Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Very Special Monkey

For those who are not familiar with the Chinese zodiac signs, I wrote about it in this post.  This year being the Year of the Monkey, I decided to introduce Tiger to one of the Chinese classics, Journey to the West ( 《西游记》)

As with many Chinese children, Tiger's first introduction to this Chinese classic is through animation:

After seeing him become enamoured with the cartoon above, I told Tiger that the cartoon shows only a very selection of the monkey's journey, and that it is part of a very long Chinese novel.  He immedidately asked me get him the story.  I got him the abridged, single-book version of the classic to see how he got on with the story.  At 528 pages, the abridged version gives a good overview of the actual novel but when I asked Tiger whether he read about the characters' encounters with certain demons, Tiger realised that there are many juicy and interesting adventures that are being left out, so he asked me to get him the unabridged, four-volume version:
  1. Volume 1 - 576 pages
  2. Volume 2 - 424 pages
  3. Volume 3 - 464 pages
  4. Volume 4 - 440 pages
Seeing Tiger read this Chinese classic novel in English translation (I read the original Chinese version) brings back memory of my own experience of reading Pride and Prejudice in Chinese translation at about 12 years old.   Obviously it is always preferable to read a story in its original language as certain linguist nuances and subtleties are often lost in in the translation process, but where one's language skills are not up to the required standard to allow one to read the original text, then finding a good translated version is the next best thing to do.

When Tiger has read the four books through twice (it took him about a week), I showed him a TV series based on the book.  While this classic has been adapted into movies and other performances many times over the years (the latest one being a new movie based on one of the major adventures from the book):

the 1986 TV version is the one that I think stays closest to the original novel, and the actor who played the monkey is acknowledged as unsurpassed in his interpretation of the character:

Journey to the West is the most popular, accessible of the four major Chinese classics.  Even those who have not read the book would know about a number of the fantastical adventures of the main characters in the story.  However, although the story is written in the form of a historical fantasy/myth, the story has a much deeper, spiritual meaning to it, in a very similar way that The Lord of the Rings is so much more than a fantasy story. 

The following video is rather appropriate as a new year wish from me to you: may your year be full of wonderful adventures!  I know mine will be!

(I know those are apes in the video but they belong to the same primate family as monkeys.  Besides, they make me laugh, so that'll do for Chinese New Year.  I'm sure Sun Wukong would approve!)

*Disclosure: some links are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you click through and buy something.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Collage Friday
  2. Multicultural Kid Blogs
  3. Hip Homeschool Hop 2/16/16 - 2/20/16
  4. Finishing Stron #77
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one that started with an amazing Valentine gift

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Year of the Monkey

The Year of the Monkey started last Monday.  The celebration usually lasts 15 days so we have two weeks to mark this significant Chinese festival.

As with last year, Tiger and I found an Chinese New Year-related activity to do in London.  This time, the National Gallery had a short workshop on decorating the Peking Opera mask, so we went along and did that.

Although the workshop emphasised creativity, which Tiger exercised plenty of, his mask doesn't look particularly Chinese in colour or design, so I asked him to read the Origins of Chinese Art and Craft as well as Lianpu in order to look into the significance of the design and colours of the various traditional Peking opera masks to understand that they are not chosen randomly.  We also found the following clip useful to give us a better understanding of this art form:

From the National Gallery, we walked to Chinatown to buy a few special items in preparation for the Chinese New Year as well as to eat a hearty meal.  It is interesting to see that we have chosen exactly the same food as last year.

Once we got home, we started decorating the house by putting up various decorative items around the house, much like what people would do to decorate their homes for Christmas.

Many of the Chinese decorations have symbolic meanings that usually mean well-wishes and the ushering in of good fortune and prosperity for the family.  Unlike a child who grows up in the East who will understand the symbolism behind the various Chinese decorations through sheer exposure to the culture in his environment, Tiger does not have such luxury so he has to find out about the symbolic meaning of the various decorations through reading books.

This year's New Year's Eve dinner was quite special in that I bought the 'Yu Sheng' (鱼生) from Chinatown.

This dish is like a raw salmon salad that is only eaten during the Chinese New Year period, and is a tradition of Chinese living in Southeast Asia.  It is a dish to be eaten with family and friends as a way to welcome prosperity for everyone in the new year:

*Disclosure: some links are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you click through and buy something.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Finishing Strong #76
  2. Collage Friday
  3. Multicultural Kid Blogs
  4. Hip Homeschool Hop 2/16/16 - 2/20/16
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one that started with an amazing Valentine gift
  6. Practical Mondays Link Up Week #2

Monday, 1 February 2016

Begin at the Beginning

One of the things tha I try to do in our homeschool is to go through history in a chronological order.  In the elementary grades (Cycle 1, according to some factions of the Classical education model), we started from the ancient world.  Now that we are in the middle grades (Cycle 2), I want to start at the beginning again, but this time I want to start at the beginning of life, i.e. prehistory.

One can go as far back as the Big Bang Theory, or the birth of the earth, but that, to me, is stretching too far into science so I decided that we will just start from the evidence of life, i.e. fossils.  It is very handy that our patio is laid with natural stones that contain fossilised plant imprints, so that is a very good place to start.

It doesn't take much to pique Tiger's curiosity so I directed him to the relevant books to acquire the necessary background information,

before breaking out a fossil-making kit to make plaster casts of various fossils.

Tiger also made a scaled-down cardboard model of a Hibbertopterus, which is a two-metre long prehistoric sea scorpion whose trackway (made 330 million years ago) was found preserved in sandstone in Fife.

In our typical fashion of homeschooling, we wanted to see whether we could find any real fossils ourselves so we visited a quarry in Gloucestershire to try our luck.

There was a whole lot of stone-staring that day... we were at a quarry after all.

Take for example the following: do you see anything special about these stones?  Are they just some rocks?

How about now?  Can you spot the fossilised mollusks embedded in the stones?

Once we knew what we were looking at/for, thanks to the very helpful geologists with whom we tagged along on the trip, we started finding fossilised bivales everywhere on the site!  If they were not exciting enough, I'd just like to mention that they are from the Jurssaic period (205 - 102 million years ago) too.

I don't know about you, but I personally think it's very cool to actually find something that is hundreds of millions of years old.  That got us to contemplate the geological changes that have taken place on earth through the ages, such as the simple fact that the land that we were standing on was once the sea floor where these prehistoric creatures dwelt in.

We brought two big bags of fossils home with us that day.  Once they were thoroughly cleaned and dried, we identified each one using a fossil identification chart.  The most interesting one that we found was the gryphaea, commonly known as the devil's toetail from Victorian folklore.

After identification, Tiger made notes in his science notebook to record his observation by a variety of methods that include drawing and taking rubbings.

Below are a few samples from his notes on fossils:

We watched First Life for review, and to check whether we had any gaps in our knowledge so far.  While we have learnt much from books and especially on the field trip, there is nothing quite like watching a good documentary to bring the prehistoric habitats to life.

The link from the study of prehistoric fossils to present day is that of fossil fuel, which we read about using the following books.

However, the greatest outcome of our study so far has been that Tiger is now the proud owner of his own sizeable collection of fossils, which he is only too happy to talk about all day to anyone who'd listen.  I therefore have been on the receiving end of a much-needed education on the various fossils that include:
  • their identification
  • where they were found
  • the geological time period in which the original creatures existed

* This post contains affliate links to products that we have bought and used ourselves, and that I recommend.  I earn a little bit of money, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase through the link.  Thank you for your support.  :-)

This post is linked up to:
  1. Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #74
  2. Collage Friday: A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool
  3. Weekly Wrap-Up: The last one before Texas
  4. Hip Homeschool Hop: 2/2/16 - 2/6/16
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