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Archive for March, 2011

Talking at Tri-City AAUW

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

By Jian Ping

Talking at Tri-city AAUW at St. Charles Country Club

When Diane contacted me to give a talk about my book Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China at the Tri-City American Association of University Women (AAUW) in the western suburb of Chicago, I readily agreed. My grandmother, Nainai, and my mother are two of the most influential role models of my life. And I’m always enthusiastic to share my story with other women.

The branch of the Tri-City, St. Charles, Batavia and Geneva, organized the event at the St. Charles Country Club. By the time I got there for the event scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. last Saturday, most of the registered attendees were already there. Diane and I had communicated via emails many times. When I finally met her in person, I felt as if we had been friends for quite some time.

AAUW members and women from the area getting ready for the talk

We started with an afternoon tea, with a variety of mini sandwiches, pastries, and fruits, with hot chocolate to dip them in. Ten large round tables were set up, with each seating ten women. I chatted with several attendees at the book signing table and was touched to see a couple of families were there with three generations of women.

Christine, President of the branch, gave a wonderful introduction to my book—capturing the essence of the story better than I would. For me, it was a moving moment of connection and resonation.

I shared with the audience images of my family, posters and photos of the Cultural Revolution era, and addressed the questions raised at the end of the session. I was touched by the audience’s interest and engagement and very much enjoyed the experience.  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which is being developed into a feature-length documentary movie by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011. For more information, please visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com.

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The Tale of Genji

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

By Jian Ping

We just finished our winter quarter at the University of Chicago.  This year, our focus of study is on Japan, mostly literature and Zen BuddhismThe Tale of Genji, an ancient classic describing the romance of court life in Heian Japan in the tenth and eleventh centuries, was of the books we covered in class. The book was attributed to a single writer, a court lady by the name of Murasaki Shikubu.

The Tale of Genji, a novel of more than a thousand pages, felt like a brick. I was not that keen in reading it at the beginning of the class. Romance and court life, not to mention the time distance, didn’t sound very interesting.

However, the first chapter grabbed my attention. I think it’s safe to say the attention of most of the people in my class—a group of professionals in their 40s and 50s who had been together in the Asian Classics program and meet every Saturday for three hours for nearly four years.

Asian Classics Program, U of C

Murasaki, the author of Genji, I soon came to realize, was not only a genius storyteller, but also a poet, a musician, a calligrapher, a gardener, and should I say, a psychologist! Her description of the characters’ inner world still resonate readily with our life and way of thinking today. We were amazed and mesmerized.

Our instructor, Marissa Love, who is an expert in the area, filled us in with the historical and cultural background and kept broadening our discussions and understanding. The parallels of relationships that she pointed out, the intricacies of political backing for the court women that she brought to our attention, and the unique and relatively influential positions of these elite women that she led us to discuss were all quite fascinating! The book became a window to the culture and life of Japan at the time, and Marissa’s passion and knowledge only made it a more exciting learning experience for us.

We didn’t have enough time to read the entire book in class. But I’m so intrigued that I intend to finish reading the entire book on my own.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com or www.moraquest.com for more information. Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film and will be released in 2011.

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Time Passes Fast

Friday, March 11th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Booster

My girlfriend WJ called earlier in the week. We used to get together frequently when I lived in the western suburb of Chicago, but over the last year or so, we didn’t keep in touch.

I was very happy to hear her voice and eager to receive the updates of her world. I couldn’t believe her daughter had graduated from university last May (I thought she’d graduate this year) and her sister’s older daughter, whom I saw every time we got together, had been in college for nearly a year. In my mind, the images of these two girls were still that of a teenager, if not younger.

Then, I was surprised to learn about the death of her five-year-old dog, Booster, a beautiful Chinese Shar-Pei. “Kidney failure,” she said. For the last 15 years or so since I had known her and her husband, they had always had a dog, always a Shar-Pei. “Dog food and snacks imported from China are known to cause kidney failures for dogs and cats,” the veterinarian who had attended Booster told her. She didn’t know. Now, in order not to take any risk for their new puppy, another Shar-Pei named Rocky, my friend is cooking meals for him!  

How time flies! we exclaimed.

The fact that the next generation have grown up only made us more aware of our own age, or aging. To her credit, WJ started dancing a few years ago with a group and had been giving performances to the public in various occasions. She was, and still is, very passionate about it and has gotten quite good at it as well. A wise step–not only to defy aging, but also to enjoy a social and vigarious activity. 

We should definitely be mindful and appreciative of the time we have and take full advantage of every day, every minute. 

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit www.mulberrychild.com, www.moraquest.com. Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by award-winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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Reading Tiger Mother’s “Hymn”

Monday, March 7th, 2011

By Jian Ping

My friend Jing lent me her copy of Amy Chua’s book. She was appalled and furious about Chua’s claim of her extreme measures of parenting as “Chinese” and wanted to hear my opinion.

Coincidentally, the day I finished reading Chua’s book, the Chicago Tribune featured stories of local high school students in an article titled “How 3 students succeeded, without ‘Tiger Moms’”.  The Asian mother in the feature, Ms. Leung, said she was reading Chua’s book. “It’s embarrassing me,” she said. Leung’s daughter plays piano and recently earned perfect scores in her ACT and SAT tests. “That lady (Chua) is a little crazy,” Leung said.

I must say Leung’s statements resonate with mine.

When I first heard Jing’s comments, I came to Chua’s defense. I had not read Chua’s book, but I had read the excerpts released in Wall Street Journal. I told Jing that I liked Chua’s writing—concise, simple, and impactful, and despite the serious tone and harsh measure, it has a touch of humor.

“Chua is exaggerating at her own expenses and is being playful in getting her message crossed,” I told Jing.

I held the notion a third of the way reading Chua’s book. Then it started to bother me, although I must say, as a mother, Chua couldn’t be more dedicated and committed—the amount of time she carved out of her schedule to be with children, albeit to drill them in their practices on piano or violin, was admirable.

The more I read the book, however, the more horrified I became—Chua appeared dead serious about her extreme approaches and spared nothing at achieving the goals she set for her children. She raised the question that others, including her children, asked her: “Is she doing it for herself or for her children?” Her action spoke louder than her words, I think.

 When I put down the book at the end, the words “crazy” “control freak” came to my mind. I wonder what her children will become when they are out of school, out of college, to face the reality of life—when success is not defined by scores or rankings, and as a member of society, we should each strive to a be constructive contributor, be balanced and happy. It’s not about constantly struggling to get ahead of others.

Sun Yunxiao, Deputy Director of the China Youth and Children Research Center, called parents not to “blindly follow Chua, whose many thoughts and actions are wrong.”

It is true that many Chinese parents are strict with their children and cherish high expectations for them. But among all the Chinese I know—being a Chinese myself, I know many, including quite a few women friends who are mothers—I haven’t encounter a single one who takes Chua’s extreme parenting methods in raising their children.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.  Visit www.mulberrychild.com, or www.moraquest.com for more information. Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature length documentary film by award winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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An Evening of Outstanding Performance

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

By Jian Ping

Dai Ethnic Dance "Green"

Last Friday, the Confucius Institute in Chicago (CIC) invited Dong Fang Chinese Performing Arts Association to give a performance of Chinese dances and singing to a select group of administrators, teachers and students of the Chicago Public School (CPS). It was an evening of sharing cultural heritage and celebrating the Year of the Rabbit. CPS offers Chinese in 43 of its schools, with more than 12,000 students in the Chinese language program.

I made my way there, partially to learn more about Dong Fang, and partially to watch one of my close girlfriends dance. I must say that I was blown away by the high quality of the performance!

From the elegant dances of “Bamboo in the Moonlight”, “Flowers in the Rain” and “Green”, to the professional level of singing from Puccini’s Opera “Turandot”, the evening’s performance captivated me and the rest of the audience. It was hard to believe they were a group of amateurs. I was thoroughly impressed by my friend’s dance: she was not only elegant and beautiful, but also full of grace. And more, she appeared relaxed and was enjoying every move on the stage! What a talent.  

I later learned that the Dong Fang was founded in 2005. It has over 150 members in 5 groups: chorus, dance, theater, Beijing Opera and Chinese Variety Arts. They have given more than 50 performances since its inception.

I talked with Terry Mazany, Chief Executive Officer of CPS, and Jane Lu, Director of CIC after the performance and was pleased to hear that they were equally impressed.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com or www.moraquest.com for more information. Mulberry Child is being developed into a feature-length documentary film by award winning director Susan Morgan Cooper and will be released in 2011.

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