Peking Opera

Trip Start Jun 15, 2007
Trip End Jul 24, 2007

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Someone must have heard me -- courses at BNU took a turn for the better after my last posting.
Since Tuesday we have had a number of professors who pay more attention to pedagogy and teacher-student interaction than the previous instructors.  In addition to the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentations (they call it "PPT" all the time), a couple of younger professors finally realized that WE could contribute to the presentation.  One week into the training course I finally heard the voices of my classmates.  Contrary to what I imagined, most of them have the right idea about language teaching and have been practicing a lot of active learning in their classrooms.  The interaction in the classroom can be better enhanced with more projects or group work, but the fact that the professors care to listen to us is a much-welcomed change from last week!
The best class I have had, though, is not about language teaching.  It was the presentation on Peking Opera.  The presenter, Mr. Wu, is a young and energetic teacher at BNU's Experimental High School.  He managed the materials and time very well and mixed demonstration with practice with just the right amount to keep us interested.  I have to admit, I have never been a fan of Peking Opera.  It is not an art that I can easily relate to mainly because the dialogs are delivered in an unfamiliar rhythm.  However, I recall a budding interest in college when I learned that Bertolt Brecht, the German playwright, adapted some of stage techniques in his writing of Mother Courage and the Caucasian Chalk Circle.  Funny it took an outsider's perspective to open my eyes to something that I had been taking for granted. 
After the presentation Ben and I chatted with Mr. Wu.  He looks no older than 30 years old.  Clean cut and medium built, he was wearing a traditional Chinese shirt that immediately conveys his love for Chinese art.  During the presentation he had a folded fan in his hand.  Apparently he did the painting and calligraphy on the fan, both of which are very elegant.  However, to me he looks too young to be a Peking Opera lover.  Despite what the westerners think about China, young people don't really practice Tai Chi, nor do they know anything about Peking Opera.  Mr. Wu took an interest in Peking Opera only because he was raised by his grandparents, who used to listen to it all the time.  Mr. Wu lamented that Peking Opera is an "endangered art," especially after the Cultural Revolution "uprooted" what was considered China's essence: Confucius, calligraphy, Peking Opera.  I was glad to tell him that the Peking Opera has survived and continued to develop in Taiwan since 1949.  I'm not surprised that in China there is a revival of classical literature, including the works of Confucius, Lao Zi, Journey to the West, etc.  China's economic boom has made the Chinese to consider their "Chineseness" in the globalized world.  The Cultural Revolution left a blank cultural chapter on the psyche of the generation that grew up during the 60's and 70's.  Now they want the pages filled.
I finally feel that I have actually learned something.  Let's hope the rest of the course is at least half as good as the Peking Opera course.
Countdown to departure: 13 days
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