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Mulberry Child on PBS

Saturday, May 17th, 2014
Jian Ping, Ellis Goodman & Lisa Xia greeting attendees

Jian Ping, Ellis Goodman & Lisa Xia greeting attendees

It feels unreal to watch my life story on television. In Chicago, WTTW (Channel 11), the local PBS station, broadcast Mulberry Child three times. I watched it twice. The first time, half of the film, and the second, in its entirety. I tried to watch the film from an “objective” perspective, as if I were watching someone else’s story. It worked at certain parts, but at some very strong personal moments, such as scenes in which Lisa and I get into an argument, images of my father waving gently, a few days before his passing, and my mother, pushing open a door to look out, as if expecting her grown up children to come back, tears still welled up in my eyes.

What touches me most is the outpouring of emotion and support that I’ve received from viewers and friends, and they are still arriving in my email on a daily basis since the broadcast of the film and online streaming on started on May 1. The flash page of Mulberry Child on PBS doesn’t have my email address. Many people went out of their way to locate it from my book or film website to send me their thoughts and comments. I received many emails before, mostly from friends and viewers in Chicago where the film had more than twenty screenings at different venues, including a weeklong engagement to the public at the Gene Siskel Film Center. But it feels so differently when the emails come from strangers throughout the country.

At reception

At reception

The broadcast of Mulberry Child, which started on May 1 on PBS, will continue nationwide through the month. Each PBS station has its own schedule, and in addition, the World Channel, an affiliation of PBS, scheduled multiple screenings in many cities. The first email I received was on the first of broadcasting, from a woman named Sanviki. “I just watched Mulberry Child on PBS,” she started. “It is difficult to express my exact response—thoughts and feelings at this time; all I can say at this time is that the movie had a profound affect upon me… I felt compiled to write to you, I needed to let you know that your work is important and that I bid you the inspiration to continue in your journey of awareness, self-expression and truth—especially as it relate to deepening the development of love for yourself, your daughter and others.”

Many more followed.

Lisa chatting with attendees

Lisa chatting with attendees


“I wanted to personally thank you for sharing your profound life story of resilience and hope.”

“I watched your movie and my heart went out. I would love learn more and see more.”

“My wife and I just watched Mulberry Child. It moved and reminded us emotionally to appreciate the gifts and sacrifices by our parents.”

“I watched Mulberry Child documentary on PBS this morning and was moved to tears more than once. Watching you with your daughter made me miss my mother terribly so I cried for that loss. I also cried for the trials of your family and for those of all the Chinese people during that terrible time.”

Jian with Grace and He

Jian with Grace and He

I don’t know where these viewers live or who they are beside their names, but their resonance with Mulberry Child and their sharing of emotion touched me deeply. I made sure to respond to everyone’s email personally.

When WTTW in Chicago premiered at 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, we held a reception and screening at Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University, celebrating the milestone with appetizers, wine, and Tsingtao Beer. About 150 people attended the event. Once again, I was touched that quite a few friends who had seen the film more than once, including a recent screening at the Harold Washington Library Center on May 1, came again to show support.

I was thrilled that my daughter Lisa, who had moved to work in Frankfurt, Germany since March, happened to be back in Chicago and was able to join me at the reception and conduct the 40-minute long discussion after the screening with me. People connected with our story in different ways, based on their background and experience. But the outpour of emotion was so moving. Several viewers in the audience paused to chock back tears when they made comments and raised questions. Lisa shed tears, too, and I had to exert more control to suppress mine.

Moments like this made me realize that it’s certainly worthwhile to throw our personal life on to the screen. I feel so fortune that our story is inspiring others on their personal journey and relationships, not to mention that the process of making and showing the film has brought Lisa and I much closer!

My heart-felt thanks to you all.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary movie by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. The movie is shown on PBS nationwide in May, 2014. Visit for more information.

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Chinese New Year celebration at DePaul University

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

IMG_0606The Year of the Snake rang in with a big celebration at the main campus of DePaul University in Lincoln Park. From lion dance, songs, to games and raffle drawings,  a variety of festival activities cheered over 600 students, faculty, and participants from the local community, accompanied with a feast of Chinese food.

I was quite impressed by the turnout and the enthusiasm at the celebration. Among the majority of Asians sitting at the large round tables, each decorated with a hand-made paper money which symbolizes good fortune, were many Westerners and people from other ethnic backgrounds. The Chinese New Year celebration became a cross-cultural get together that enhanced interaction and connection among people without borders.

Snake is the 6th animal in the Chinese zodiac of 12. It meant this year, starting on Feb. 10, is a year of stability and progress, with attention to details. Snake is regarded as enigmatic, intuitive and refined.

At Chinese New Year Gala with my cousin Xiang.

At Chinese New Year Gala with my cousin Xiang.

The celebration of the Chinese New Year at DePaul was hosted by the University’s Chinese Studies Program and International Students Organization. Li Jin, professor and director of the Chinese language program, delivered a welcome statement that captured the spirit of the evening. The performances given by the students and some local community groups were amateur but fun. I particularly enjoyed the dance Peacock on the Tibetan Plateau and Dance of Flying Colors by the Huamulan Dance Troupe.

It was also fun to run into a few friends and watch one of a friend’s son, Aaron, work and perform on stage.

I’d like to thank and congratulate all the people and departments involved in putting together this well attended event. A friend, who was here last year, enjoyed it so much that she came again with her husband and son. Hope it will continue in the years to come.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.


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4th of July

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Waking up early this moving, I made a mental list of things I needed to do for today’s party—our annual party for the celebration of July 4th and the joy of watching fireworks along the lake from our balcony.

I went for my routine morning swim at 6 A.M. and was pleased to see a number of American flags on display around the rooftop garden by the pool. I remember the first time the flag touched me to the core. It was right after 9/11. I was on a business trip in Boston. After four days’ attempts to reschedule a flight back to Chicago, I picked up a rental car and drove all the way back. I don’t think I had ever seen so many American flags in my life—residential houses, gas stations, restaurants and stores—American flags waved in the air, in defiance against to the attach on the nation. The juxtaposition of the two World Trade Tower collapsing and the American flags standing high and up brought tears to my eyes. It was the first time I felt so strongly to be part of America, to identify with America.

The American flag has taken a personal meaning of strength, defiance, and justice to me ever since.

Today, we will have close to two dozen of friends at our party—Chinese and Americans—to celebrate the country that provides security and abundance for us and an enriched life I would never have dreamed of as a mulberry child.  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit,

Role Model

Monday, June 28th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Birthday Celebration

On Saturday, I allowed myself to be indulged in a birthday celebration that marked the start of another decade. My daughter Lisa and husband Francis arranged the activities for the day: a brunch in Gold Coast, a leisure afternoon at my will, a delicious dinner at cibomatto in the newly opened Wit Hotel, and an evening show at the Goodman Theatre, the Sins of Sor Juana, a bit heavy, but a joy to watch because of the wonderful story and great performance.

All along, however, the fact that the first number of my age increased by a digit made me conscious, if not outright nervous. From time to time, I announced the big number out loud. Lisa and Francis laughed, good-naturally. “Mom, you have good genes,” Lisa offered her comfort. “People will continue to make the remark that you look like my sister.”

I selected a large, tea-colored Swarovski crystal necklace for her to remember the once-in-a-life-time year when my age doubles hers. Or maybe just for the sweet words she said and the time and attention she gave me—it had been a treat to be with her when she is busy like a butterfly with her job and social life.

 I know I’m blessed with good health and energy. I still feel young and have remained active. But the increase in number is a disconcerting reality nevertheless.   

On Sunday, Francis and I joined our partners at the racquetball court for our routine weekend doubles games at the University of Chicago. In the women’s locker room, the conversation I had with a woman who played handball suddenly flashed up in my mind. It was several weeks before. Right at the bench I was standing, I saw two handball gloves on top of a gym bag and a middle-aged woman drying her hair. For years, I had not seen another woman at the handball/racquetball courts. I struck up a conversation and was totally taken by surprise when she told me she was 72, a retired nurse, and had been playing handball for more than 50 years. “I used to play competitively in college,” she said. She looked fit and nowhere close to her age. It happened that our path never crossed because of our different schedule.

Francis, me, and Lisa

I would have guessed she was in her early 50s if she didn’t proudly announced her age.

Suddenly I felt better—the power of a role model.

I still have decades to look forward to and live a fulfilling and active life.

I texted Lisa to tell her that I was determined to make the new decade a better and happier one!  

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit, or

Chicago Style

Monday, June 14th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Last Friday, Chicago celebrated the Blackhawks’ championship with love, passion and style. Reportedly two million people came out for the parade under the hot blazing sun and more than a hundred people had to be treated for heat inflicted complications.

I have to admit I was not a big fan of hockey—I didn’t go to Michigan Avenue, nor did I go out to buy a Hawks Championship T-shirt. I worked at my desk all day on Friday. The bright sunshine bothered me so much that day that I installed a thick curtain in my study over the weekend. But last Friday, when the heat cooled off substantially in the evening, I took my bike out for a ride on the lakefront trail—I needed to breathe some fresh air and stretch my limbs.

I peddled way south, dodging the assaults of small flies that moved in mid air in swarms. By the time I turned back, the city was cast in magnificent night lights. As I turned the corner from behind the Shed Aquarium, three signs of lights came into view and caught me by surprise. One was: Championship 2010, Hawks on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building, and the other two were a big logo of the Blackhawks on the east side of CNA Plaza, matched by a huge image of the Standley Cup on the south side. I hit the brakes and jumped off the bike. Admiring the magnificent sight, I felt the dynamics and pulse of the city right there and then. It was not unusual to see tall buildings such as the Avon or Prudential posting signs for special occasions. But I was deeply touched that evening!

“Go Hawks!” and “Go Chicago!” I wanted to shout.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit,

Moon Festival

Sunday, October 4th, 2009


Moon Cakes

Moon Cakes

Yesterday was the Moon Festival. Several countries in Asia celebrate the festival. In China, it is also called the Mid-Autumn Festival. The closest equivalent in the U.S. that I can think of is Thanksgiving. Moon Festival is an occasion for the celebration of harvest. It is a time for families and friends to get together.  

The Moon Festival is the 15th day of August in lunar calendar, which falls in late September or early October in Gregorian calendar. Traditionally, one item that everyone shares at this time is the moon cake, a round shaped, sweet cake made of flour and a variety of stuffing. Supposedly the moon is the fullest at this time.

When I was a child, the Moon Festival was always an occasion I was looking forward to. A moon cake was a big treat, and my mother usually cut one into six small pieces for my siblings and I to share. If we were lucky, there would a box of four moon cakes with different stuffing: red bean paste, lotus seed paste, five different nuts, or one of the above mixed with egg yolk. My favorite was always the red bean. I remember we picked a small piece and nibbled on it, relishing every bite. Sometimes, we also made paper lanterns. When night fell, we placed small candles inside the lanterns and lit them up. We ran around under the full moon, with these self-made lanterns in hands. The flickering of the candle light brightened our excited faces.

Then the Cultural Revolution came. It smashed everything that was considered “traditional” and “old.” For years, there was no celebration, moon cakes, or lanterns.

I am glad those “revolutionary” days are over. Today, many people in China and abroad celebrate the Festival. Families gather together, and friends give nicely packaged moon cakes as gifts. When I called my mother to wish her a happy Moon Festival yesterday, I was pleased to learn all my sisters and their husbands went home, to celebrate the Festival with her. I wish I could be there with them.

 Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.