Today was an excellent day for acclimation and processing, as we review the objectives of the program: to devise curriculum to emphasize/explore/identify means of teaching about contemporary issues in Chinese/Taiwanese culture/historical significance in our classrooms back in the U.S.A. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? That's a pretty tall order, but fascinating and already providing endless discussions and opportunities for further inquiry within our group. We are analyzing each of our site visits against the China Institute's five areas of significance: History, Material Culture, Appreciation, People and Culture, and Geography. There have been several encounters that have sparked my interest for lessons to add to the curriculum guide - for the elementary/intermediate level. The majority of my collegues instruct at the middle or high school levels so my learning curve is Everest in scale, in regard to prior/background knowledge and lessons to engage higher level/critical thinking. I've started reading the Chinese epic, 'Monkey', which has striking parallels to Hanuman from 'The Ramayana.' It is this preservation of the traditional literary and artistic forms to tell the current Chinese story that have caught my interest. How to use rod/shadow puppetry (as observed at the Laoshe Teahouse on Monday night) to give voice to the importance of water as a sustaining source for energy and survival in rural areas? Is there a way to use the art of paper cutting to speak to consumerism, or explore Taoism in current art as well as that of the past? Yesterday, I found this outstanding painting (see in attached album) at the Chinese National Museum that was presented in the style of Song Dynasty guó huà (国画), rather impressionistic in a sense. However, this contemporary take on guó huà was disharmonius in its tone - the presence of cranes and power lines were quite dissonant against the serene landscape. This would be an excellent starting point for so many lessons with students of various levels...my mind is spinning with the possibilities. Especially since we will be visiting 798 Art Zone as part of tomorrow's plan.
We have been sharing articles, books, primary sources and artifacts with one another as we encounter many issues. As Carmen (my colleague from Queens, NY) said today, "If you keep sweeping issues under the carpet, you'll eventually have a lumpy carpet." It is still difficult to conceptualize the perspectives and scale of control found here, but with each new resource uncovered/discovered, another piece of the puzzle is revealed. All we can do is enter into each day with an open mind, heart and desire to assemble a unifying narrative that can be presented in a didactic manner to many educators. Did I mention this was a tall order?
Still to come this evening...a trip to sample some of Beijing's unique street food in the Donghuamen Night Market, near Wangfujing Dajie. Scorpions on a stick, anyone?