You are here

China in Three Words

1 post / 0 new
Anonymous (not verified)
Anonymous's picture
China in Three Words

China in Three Words
A curriculum project for the USC-China Institute Residential Seminar 2014
Submitted on August 26, 2014

Charles Donelan
Laguna Blanca School
Santa Barbara, CA

Target audience: English/World Literature classes in grades 10-12, AP English Language and Composition, AP Literature, AP World History

Time required: Three class sessions, each approximately an hour long, or two 40-minute classes and an eighty-minute block period.

Homework: Total reading for the unit includes three chapters from China in Ten Words (2011) by Yu Hua. Chapter 6 “Geming—Revolution,” (29 pages); Chapter 9, “Shanzhai—Copycat” (22 pages); and Chapter 10, “Huyou—Bamboozle” (22 pages).

Content and skills outcomes: A familiarity with contemporary Chinese history, especially the Cultural Revolution and the current period of rapid economic growth; exposure to and first steps in learning the Chinese language, both spoken and written; comparative rhetoric; analysis of culture through the identification of key words; decrease of the initial barriers of strangeness and feelings of being overwhelmed that English speakers can have when faced with Chinese language and culture; exploration of comparative language issues, including the difference between logographic (Chinese) and alphabetic (English) writing systems

Class 1, “Geming”
革命 gé mìng revolution / revolutionary (politics)
Read pages 113-141 in Yu Hua’s China in Ten Words. Then write or type the answers to the following questions and bring them to class.

Research questions. Keywords include Cultural Revolution, Great Leap Forward
1. What happened to Chinese schools during the 1960s?
2. Define “revolution” in a world historical context using at least two other examples.
3. Describe the impact of the Cultural Revolution in China on existing social institutions such as the professions (law, medicine, teaching) and the family.

Reading questions.
1. Why does Yu Hua think the revolution in China continues today? What does he mean when he says that?
2. How does he make his case for this observation? What kind of evidence does he use?
3. What function does his brother Xu Hua serve in the argument? How do you feel about Xu Hua’s use of revolution as a rhetorical strategy for justifying his actions?

Class work for Class 1, “Geming”
Working in small groups, students spend the first ten minutes of class comparing their homework answers and discussing the main points of Yu Hua’s essay on “geming.” Teacher moves from group to group, looking for strong answers to the HW questions and reading them aloud.
After ten minutes, each group gets a large piece of paper and a Sharpie to inscribe the two Chinese characters that signify “geming.” They then have twenty minutes to cover the rest of the “large character poster” with any of the following.
--Quotes from the Yu Hua essay,
--strong answers from the HW assignment,
--riffs on the topic of revolution, and
--images that suggest aspects of the concept “revolution.”

Follow up for Class 1, “Geming”
Students post their finished “large character posters” in the classroom and photograph them for use as class notes.
End of first session.

Class 2, “Shanzhai”
Homework for Class 2, “Shanzhai”
Read pages 181-202 in China in Ten Words and answer the following questions. Research questions will involve using the internet. Textual Questions may be answered by referring to the book.
Begin your homework by copying the characters for the Chinese word “shanzhai” and writing out the definition as below.
山寨[font='Arial Unicode MS','Arial'] [/font]shānzhài copycat
Then write or type the answers to the following questions and bring them to class.

Research questions. Keywords include pirate, bootleg, copyright, knock-off
1. What is the most common category of shanzhai?
2. In a shanzhai performance, what’s the difference between imitation and parody?
3. Search online for shanzhai architecture in China. Do we have anything like it in the US?

Reading questions.
1. Yu Hua writes that shanzhai “has more of an anarchist spirit than any other word in the contemporary Chinese language.” What does he mean?
2. Who is the symbol of the “Harvard” brand smartphone?
3. What is positive for China about shanzhai, according to Hua?

Class work for Class 2, “Shanzhai”
Follow instructions as in Class 1, first comparing homework answers, and then creating Large Character posters for shanzhai in groups. Make sure to include quotes from the essay, answers from the HW, riffs on the topic of pirate goods, and images that suggest aspects of copycat culture.

Follow up for Class 2, “Shanzhai”
Post and photograph new set of large character posters as before.

Class 3, “Huyou”
Homework for Class 3, “Huyou”
Read pages 203-225 in China in Ten Words and answer the following questions. Begin your homework by copying the characters for “huyou” and writing out the definition below.
忽悠 huyou bamboozle
Then write or type the answers to the following questions and bring them to class.

Research questions.
1. Who is Zhao Benshan? What did he do that is associated with huyou?
2. Look up the five English words in the following list that are least familiar to you: boast, exaggerate, puff, bluster, mendacity, casuistry, flippancy, mischief, chicanery, prank, shenanigans
3. What do we have in the US that resembles the Chinese culture of huyou?

Reading questions.
1. When Yu Hua writes “huyou throws a cloak of respectability over deception and manufactured rumour,” what does he mean?
2. What did the Bidding King do? How did that work out for him?
3. What was Yu Hua’s great moment of huyou when he was a child?

Class work for Class 3, “huyou”
Create the final set of large character posters, this time on the theme of huyou. Include quotes, answers from the HW, riffs on the idea of bamboozling, and images that reflect aspects of huyou culture.

Follow up for Class 3, “Huyou”
Choose the best two or three posters from each class and post them around the school. Create an announcement and an instruction sheet inviting other students to learn Chinese characters and create their own large character posters. Make a list of potential words that includes and also goes beyond the remaining ten in Yu Hua’s book.

Final assessment
Write a 500-word essay on one of the three Chinese words we studied. Use the word and Yu Hua’s ideas about it as the point of departure for an argument about the significance of this particular term. Will it become more important internationally as time goes on? What words in English carry similar cultural impact?