Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lantern's Day

Today we celebrated Lantern's Day! The Lantern's Day in China is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar year, marking the last day of the Chinese New Year.  The fifteenth day is the first full moon of that lunar year. According to tradition, at the beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. At this time, people will try to solve riddles on lanterns, eat glutinous rice balls and enjoy a family reunion.
My friend in China went to see a huge lantern exhibit and sent me some photoes. These lanterns are gorgeous. Some from Taiwan are popular, like the transformer, two huge dragons and Taipei 101. I showed them another familar video of the sky lantern festival held last week in Taiwan. People wrote their wish on the lantern and let them fly. They shouted 2013, which sounds like "love you all my life" in Chinese.

I had planned a paper lantern craft, but they want to make a lantern that can be lighted up. I made the lantern frame for them and laminated it, so the light can come out. They designed their own lanterns, drawing snake, panda, flower, butterfly, etc. Look at these lovely lanterns!  

I asked them to light the candle at night and sent me a photo. Here is one:
They told me they want to go to China on a Lantern's Day to see the huge lanterns, a full moon and eat the rice ball.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

R is for rùn 闰 (leap year)

We have an exciting science lesson today! It's about the traditional Chinese calendar - lunar calendar, which is based on the phases of the Moon.
In lunar calendar, a lunar month is the time between two new moons or full moons, which is 29.5 days. I showed them a video by history channel about moon phases and demonstrated with globe, flashlight and a pingpong ball as the moon.
So why does Chinese New Year fall on different days each year? Because Chinese look at the moon. Winter solstice is on 21st or 22nd of December. This is the shortest day in the northern hemisphere. The second new moon after winter solstice is the first day of Chinese new year. The next full moon is the last day of Chinese new year, which is the Lantern Festival.

Look at these two moon phases calendar in Jan. and Feb. of 2013:

The shortest day in 2012 is Dec. 21st. The first diagram shows that the first new moon after Dec. 21st is Jan. 11th, 2013 and the second one shows the second new moon is on Feb. 10th, which is the first day of Chinese New Year. The next full moon, which is on Feb. 25th, is the last day of Chinese New Year, which is the Lantern Festival. 
So today's class is actually about lunar calendar, not about leap year. The calculation of leap year would be too hard for them. The essential question for today's class is how moon changes. We did a fun craft to demonstrate moon phases. They used yellow paper to represent sun, red strips as light, a green circle as the earth and black and white as moon phases.
I ask them to observe the moon on Feb. 25, which is the last day of Chinese New Year, and see if the moon is big and round, because that day is a full moon.
I love Chinese way to determine the calendar, which is more correct in terms of seasons. In China, we never say Chinese New Year. Instead, we call it Spring Festival. Because the second new moon after the winter solstice is the beginning of spring.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My birthplace - Beijing 北京

There is so much information about Beijing, the capital of China, and the place Ellis grew up before she joined her parents. She still remember her favorite nanny, the playground with slide, and even which nanny woke her up every moring.
The Great Wall of China is a must when one visits Beijing. They feel very proud that the Great Wall is the biggest man-made structure in the world. When I told the class Great Wall was built by hand over 2000 years ago, they realized how old the wall is. 
The other tourist destination they may find related is the Temple of Heaven. Many of them visited the Epcot of Disney World before and saw a replica of the Temple of Heaven in the China Park. The Temple was built in Beijing in 1406 for Emperors to pray for a good year of harvest.  
I also mentioned 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and showed them the pictures of the Stadium and the new look of Beijing. I want them to see the other side of this metropolitan city, modern, crowded and fast-pacing.  

We built two sections of Great Wall! It's not an easy thing. The bricks are light and hard to stack on, but they enjoyed it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Q is for qí páo 旗袍

Every girl needs a Qipao! Qipao or cheongsam is one-piece Chinese dresses which were first worn by the Manchu women during the late Qing Dynasty (late 19th C.).Qipao features high collar, fabric buttons, slits and is usually made of silk, silk brocade or satin and featured intricate embroidery.
I showed them how Qipao transformed from wide and baggy style to the modern variations of bell sleeves or be sleeveless and are made out of a variety of fabrics. From photoes of Qipao, kids find out there are several patterns often shown on Qipao: peony symbolizes richness and prosperity; Chriysanthemum symbolizes longevity; Fish is a symbol of prosperity; Dragon symbolizes supreme power; Phoenix is a symbol of beauty and purity. 
It's time to design a Qipao! I gave them stickers, shining pieces, etc. They drew necklace, buttons, even the arm and legs! Lovely!