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Q & A at Mulberry Child screening

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

BAC 3My daughter Lisa and I recently did Q & A after the screening of Mulberry Child at the Beverly Arts Center in Chicago. As always, the responses from the audience were emotional and deeply touching and the session ran 45 minutes long.

Among the questions raised from the audience that evening, one was addressed to Lisa. I found my grip on the microphone tightening when a woman in a front row asked in a clear but amusing voice if Lisa has a daughter, how she would like to raise her.

BAC 4I had brought up the subject in a different manner under different circumstances to her before, mostly when I got frustrated with her. I would say I wish her children would do to her what she had done to me. Lisa would laugh, telling me not to worry because she wouldn’t have any child. “Too much work,” she’d say.

I was eager to hear what she had to say to a question seriously and friendly presented.

Typical to Lisa, she joked about it: “Screw up our linear parents who have got liberal arts and communication degrees, because my daughter is going to get an engineer degree.”

The audience erupted in laughter.

“Sounds like a real Chinese mother,” I interrupted, unable to refrain from bing sarcastic.

BAC1Lisa turned serious after a good laugh. She shared her mortifying experience of starting school in New York City and was being made fun of, and how that had made her want to fit in, at the expense of shedding her origin.

“I think as our world continues to evolve and globalize, immigrants don’t look at this country of opportunity in the same capacity any more,” she continued. “You recognize your heritage and realize you need to capitalize on that… So I’d like my children to speak six languages.”

The audience laughed again.

“Being Chinese is part of my heritage,” Lisa added. “It will be remiss and an incredible shame if they don’t feel about China the way I do.… In part because I was born there, just like America is an intricate part of who I am.”

I was very touched and pleased to hear her say that! If I were not concerned about embarrassing her, I would have leaned over to give her a hug right there and then on the stage.

I always enjoy doing Q & A with Lisa, despite having to watch more carefully what I say when she is around, because she loses no time to dispute what she doesn’t agree. Not only her insight and humor make the discussion more lively, but also that listening to her addressing to the audience, I can always gain a bit more understanding of her, and her, me.

Thank you all for giving us the opportunity of sharing our story and reaching a better understanding of each other.

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

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At AAS Conference

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

AAS ConferenceLast week, I attended part of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) conference in San Diego for a couple of days. One of the rare occasions where I saw more Asians than other ethnic group under one roof.

I was there for Mulberry Child movie. After spending weeks getting the Chinese subtitles ready and selecting a few episodes of “behind the scene” interviews for the premium DVD of the film, I was very excited to see the final package on display at the booth of China Classics, a distributor of Chinese classic literature and artwork at AAS conference. Wang, owner of the company, graciously agreed to showcase Mulberry Child at his booth when a mutual friend introduced us. He has been in the business of providing Chinese language materials to East Asian Studies libraries at universities across the U.S. for many years. I was impressed and pleased to see so many of his clients come to him to order books he carried. His booth must be the busiest one in the exhibition hall.

Over the period of a day and a half when I was at the exhibition hall, I met with more than 50 professors or librarians in East Asian Studies from universities around the world. Reportedly, more than 3,000 people attended this annual conference.

I was very encouraged by the interest in and positive response to Mulberry Child movie and the book. And more excitedly, upon my return to Chicago, I began to receive orders from universities via our website, which posted the sales of two different packages of Mulberry Child DVD to educational institutions.

I know Mulberry Child movie can serve as a very effective tool in courses on China’s history, women’s studies, and immigrant studies. And with the addition of Chinese subtitles, it can assist in the learning of Chinese language as well.

I look forward to the opportunity of reaching out to more students, professors, and librarians at universities in the coming months and want to thank those who have generously supported us, including Mr. Wang.

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. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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Curious and eager Chinese language students

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

I had the pleasure of working with the Confucius Institute in Chicago, and through them, giving talks about bringing Chinese culture into the classrooms of Chinese language studies at Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

CPS students listening to my talk about Chinese tea.

CPS students listening to my talk about Chinese tea.

CPS has one of the most successful Chinese language teaching programs in the U.S., with more than 13,000 students from elementary to high schools enrolled in the program. I started by giving workshops to Chinese language teachers at the Confucius Institute, providing tools and insights in integrating Chinese heritage and culture in their language teaching, and later, talking directly to students in different grades at CPS schools. I very much enjoyed the experience.

All the Chinese language teachers whom I’ve met, either native Chinese or Americans speaking fluent Chinese, are very enthusiastic about their mission. While a few have been teaching Chinese for years and accumulated a wealth of experience, most of the teachers are young and have started their teaching career not that long ago. Many of them have a heavy workload, teaching five classes of different levels nearly every day.

Students watched with great interest how tea is brewed and served.

Students watching with great interest how tea is brewed and served.

My talks included introducing Confucian ideologies, classic vernacular literature, Chinese folk arts, and tea culture to the teachers and students. Only when I started talking to students directly, did I realize how curious and eager they wanted to learn and how helpful it would be to make their language learning experience more enriched and fun by bringing more culture related content.

My latest 10 hours of presentations to students in various grades brought me a lot of joy and convinced me that more should be done in this front. These pictures here show how engaged the students were.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary movie and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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No Equality Yet

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

jobAt a recent lunch with Jane, an American woman executive in a large media company and Zhang, a Chinese male colleague, also in the media, we talked about women’s positions in China and the U.S.

I have always admired Jane and liked her enthusiasm, openness, and ready laughter, especially considering her high-pressure top management position in a fast-paced industry. I asked her how she managed her daily job since she always appeared calm and at ease.

She laughed.

“The busier I am, the more productive I am,” she said.

She added that she loved challenges and solving problems. She also acknowledged that it was not possible for a woman to get to her position before, stating that the changing times had enabled her to move up the corporate ladder.

Then Jane asked about women’s positions in China.

“Men and women are equal in China,” Zhang answered as I struggled to put my thoughts together.

I raised my eyebrows and stared at him.

pay“Well, when women apply for jobs, they usually don’t get hired as easily as men,” Zhang added after a pause. “That’s only because of the concern about women’s commitment to work,” he explained. “Once a woman starts a family and has a child, employers worry that her work would be interrupted. But once women are in the workforce, they receive equal treatment, with equal pay and salary increase.”

I doubted if Zhang realized the contradiction in his statement.

“I think women in China enjoy a much stronger position than their average counterparts in many other Asian countries,” I cut in. “But if you look at higher positions in the government or corporations, there are not that many women at all.”

With that said, I admitted that growing up in a family of strong women, and hearing Mao’s slogan that “women hold half the sky” all the time, I never sensed or was even aware of the discrimination against women until I entered the workforce and encountered discrimination first hand.

In the early 1980s, college graduates received assigned jobs. Mine was to handle the import and export of films at a large company in Beijing. But when I reported to work and revealed I was a woman, not a man as the company requested, they banished me to do film subtitle translations in a subsidiary. I fought four years in vain to change my job, and in the end, escaped to the U.S. to do my graduate studies.

“It was only after I came to the U.S. that I learned about feminism and realized how far women had come, both in the West and East,” I told Jane.

There is no doubt that women’s positions have been improving continuously since the ‘80s, both in China and the U.S. However, we still face many challenges when it comes to equality between men and women, and we still have a long way to go.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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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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President Hu’s Welcome Dinner in Chicago

Friday, January 21st, 2011

By Jian Ping

Supporters across the street from Hilton

Last night, China’s President Hu and his delegation attended a welcome dinner hosted by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. My daughter Lisa and I, along with 15 or so bi-lingual people, mostly members of Chicago Sister Cities International, provided help to the event at the request of the Mayor’s Office.

It was the first visit by China’s President and Mayor Daley stated it as a “big, big, big, big deal!”

President Hu gave his speech (I took the photo from a distance without using flash!)

I had the privilege to greet people at the entrance with a few others working at the event and saw the VIPs of Chicago arrive. I could see through the revolving entrance door that a large group of people standing behind the metal bars across Michigan Ave. were waving Chinese national flags, and a long “dragon” was dancing back and forth vigoriously, accompanied by drums, all in the bitter cold. I chatted with Yi, a Ph. D student from Purdue who carried a large camera, trying to capture President Hu entering the hotel. He said he came with 162 students from the University to extend their welcome to President Hu.

A policeman came in the lobby, his face flushed red from the cold.

“Could you tell me how to say ‘move on’ in Chinese?” he asked.

Lisa and I posing by the welcome banner

Qing Zhou Kai,” I said. He repeated several times until he got the pronounciation right. I watched him walk out, still saying the phrase aloud.

Shortly after 7 P.M., Mayor Daley accompanied President Hu to the Grand Ballroom where more than 500 guests gave them a standing welcome ovation. Daley gave a welcome speech in which he declared he wanted Chicago to be the friendliest city in the U.S. to Chinese companies, investments, and visitors. Hu gave a very upbeat talk as well, emphasizing bilateral relation, increased trade—both imports and exports, and mutual understanding between China and the U.S.

It turned out to be a very exciting evening and I’m glad I was there to witness and support it.  I’m so glad that today’s China is a world away from the China I grew up in.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. Visit www.mulberrychild.com, and 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.