Learning Chinese these past nine months has included more than simply reading, speaking, writing, and typing in Chinese. While all of these aspects are important, our Chinese teachers introduce many different activities to broaden our cultural knowledge of China and assist our learning. Throughout the fall and winter terms our teachers would teach us simple Chinese songs such as Lóng de Chuán Rén (Descendants of the Dragon) and Yuèliàng Dàibiǎo Wǒde Xīn (The Moon Represents My Heart) which we later performed for a Chinese New Year Celebration. On our Asia trip this year, we even sung these songs at karaoke and amused various shopkeepers in Shanghai. Occasionally, we will also watch Chinese movies in class. The last viewing was of Raise The Red Lantern, a Chinese tragedy set in the 1920’s of a young woman who marries a wealthy man as his fourth wife.
Another activity that our class is continually excited for is Tàijí (tai chi) lessons on Fridays. Gāo Lǎoshī (one of our many assistant teachers) leads us to the Park Blocks every Friday morning before regular lessons to teach us the feet, hand, leg, and torso movements of tàijí in incremental stages. At first we made lots of mistakes and had difficulty balancing in a few of the forms, but now as we continue to learn additional forms our movements are more controlled (though we still look to Gāo Lǎoshī for guidance).
Last week after our tàijí lesson we welcomed Chinese Calligrapher Mǎ Wèihuá (马魏华) to our class as he dictated (in Chinese) the theory and techniques of calligraphy. We all watched with fascination as he demonstrated his skill with incredible precision, holding his breath for the duration of a stroke. When it was our turn to attempt Chinese calligraphy, we realized just how difficult it was to even hold the calligraphy pen correctly. Instead of how you would normally hold a pencil, a calligraphy brush is grasped between the thumb, middle and index fingers to create a circular shape, then the ring and little fingers should rest behind the calligraphy brush. The result seems awkward at first, but it is much easier to create the desired lines with the calligraphy brush this way. After experimenting with writing our names and other simple Chinese characters, we displayed our work on the wall of the classroom alongside Hànzì homework.
Juli Tejadilla is a full-time student in the Masters of International Management program. She previously graduated with two Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and Studio Art from Linfield College. She hopes through the MIM program to learn key insights to conduct business internationally and to establish herself as a global citizen.