狗年新年快樂 (Happy Chinese New Year – Year of the Dog)

Happy Chinese New Year!!

跟各位家長分享女兒們CLE(Chinese Language Ecosystem) 進入另ㄧ個階段,用學到的中文帶給別人喜悅~

My DDs got to a new level in their CLE, namely using the Chinese they learned to give joy to others!  They were invited to perform at a Chinese New Year banquet in Atlanta.  Though we are new in town and never had this kind of opportunity in rural eastern NC before, we decided to give it a shot.  I decided to buy and learn to play a bass guitar for the classic CNY song “恭喜恭喜“, as there are only four notes to play!  We have had so much fun rehearsing for their first public performance!

The girls had a successful performance this weekend.   Here are their greeting and CNY blessing.

 

Then, DD#1 sang 周華健’s 「朋友」.

 

Finally, DD#2 sang 陳歌辛‘s 「恭喜恭喜」.

 

This is another win for their CLE!  DD#1 did make me promise that our band will learn to play an English song next time~  It is all about balance!

女醫 明妃傳 (The Imperial Doctress) & Speak (我不再沈默)

DD#2 “Georgia” finished watching all fifty episodes of 女醫 明妃傳 (The Imperial Doctress).  This historical fictional TV series is based on historical figures and events in the Ming Dynasty during the 15th century, including 土木堡之變 and 奪門之變.  Georgia greatly enjoyed the show, given the protagonist is female and there is a romance storyline as well.

Now comes the “fun part”, at least for me!

I got on Wikipedia and put together the “real” story on paper.  I first read it to Georgia and now have her read it aloud, over several days.  She should learn much from the reading, as it is written in slightly more formal Chinese.  Having zhuyin helps with pronunciation greatly.

明英宗(朱祁鎮)

早年

明英宗是明宣宗長子,生母記載為孫貴妃(後立為皇后),但《明史·后妃傳》稱其母為身份不詳的宮人,為孫貴妃所養。生後四月即立為皇太子。

即位

宣德十年(1435年)正月,宣宗崩,時年7歲的朱祁鎮即位,是為英宗,改次年為正統元年。英宗在位初期由太皇太后張氏輔政,內閣由三楊(楊士奇、楊榮、楊溥)主持,仁宣之治得以延續。

正統六年(1441年),正式親政,同年定首都為北京,結束南京名義上的首都地位。正統七年(1442年),張太后去世,三楊以年老淡出政壇,宦官王振開始專權,其黨羽遍天下,百官為之側目,這是明朝第一次宦官專權。

土木堡之變

正統十四年(1449年),瓦剌蒙古大舉南侵,王振勸英宗以五十萬大軍親征,沿途鋪張。返師途中,行至土木堡被瓦剌太師也先所敗,明軍「死者數十萬」,英宗被俘虜,王振被明英宗之護衛將軍樊忠殺死,樊忠殺死王振前曰:「吾為天下誅此賊!」以所持棰擊殺王振,力圖突圍,殺數十人後戰死。

隨後,也先挾持英宗南下進攻北京,皇太后孫氏命英宗之弟郕王朱祁鈺監國,不久郕王即帝位,是為明景帝,改次年為景泰元年,尊英宗為太上皇。

英宗在土木之變被瓦剌人俘虜,生死未明,錢皇后一邊拿出宮中積蓄想贖回英宗,一邊為此經常蜷腿伏著哭泣,日以繼夜,因此一腿落下了殘疾,並哭瞎了一隻眼睛。

南宮幽禁

于謙領導的北京保衛戰勝利後,瓦剌倡議和談,欲送還英宗。景帝不欲英宗回來。景泰元年(1450年),楊善變賣家產,孤身出使瓦剌,又在景帝不同意的情況下,說服瓦剌太師也先,將英宗迎回燕京。

英宗回國後,景帝怕失去皇位,將其兄長英宗軟禁於南宮,令錦衣衛防守嚴密,宮門不但上鎖,並且灌鉛,食物僅能由小洞遞入。景泰三年,又廢原立為太子的英宗長子朱見深為沂王,另立己子朱見濟為儲君。但朱見濟在次年去世,但景帝仍不同意復立朱見深為太子。

英宗在南宮飲食常缺,又不得禮遇,全賴錢皇后寬解才得以度日。錢皇后常常寬慰丈夫,並率領諸妃織布賣錢,以謀生存,因而英宗感念錢皇后的懿德。英宗復辟後,沒有冊立皇太子生母周貴妃為后,仍尊患有殘疾且無子的錢氏為皇后。這是明初以來第一次立非太子生母的女性為母儀天下的皇后。

奪門之變

景泰八年(1457年)正月,景帝病重,不能臨朝,手握重兵的石亨、徐有貞等人勾結太監曹吉祥,率死士攻入南宮,擁英宗復辟。十六日夜,英宗自東華門入宮,於奉天殿即位,黎明時開宮門,諭令百官,改元天順,史稱「奪門之變」。景帝被禁,不久死亡,死因不明,有謂代宗病癒,英宗為怕代宗復起,令太監以布帛縊死,得年三十歲。景帝死後追貶為郕王,群臣議殉葬。及唐皇貴妃(以景泰七年進宮,八年封貴妃,寵幸冠後廷。),妃無言,遂殉之,葬於西郊金山景泰陵。

英宗復辟後,即以謀逆罪將兵部尚書于謙、大學士王文等人下獄,初尚言「于謙實有功」而不忍殺之,因徐有貞力主「不殺于謙,今日之事無名」,遂於五日後斬殺于謙於西市。天下冤之,後英宗亦悔。後來曹吉祥與石亨等人勾結,先設法中傷徐有貞,讓徐被流放。而後石亨與曹吉祥因參與曹石之變,石亨被囚至死,曹吉祥則被凌遲處死。

天順一朝,英宗勤於理政,病危遺言,取消了自明太祖以來的宮妃殉葬制度。天順八年(1464年)正月崩,享年38歲。葬入明十三陵中的裕陵。英宗與錢皇后感情頗深,錢皇后無子;因周妃專橫,英宗擔心死後嗣子明憲宗(周氏所生)不尊崇她的地位,所以遺命「皇后他日壽終,宜合葬」後來錢皇后死時,周太后果然不欲其祔葬裕陵,由於有英宗的遺詔,經過大臣力爭方得與英宗合葬。

談允賢

明朝天順五年(1461年)出生醫學世家,祖父談復、祖母茹氏皆為當時名醫,父親談綱官至南京刑部主事。談允賢自小聰慧,祖母就讓她學醫,就在祖母的教導下學會精湛的醫術,祖母去世前將一生所收集、編寫的藥方病理都傳給了談允賢。談允賢後嫁楊姓男子為妻,後來生了三女和一子,每當子女有病,她都親自為他們診治。直至其祖母去世,她才真正在外行醫。

明朝在儒家保守思想的氛圍下,許多上流社會的婦女因男女之防,不願請男醫生診治,因此常常發生貽誤病情的情況。談允賢女醫的名聲使這些婦女紛紛找她治病,在許多成功的案例後,談允賢的名聲也漸漸的傳遍各地。在明朝,民間精通醫術婦女人數漸多,皇帝下旨,選取其中佼佼者,選中的入官冊,以備召用,稱為醫婆或醫婦。當時以談允賢名氣最盛,凡皇家眷屬生病,羞於請男御醫診治的,都請談允賢入宮醫治。

正德五年(1510年),50歲時談允賢將祖母留下的藥方病理,匯集自己多年行醫的經驗,寫成了一部《女醫雜言》流傳後世。

嘉靖三十五年(1556年),談允賢病逝,享壽96歲。

杭皇后

杭氏原為郕王朱祁鈺登基前的側室,在1448年生下朱祁鈺唯一的兒子朱見濟。明英宗土木堡之變後,丈夫朱祁鈺被擁立登基,是為明景帝,並立明英宗子朱見深為皇太子。

1449年,景帝即位後封郕王妃汪氏為皇后,封杭氏為貴妃。景泰三年(1452年),景帝欲廢黜皇太子朱見深,改立朱見濟為皇太子。汪皇后對此堅決反對,勸說景帝之所以能即位純屬僥倖,萬不可將朱見深廢去太子之位。景帝發怒,將汪的皇后之位、侄子的太子之位都廢掉,改立杭貴妃為皇后、其子朱見濟為皇太子。次年皇太子朱見濟夭折。景泰七年,杭氏崩逝,諡號肅孝皇后。明英宗在奪門之變復辟後,對當年景帝廢去己子朱見深的太子之位懷恨在心,因而下詔將杭氏「肅孝皇后」的諡號廢去,同時也毀壞杭氏的陵墓。

孝淵景皇后(汪氏

汪氏姿色美麗,正統十年(1445年),冊汪氏為郕王妃。正統十四年(1449年)秋,明英宗朱祁鎮因土木之變被俘,郕王朱祁鈺登基為帝,冊汪妃為皇后。汪皇后生下女兒,沒有生下兒子。

汪皇后性格剛毅偏執,心懷仁德。景泰三年(1452年),景帝欲立自己的兒子(杭貴妃所生)朱見濟為太子,而廢原太子朱見深(景帝侄子,英宗長子),汪皇后竭力反對,因而觸怒景帝,被廢,杭妃被立為皇后。

景泰八年(1457年)一月,景帝病重,奪門之變後,英宗復位,降景帝為郕王,汪氏復稱郕王妃。天順元年(1457年),郕王逝世後,英宗讓其後宮嬪妃殉葬。當論及汪氏殉葬與否時,李賢不贊同,以汪氏已廢且幽禁深宮,況兩女年幼,應不予殉葬。朱見深復立為太子後,知道汪氏當年支持繼續以他為太子,因而對汪氏相當孝敬,亦上言於英宗。經英宗同意,汪氏得以活命,從宮中遷至郕王府。

昔日英宗被俘後,錢皇后在宮日夜為丈夫奔忙憂勞,汪皇后也時常安慰和救濟她。及至出宮,在錢皇后的照顧下,汪氏得以將所有私產和服侍她的宮女太監都帶出宮中。汪氏在外府齋素事佛。每至歲時令節,孫太后與錢皇后必召汪氏入宮中飲宴,敘家人禮。憲宗即位後,因昔日汪氏曾保護自己,對其厚禮優待。

正德元年(1506年)十二月,汪氏薨逝,終年80歲,葬於金山景泰陵。

 

          

 

I tried to find another TV historical drama which can teach a lot about the salient part of Chinese history but is also fun to watch for a tween girl.  Unfortunately, she has not liked 三國演義.  We watched the first episode of 東周列國春秋篇.  It was very educational, starting with 周幽王烽火戲諸侯 but, unfortunately, very boring for a 11 year old girl.  Not to mention it was produced twenty years ago.  There are many excellent historical TV drama series such as 漢武大帝, 大秦帝國, 雍正王朝, 康熙王朝, etc. but I know that my tween girl would not find them interesting, unfortunately.

 

At the recommendation of some parents, Georgia and I are starting to watch「那年花開月正圓」, set in late 19th century China, with a female lead protagonist loosely based on a historical figure.  So, this seems to be a good fit for my DD.  Hopefully, she will learn a few things about the turbulent time at the end of the Ching dynasty.

 

 

“Speak” by Laurie Anderson

At the mean time, 14 years old DD#1 “Charlotte” is reading “Speak” by Laurie Anderson, a New York Times best seller in early 2000s, for her English class.  It is a trauma novel about a high school freshman who was raped at a summer party.  Charlotte had trouble telling me the plot of the story all in Chinese, which I totally understand, given the type of language involved.  It is not something she read or we discussed in Chinese before.  So, I put together kind of a synopsis from various internet sources, as below.  Too bad there is not a Wikipedia entry in Chinese on this book.  Hopefully, we will get to go over these over the weekend.

 

我不再沈默

初中畢業的暑假,梅琳達和好朋友一塊參加了一個「告別暑假」的狂歡派對。在聚會上,許多人瘋狂縱樂,梅琳達也喝醉了酒,繼而被一個高中男生強姦。梅琳達撥通了911報警電話,卻因為創傷的突然和巨大,握著聽筒失聲無言。警察過來驅散了聚會,但她卻沒有機會和勇氣說出報警的真正原由。

警察的到來徹底毀了那場派對,於是梅琳達被眾人記恨,也毀了自己在學校的交友圈。於是,進入高中的第一天起,米蘭達就知道自己是個沒有朋友的孤鳥,時不時還會在校園裡撞見強姦犯,受到他的挑釁。老朋友們孤立她,父母老師不理解她。從此以後,米蘭達將自己封閉起來,以沉默面對周圍的謊言與偽善。但是,她的內心卻得不到相對的平靜,有一件事情盤旋在心裡,揮之不去,她不願回想;即使努力想要遺忘,回憶仍舊如影隨形,令她痛苦萬分。於是她選擇一個人背負起這一切,遠離人群,遠離喧囂。對任何事任何人看起來漠不關心,不發言,不表態,不說話。任憑父母的誤解,朋友的唾棄,老師的詆毀,她依然選擇沉默面對一切。她之所以不開口講話,是因為當她想傾訴的時候,卻找不到人傾聽,朋友,父母都沒有嘗試跟她溝通。

米蘭達在學校找不到歸屬,回家只見父母荒謬的爭吵。直到有一天,她遇到了美術老師,他讓她用自己的想像和畫筆去畫一棵樹,用一年的時間去畫這棵樹。她開始尋找到了一個出口,美術課成為她的避風港,繪畫給了她表達和宣洩情感的途徑。當身邊所有人都認為她得了喉頭炎,加上精神出了問題,必須接受心理輔導,她選擇了「沈默」作為反抗;而美術老師彷彿看出她心中的祕密,引導她用無聲的方式,在期末作品中釋放不能說的心情。終於,米蘭達決定不再沈默,說出那天晚上所發生的事,讓她慢慢走出陰影。

 

Anna and the French Kiss

Let’s see.  What are we up to lately, with their Chinese….

Over the Christmas break, “Charlotte”, DD#1 at 14 years of age, “Georgia”, DD#2 at 11 years of age, and I got to spend a lot of time talking about family values, in Chinese of course.  In fact, I set aside about an hour a day to do so over their two weeks’ break.

Charlotte finished reading the Chinese edition of “My Sister’s Keeper” recently.  She has moved onto “Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins.  The translated names of the various localities give her some trouble but that’s about it, she says.  Let’s hope she is right about that.

Charlotte is also working on singing and playing (guitar) right the song “朋友“ or “Friends”  by 周華健.  Here is a small part of her practice:

As for Georgia, besides her Chinese lessons, she continues to read the books in the “世界少年文學精選“ series.  I don’t mind that she continues to read books with zhuyin, to broaden her vocabulary and content exposure further.  My estimate is that she reads about 500 characters a minutes, which means that she probably can read similar books without zhuyin at about 250 characters a minutes.  She continues to watch a popular 2016 Chinese TV drama, 女醫明妃傳though she loves to watch the American TV show “Fresh Off the Boat” every now and then.

The two of them continue to converse in Chinese at home, about 80% of the time.

My Sister’s Keeper

Here is a little update on how DD#1 “Charlotte”, now 14 and half, is doing with her Chinese.  As we moved to a different state a few months back, she was able to enroll in online high school level Chinese 3, her first “official” Chinese class.  The reading materials are easy for her but this is the only way I can get her to do expository Chinese writings (well, typing…).   (Oh, she learns to type pinyin herself, for those parents who worry this.)  It was a matter of choice that I didn’t ask her to take the Spanish course series.  One reason is that I want her to consolidate her Chinese more.  Another reason is that Spanish is much easier to acquire and there will be other opportunities to learn Spanish, particularly if future situations call for it.  And I didn’t want her to do it just for the sake of college application.  Given we just moved to a new state and she started high school in a completely different setting (going from 60 students per grade in a private school to 500 students per grade in a public school), I want to provide her some extra room for adjustment also (not that Spanish I is difficult).  In any case….  Next year in 10th grade, she will take Chinese 4.  I will consider that she takes AP Chinese concurrently at weekend Chinese school but I am not sure about that still, given her other activities on the weekend.

After not doing much extracurricular Chinese reading for several months related to our relocation, Charlotte is now back reading Chinese novels.  As you recall, she is much more fond of reading translated works of American young adult novels, such as the Selection Series or books like Ender’s Game.  As a second and half generation American, she can relate to them much more than traditional Chinese literature.

Nevertheless, she did re-read 九把刀’s 那些年,我們ㄧ起追的女孩 last month, a coming of age teenagers’ novel.  It was adopted into a most enjoyable movie a few years back and we enjoy watching it every couple of years.  (Yeah, the “clean” version, LOL.)  A growing teen, Charlotte probably gets something new out of the book every time she reads it.  She didn’t finish reading 金庸‘s 倚天屠龍記 over the summer.  Though it was partly related to our relocation, I think the main thing is that she simply doesn’t have much interest in Chinese kungfu novels.

  

This week, Charlotte starts reading the Chinese edition of My Sister’s Keeper.  She tackled it about two years ago.  Back then, though she had read the English edition already and had watched the movie (which is quite different from the book), the Chinese edition was too much (i.e. difficult) for her, particularly with many medical terminologies.  Now that she is more mature and her Chinese is better, she has little problem reading and enjoying the Chinese edition book now.

  

So, she is making some progress there.  I only expect her to make slow incremental progress over the next few years, given the demands of high school and college application.  Most of my work had been done when she was between the age of 4 and 12.

So, no, in terms of Chinese course work per se, she is not ahead of some Chinese heritage kids who went through weekend Chinese school.  But I bet that her Chinese literacy is much stronger than the vast majority, not to mention her appreciation and fluency of the Chinese language.

 

Addendum with question from my FB group:

Q: “Just curious what you consider Chinese coursework and why you think Charlotte is on par with the kids in Chinese school. And how is that different than literacy?”

A:  It is my impression that quite a few Chinese heritage kids these days go through weekend Chinese schools through ~9/10th grade and then Chinese AP class there.  It is my impression that some of the stronger students there from families with high “expectations” do well in Chinese AP tests.  However, my impression is that, for most, Chinese is something they study, not “enjoy” per se. Probably few of them can or will read Chinese novels with similar fluency.  Some weekend Chinese school curriculums, like MLP’s, are quite vigorous, if you stick with it.  My exposure and understanding are more limited, given where I spent the last 20+ years.  Since many of you live in CA, I would be happy to hear about you-all’s experience.  (Yeah, I am southern, LOL.)

朗讀比賽(Read-aloud competition)

We recently moved from relatively rural eastern North Carolina to the suburb of a large southern metro city.  DD#1 “Charlotte”‘ is officially taking Chinese classes now.   Just less than one week ago, her teacher asked me whether my DDs would be interested in participating in a local Chinese read-aloud competition, sponsored by schools using traditional characters.  My DDs gladly accepted the challenge.

Today is the competition.  Here is DD#2 “Georgia”‘s performance in the intermediate level division  (Click link for the reading selection).

 

Below is “Charlotte”‘s performance in the advanced level division.  I only got part of it, since my phone ran out of memory…..

 

Here is Charlotte’s practice recording, if you are interested:

Since there are large number of contestants, the results won’t be announced for 1-2 weeks.

It is easier to read aloud fast but more difficult to read aloud slowly, which require more accurate prosody and pronunciation.  IMHO, reading aloud well is not a skill appreciated or emphasized by many parents, with competing demands.

CLE update: Chinese Language Ecosystem (中文語言生態系)

Chinese proficiency aside, which I had posted here on this blog, I am glad that my DDs (“Charlotte”, 14, and “Georgia”, 11) continue to enjoy the cultural experience still.  This June, they had a lot of fun touring different parts of metro Taipei and Taichung in Taiwan.  I think they had the most fun goofing off and shopping at Taipei’s 西門町!  Here is one such photo (truth be told, this one was my idea….).

“Charlotte”, now at 14, just started high school and continues to enjoy the Chinese cultural experience.  She is taking Chinese III class on-line to do more expository writing (typing really) and to learn reading simplified Chinese.  “Georgia”, now at 6th grade in a new large middle school (we recently relocated), is half way through reading the Chinese edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone, whose English edition she read a few times before.

She should have finished this book a while back, as she reads it at 400-450 characters a minute or about one chapter in 15 minutes or so.  But she has not, as she is mostly reading English novels these days, an English Language Art (ELA) class requirement.  She probably has caught up to most kids of her age in terms of English reading and is taking Advanced 7th grade ELA at school.  With all the extracurricular activities these days including debate class, weekend 7th grade Chinese class (simplified), tennis league, guitar, etc., I have to set aside time for her to read Chinese novels.  She does, however, continue to enjoy reading Chinese comics on her own at meal time, now reading 機器娃娃與怪博士, which I also loved reading as a child.

At the mean time, the three of us watched the famed 2015 Chinese TV series 琅琊榜 over the last three months and we absolutely loved it!!  They are now big fans of 王凱, who played 靖王蕭景琰 in the TV series!  They probably prefer 靖王蕭景琰 over 梅長蘇/林殊 since beauty standard is different between Chinese and Western culture and they grew up in the US.  Charlotte learns to play 紅顏舊, one of the theme songs, on the guitar herself.  (“這明明有ㄧ顆痣!”…….非禮啊…..LOL)  She does that for the Chinese songs she enjoys listening.

We also rewatched 那些年,我们一起追的女孩, a hit 2011 teen romance film, and 我的少女時代,a hit 2015 teen romance film, both of Taiwan.  These two movies always cheer them up ~

We are now starting to watch 女医明妃传 (The Imperial Doctress), a top 2016 TV series from mainland China about a young lady determined to become a life saving Chinese medicine doctor despite the limitation of Ming Dynastic’s conservative feudal ethics in the 15th century.  The backdrop of Ming dynasty, limitation of its conservative feudal ethics on women, and the practice of medicine seem like a good fit for us.

So, that’s what they have been up to these days in terms of Chinese.  They continue to converse with each other in Chinese 80-90% of the time at home.

 

Question on assimilation and Chinese language learning

One parent asked on my FB group: I noticed many other parents have voiced concerns about social isolation in the quest for CLE (Chinese Language Ecosystem)……..  I am curious to hear from parents or parents of kids who are happily assimilated without compromising Chinese language/culture. Is this utopia possible for us in small town USA?

My answer:  It is entirely feasible. My girls (11 & 14 now) grew up in a small city of 35,000 in rural eastern North Carolina. Though there are some new immigrant Chinese families in the restaurant and poultry industry, we travel in completely different circles as we immigrated here several decades ago and are in the medical field.  Except for ~20 months of homeschooling, my daughters attended all English small private schools (class of 9 students for dd#2 and ~ 16 for dd#1 initially then another school with each class of ~ 60 students, ~90% white). Our CLE is conducted at home and through summer sojourns in Taiwan, comprising ~2/3 of their waking hours as school is only ~ 25% of their waking hours.  Except for a few Asian/Indian/Pakistani American classmates and friends amongst their two classes, all their friends are white.  These friends are not the most popular queen bee types, just nice southern girls.

For many years, I was very frustrated that we couldn’t find any Chinese speaking playmates for them. Then, as their Chinese got better by mid-elementary school, I grew more confident and decided along the way that my DDs don’t really need Chinese speaking playmates anymore.  They have each other.  Besides their summer sojourn abroad, we watched many Chinese movies, cartoons, and TV shows, which they enjoy tremendously.  They read Chinese poems, literature, a few classic Chinese pieces, comics, and many Chinese books (many translated edition of English books).  They listen to Chinese pop songs by Jay Chou, S.H.E., and others and sang some karaoke.  Their Chinese language proficiency and cultural awareness are almost certainly much stronger than most heritage children.

At the same time, over the past few years, I strongly encourage them to develop and maintain friendships with their white classmates. Their best girlfriends are all white and they are a lovely bunch. They have play dates, sleepovers, birthday parties, and pool parties on occasion. DD#1 had several white guy friends in middle school also. My DDs enjoy watching some popular American TV shows and listen to English pop music also.  All their extracurricular activities are taught by white instructors (that’s pretty much all we have here really…).  DD#1 played middle school  JV tennis with all white teammates. Here in our small relatively rural southern city, I feel that they are able to be somewhat of a “chameleon”.

So, yeah, it is absolutely possible in small town USA to be happily assimilated without compromising Chinese language/culture.  In fact, it is probably easier to assimilate in small town USA, as cultural cliques can readily develop in large metro cities with larger Asian population.  This rural city didn’t stop them from developing relatively strong Chinese language/cultural proficiency and our CLE didn’t stop them from assimilation.  The two are parallel ecosystems, “happily coexisting”.

I hope this helps.