Teaching kids about Chinese history

This Thursday (Oct. 16, 2008), I have had the honour of being invited to Pape Junior Elementary School to give an hour’s lecture on Chinese history and culture as part of their Gr.4 curriculum on the Middle Ages (700 to 1500). Since their approach was largely on social construct, I gave my lecture in a similar way.

But sadly, I was a fool enough to forget my camera, so no pictures are available. My apologies.

utccas-chinaoverview <– Download the handout for the day.

Dressed up in Hanfu and equipped with a guqin, I gave them a taste of what the classical Chinese image of a literati should be, noting the difference of social structure for the elite towards knowledge rather than wealth or bloodline. The boys were particularly in awe at the idea of the basic judicial premise of “a life for a life”, and the diverse array of weaponry available to the soldier – without having to individually pay for it. No particular emphasis was put about China as the “most powerful nation in the world” – they could feel it deep within themselves already.

To this I am reminded of my days in Gr.4 when I had my medieval unit and world society unit (to which my teach, Ms. Finlay, chose China), and my mother was the guest speaker on Chinese culture who came in once a week to teach Chinese characters and some common cultural practices (such as New Year’s). By then I had already shown clear signs that Sinology was to be my life career.

And no greater fulfillment can be than the unceasing stream of curiosities by the kids on that day (their questions rolled into overtime), and one of the girls giving a tight hug to me (and quite reluctant to let me go). I also let them all try out the guqin (I got to them before they messed up with the guzheng, to great relief), to which they immediately identified it with the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremonies – another great relief that they remembered it afterall!

These opportunities are a nice change from the hardline, hard-sell promotion of hanfu done by HanfuTor, which I think is actually more effective. Aside from the handout, I also handed out the UTCCAS Hanfu Pamphlet (08-09 version) for their parents to read. I only hope that more will be wearing Hanfu to represent the greatness and modernity of China, rather than relenting in the past and treating Chinese tradition much like Bo Yang as an ugly monster that sloughs through a swamp of limitations and “feudalistic systems”.


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October 2008
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