Beauty, Wisdom, Elegance, Charm, Harmony
Culture is a huge word and contains a variety of aspects such as language, social customs, habits, arts, music, drama, literature, religion and values.
For the beginner of Chinese culture I am going to introduce 5 characters and recommend 10 books for a start.
All the books that are mentioned can be found in the IST library collection.
1. 美 Beauty
Tan Gudnason, Jessica, et al. Chinese Opera. New York: Abbeville Press, 2001.
The Chinese opera’s roots extended back to the Tang Dynasty. The most famous Chinese opera is京劇. Beijing opera is a form of traditional Chinese theatre which combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. The form was extremely popular in the Qing Dynasty court and has come to be regarded as one of the cultural treasures of China.
Chinese Opera offers glimpses of the history and highlights of Beijing and other opera traditions. The authors want to share their appreciation and love of this classical art with readers.
WL CHI 720 LOC BL
Wang, Luxiang, et al. Shen Ren Gong Ju (Xizang) = Living with Deities They Worship (Tibet). Hangzhou : Zhejiang People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 2000.
神人共居 (西藏) Living with Deities They Worship(Tibet) gives you a brief picture of Tibetan vernacular architecture. Four other books in the same series (Local Structures in China) are also available from the IST library collection.
Wu, Wen, and Shuming Sun. Ancient Sculpture. Culture of China. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2002.
This is a collection of sculptures from different dynasties of ancient China. Though the size of the book is small it provides a visual feast of works of art in stone, clay, metal and wood
2. 智 Wisdom
Confucius and Lao Tzu were two great philosophers in the history of China. Their theories are prominent in Chinese thought and have been followed by Chinese people for thousands of years. The following quotes are selected from their master works.
上善若水 “The highest good is like that of water. The goodness of water is that it benefits the ten thousand creatures; yet itself does not scramble, but is content with the places that all men distain. It is this that makes water so near to the Way” (Lao Tzu).
君子和而不同 “The Master said, The true gentleman is conciliatory but not accommodating. Common people are accommodating but not conciliatory ” (Confucius).
Confucius. The Analects. Trans. Arthur Waley. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1938.
WL CHI 299.5 LAO BL
Lao Tzu. Tao Te Jing. Trans. Arthur Waley. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 1998.
3. 雅 Elegance
琴棋书画 Qin Qin Shu Hua (music, chess, calligraphy and painting) are considered “the four arts”. In ancient China a learned scholar was accomplished in these “four arts”.
WL CHI 895.1 SEL BL
Trans. Xu, Yuanchong. Jing Xuan Shi Jing Yu Sh Yi Hua = Selections from the Book of Poetry (Illustrated edition). Beijing: China Intercontinental Press, 2006.
Chinese painting and poetry are high cultural achievements. This book is a perfect combination of these two forms of arts. Two other books from the same series can also be found in the IST library.
Shi, Bo. Between Heaven and Earth: A History of Chinese Writing. Boston: Shambhala, 2003.
The characters used in Chinese writing are not letters but stylized ideographs, each with its own history. In Between Heaven and Earth: a History of Chinese Writing master, calligrapher Shi Bo gives a fascinating overview of the evolution of seven seminal Chinese writing styles starting as far back as the 17th century BC. He also introduces the reader to the calligrapher’s art, including its materials and techniques.
4. 韻 Charm
Young, Ed. Beyond the Great Mountains: A Visual Poem About China. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005.
Ed Young, Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator, was born in Tianjin. His illustrations and writing are full of Chinese flavor. All Ed Young’s award honor and winner books can be found in the IST library collection. Take a look at Beyond the Great Mountains and enjoy the beautiful verse and meaningful illustrations. All Ed Young’s award honor and winner books can be found in the IST library collection.
5. 和 Harmony
Yang, Gene Luen, and Lark Pien. American Born Chinese. New York: First Second, 2006.
Many Chinese people believe that everything in the universe can be explained as a balance between yin and yang. Yang represents energy and light and is a male force. Yin, the opposite of yang, is still, dark, and female. Many aspects of Chinese culture try to keep this balance and Chinese people generally try to find harmony within themselves and with others in all sides of their lives.
American Born Chinese, alternates three interrelated stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans trying to participate in the popular culture. The culture conflict is conquered by the inner harmony at last.
Demi. Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2006.
Su Dongpo is an illustrated biography of Su Dongpo, Chinese poet, civil engineer, and statesman, whose appreciation for nature and justice were evident in his works and led him to experience both triumph and adversity in eleventh-century China.
Demi, award winning author and illustrator, has traveled extensively and studied art in Mexico, India, and China. She holds a special place in her heart for Chinese culture and her books of Chinese stories and culture are highly recommended.
For more examples see also Yancy. “10 Things Related to Chinese Literature.” Web log post. Goodreads. 2 Feb. 2010. Web.