard. The two families decided to raise the girl together, as their own. When she grew up, she was very beautiful, of course. A young man came into their lives, whom they had sheltered as he was running to escape the clutches of the first emperor of a united China, Qin Shihuang. The emperor had ordered his soldiers to conscript laborers for the Great Wall and the young man fled. He was taken into the homes of Jianghu and, in due time, the two young people fell deeply in love and decided to marry. But, at the wedding, the officials learned of the young man's whereabouts and hauled him off to work on the Great Wall. The new bride was inconsolable, and wept bitterly for five years. She decided she could wait no longer, so she bundled up some warm clothing and food and set off walking north. When she reached the place where her husband supposedly had been working, she inquired of him and learned he had died working on the project. She burst into sobs and the Great Wall collapsed at her cries and his body was revealed. The emperor was angry, upon hearing this, and he sent for her to be brought to him for punishment. But, he was so taken with her beauty that he wanted her to be his concubine. She thought quickly and agreed to his request, if he would agree to her stipulations: He must first build a mourning platform for her husband; he must mourn her husband's death; and, he must sail with her on a boat on the sea for three days. The emperor was very happy as he completed the requirements and were sailing smoothly on the sea. But, Meng Jiangnu had no intention of marrying the emperor, who was responsible for her husband's death and for destroying her happiness and that of her families. So, she jumped into the sea and drowned. Today, there is a monument to her memory located not far from the seashore at Bohai Bay. 

In actuality, even though this tale is a legend, it is true that thousands of men died in its construction. As many as a million men at a time worked on it, off and on, throughout the centuries. Ironically, it was hardly foolproof. It was breached more than once, by bribes and by betrayal. And, of course, it did nothing to protect from enemies approaching by sea, so when the British and French arrived with their superior warships and guns, the Chinese were no match for them.  

To see pictures of the Great Wall at Mutianyu, which is less crowded than the more popular Badaling, click on Mary Washington Comes to China, part 2 in the column on the left. 

Family names:
In China, children call their family members differently than in America. The father is called "Baba," mother is called, "Mama," ( which is commonly used around the world.) A younger brother, which Sam has, he would call "Dee dee," with the first "dee" pronounced more strongly than the second, a little like "DEE dee." His younger brother would call Sam, "GUH guh." Sam's father's mother would be called "NAI nai," and his mother's mother would be called "WAI po."

Spring Festival:
Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year is the most important festival of the year in China. It takes place in January or February, and each year is associated with one of 12 animals. These animals are, in order, listed with some of the years that were named for them: 

Rat: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996
Ox: 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997
Tiger: 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998
Rabbit: 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999
Dragon: 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000
Snake: 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001
Horse: 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002
Goat: 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003
Monkey: 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004
Chicken: 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005
Dog: 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006
Pig: 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007

By checking the list, you can see that this year, 2002, is the Year of the Horse, and that 2003 will be the Year of the Goat. By asking people of different ages what year they were born, you can find out what animal is associated with that year. Traditionally, these cycles are supposed to reflect a person's personality, and there are traditions that suggest a "pig" should or should not marry a "monkey," or some such, but as Christians, we don't believe in this kind of thing. In what year were you born? What animal's year was that?

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, as it is called in China, is based on a lunar calendar, which means that it is based on the cycles of the moon. Because of this, it does not occur on the same day every year. In 2003, it will be on Saturday, February 1.


Here is an essay written by one of my students about Spring Festival:

The Night of Spring Festival
By Nan , Class 1

            Spring Festival is one of the traditional festivals in China . To all Chinese, it is an essential celebration. The night before the first day of the new year is the most beautiful and enjoyable time during the year.

            On New Year’s Eve, dumplings are the necessary food for a Chinese family. Most people like to follow the traditional custom which is handed down from old generations. The process of making dumplings is very interesting and pleasant. Usually, mothers secretly put one coin into a dumpling. The family member who eats that dumpling will be given good luck in the next year. So children like to help mothers make dumplings in order to see the dumpling into which she puts the coin. To the children, making is much more attractive than eating.

            Many children like lighting firecrackers. In ordinary times it is forbidden. However, Spring Festival provides them a good chance. They can enjoy themselves to their hearts’ content. The beautiful fireworks decorate the night sky, which glitters and shines. This way of celebration has been accepted by more and more adults. They go out of home, come to the big square, light lots of fireworks, just like children. Lighting fireworks isn’t only the children’s pleasure.

            After a good dinner, people sit before the TV. The wonderful TV programs can’t be missed. They are the delicious dishes cooked up by CCTV [the name of the television network for China] for Chinese people all over the world. It is called the Evening Meeting of Spring Festival, which includes singing, dancing, cross talk, acrobats and so on. It is made for all walks of life, ranging from the young to the old. So every Chinese likes to watch it. The families sit together around the TV set, talking and laughing. How happy they are! Most people would like to watch until twelve o’clock because they are eager to wait for the new year’s coming and make their good wishes. When twelve o’clock comes, everyone cheers, jumping up and clapping. New Year’s means everything will be new.     The traditional Spring Festival will be handed down from generation to generation. It is the Chinese people’s precious treasure. We must keep it well.


Mid-Autumn Festival:
This festival is the second most important one in China, at least traditionally. This was the day that families like to get together to eat a nice meal and to look at the full moon, which is bigger and brighter than at any other time of the year, and to eat mooncakes. Mooncakes are special pastries sold only at this time of year. Of course, they used to be made at home, but now, almost everyone, at least in the cities, buys them. They are often given as gifts to friends and relatives, usually in nicely packaged boxes.

Because so many people have moved from the countryside to the cities, and the mid-Autumn festival is not a day off from work, many families do not get to celebrate this together, but it still is a very special time of remembrance.


Dragonboat Festival:
Click here to learn about Zongzi, a pyramid-shaped glutinous rice snack.
Eating Zongzi


WWW websites:
 This website has some useful information:

A recipe for making a traditional Chinese dumpling often served at Chinese New Year:

These can be boiled rather than fried. The way to know they are done is to put them into vigorously boiling water. When the dumplings rise to the top, add enough cold water to make them drop down; when they rise a second time, again add some cold water. After they rise the third time, they are cooked and ready to eat.

REALLY GREAT: This website has many ideas for learning about China: maps, Chinese numbers, and how to make things and learn more about China. (The map at the top of the page is from this website.)



Chinese Idioms:

Chinese idioms are usually based on stories. The stories illustrate the principle expressed by the idiom. Here are a few:

Wait by a stump for a hare (rabbit):
Once upon a time, there was a farmer out working in the fields. A hare came by, scared and running crazily. It smacked into a tree stump sticking out of the ground and broke its neck and died. The farmer was very happy. He got a large, fat, wild hare without doing any work. So he carried it home to his wife, who very happily cooked it for their dinner. They enjoyed it very much. She said, "If you can bring a rabbit home every day, I'll fix you something tasty for every meal."

After that, the farmer didn't bother to plant or tend his crops. He just sat by the stump all day, every day, waiting for another rabbit to come along. As the days went by, the neighbors laughed at him, as his fields were overgrown and there were no crops to harvest, and no rabbits had come along to kill themselves against the stump.

The idiom, "wait by a stump for a hare" means wanting to obtain something without working for it. It teaches the principle of working for what you want, not trusting to luck.

Plug one's ears while stealing a bell:
Once upon a time, there was a stupid and selfish man who had the rotten quality of trying to take advantage of people in small ways. If he liked something, he would always think of a way to get it, even if he had to steal it.

One time, he saw an exquisitely made bell hanging from someone's doorway, and he wanted it. One evening, in the pale moonlight, he crept to the doorway. He knew that if he touched the bell, it would make a noise and he would be found out. He thought and thought about what to do. Finally, he decided on a plan. He would plug up his ears; that way, he wouldn't hear the bell ring and he could steal it. Of course, others could still hear it and as soon as he grabbed the bell, it rang out and the man was caught red-handed.

This idiom, "plug one's ears while stealing a bell," teaches the principle that you should not deceive yourself or others.

Nick the boat to find the sword:
In ancient times there was a man from the state of Chu who was crossing a river in a boat one day and through carelessness, lost his sword over the side of the boat. Not appearing to be upset, the man took out a knife and made a knick in the wooden boat at the spot where he was standing. Others asked him what he was doing. He replied, "I have marked the boat where the sword went over. I will find it easily." When the boat got to the other side, the man jumped into the water at the place where he had nicked the boat, but of course, he never found his sword.

The idiom, "nick the boat to find the sword," means you should pay attention to reality and changes in circumstance.

No 300 taels of silver buried here:
Once there was a man, named Zhang, who managed to save 300 taels (a unit of money) of silver. He worried that his money might be stolen, so he buried it in his back yard near the fence. But, he worried that his silver might be discovered and stolen. So, after thinking a long time, he took a large sheet of white paper and wrote on it in large characters: "No 300 taels of silver buried here." He then pasted this on the fence where the silver was buried. His neighbor, Wang, saw the sign and realized what it meant. He quietly dug the silver up and filled the hole back in. But, he also was worried that he would be found out, so he took a brush and paper and wrote, "Neighbor Wang never stole the silver buried here." The idiom, "No 300 taels of silver buried here," refers to someone who thinks he is being very clever, but who in the end, only makes things more obvious.

These and other idioms can be found in: "Easy Way to Learn Chinese Idioms," by Yong He, New World Press, 1996.

Chinese Calligraphy
In Chinese culture, calligraphy, or the writing of the Chinese characters is very important. In fact, even today, people are often judged by the quality of their handwriting. Writing poetry or meaningful words as paintings is a respected art. On Tuesday, October 2, I visited in the home of a family in Nanjing, as part of a cultural exchange program during the Chinese National Day holiday. The family members are very interested in such art and participate in various arts activities. They know a man who is very well known in the field of painting and calligraphy. His name is Ma Fan. Like many American artists, perhaps, his hair is long and his jeans are ragged, but his skill is great. Here, you can see how he holds a brush to write a Chinese character in an ancient style. Perhaps you can write the Chinese numbers with a brush and liquid black paint or India ink.

Notice how he holds the brush high on the handle; notice his fingers; he holds the brush so that it stands fairly straight up. He writes Chinese characters from the top down and from left to right. Here is the finished result: