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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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, 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:
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:
Night of Spring Festival
, Class 1
Spring Festival is one of the
traditional festivals in
. 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
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
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
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
because they are eager to wait for the new year’s coming and make their
good wishes. When
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.
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.
Festival: Click here to learn about Zongzi, a pyramid-shaped
glutinous rice snack. Eating
recipe for making a traditional Chinese dumpling often served at Chinese
New Year: http://appetizer.allrecipes.com/az/ptstickrstrditinl.asp
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 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 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
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.
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: