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"YingHua in Beijing" Summer Program Announcement

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by Liao,Bonnie on 2010-10-15

Today was another day on campus and was once again cool and cloudy.  Morning exercise began at 6:55 with a running at Chao Yang Park.  Liao Laoshi encouraged the students to run the mile loop, and was delighted to see that almost every student tried it.  One of our goals is that every student will be able to run this loop by the end of the program.
After breakfast we had a morning of classes, followed by a wonderful noodle lunch.  Then we gathered in at 1:30 for our second lesson in Chinese painting, which was much more hands-on than the first lesson.  The master painter who taught the class does not speak English so all of the instruction was given in Mandarin—a wonderful opportunity for students to practice their listening comprehension and increase their vocabulary (the teacher was great about writing terms on a white board).  Shannon also translated some of the more important points so that students of all levels could better understand the content of the lesson.  The instructor began by introducing students to the main subjects of traditional Chinese painting: renwu, huaniao, shanshui, dongwu, shuiguo, yuchong (literary personages, flowers and birds, landscapes, animals, fruit, and fish).  He then introduced three different styles of painting:  gongbihua (realism with attention to detail in formalized ways), xieyihua (impressionistic or freehand), and bangongbanxie (half realist, half impressionistic).  He then put a piece of paper on the white board and said that today he would paint and the students could follow along.
Your children were very excited to begin painting.  He instructed them to put just a bit of paint on the tips of their brushes, and after showing them how to hold the brush, he began painting the outlines of two flowers in black ink.  The petals were very detailed, and from the start it was apparent that some of your children would much rather paint free-hand than follow formal structures!  As I walked around the room observing and watching everyone deeply absorbed in the task at hand, I was struck by how detailed each of these outlines were, yet how varied despite the fact that all were presumably following the instructor’s lead.  Clearly there were differences in the way each student perceived these formal lines.  After the outlines were done, students were then instructed to add yellow dots and strokes within the lines to fill in the petals, then to shadow the black outlines with red.  Passing one table, I marveled at how David, Haoran, Victoria and Max’s flowers really began to look like flowers, though each painting was very different from the others.  Students were then instructed on how to add leaves and stems with thicker and somewhat textured brush strokes. The final touch was the addition of two flying fish—one black, the other red—to the lower left quadrant of the painting.  The teacher then chose Lauren’s painting as a model painting to display in front of the class.
When you talk to or email your child, you may want to ask what it was like to copy the steps of a master painter.  Was it challenging to be asked to follow a strict form and not paint freely?  What does your child think one can learn from being encouraged to follow a strict form, and how does this differ from being encouraged to think originally and creatively?  Which does your child prefer in his or her learning?
We completed our painting lesson close to 3:00 and the students had a bit of a break before gathering again at 3:30 for more Chinese yo-yo lessons.  I am truly impressed with your children’s stamina at playing and practicing with Chinese yo-yos.  Some of them are getting quite good!  The Philips are at the point now where they can toss a yo-yo back and forth to one another and sometimes catch it (I don’t recommend passing by them without ducking!).  Max has learned a number of gorgeous tricks tossing the yo-yo very high and successfully catching it, winning style points for his crossing of the strings before tossing the yo-yo in succession.  David is one heck of a focused yo-yo student and is perfecting his technique, but also very generously took a pause today to help untangle the knots in Zhou Zhou’s yo-yo string.  I received a very clear and helpful set of pointers from Victor today who has now formally declared that I have “mastered the basic steps” and am now ready to move on to learning a trick or two under his instruction!  Shannon and Lionel both are go-to student-instructors and have also been generously sharing their accumulated skill with the younger campers.  Rebecca and Fei Fei are almost as careful about learning the yo-yo basics as they are about keeping their yo-yo’s in pristine shape (I think they are they only campers who actually bathe their yo-yos after each outdoor use).  And Benoit is the picture of elegant risk-taking, quickly mastering one trick after another, much to the instructor’s delight.
The yo-yos kept students entertained until 5:00, at which point we wrapped things up and went back to our rooms to prepare for dinner.  Tonight we had a special dinner planned: we walked to a nearby restaurant and students were seated at table of 3 or 4 and given 25 yuan each to order their own family-style meals together.  They had such a great time doing this!  They were on their own with the ordering from start to finish, including settling the bill with the wait staff.  Elaine, Rebecca and Fei Fei’s table had 75 yuan between them and I was impressed to see they came in at 68 yuan and had very full bellies.
We wrapped out day up with a lesson from Lionel on Chinese Go (weiqi)—a traditional Chinese mind strategy game.  After an initial introduction, students were paired up and were given small boards and pieces and Lionel circulated among the students offering tips on rules and strategies.  Lionel was the U.S. champion for youth a few years ago and also did very well in the World Mind Game Olympics in Beijing.  The students learned a great deal in their forty-five minutes of play.
Tomorrow we have an early morning with an all-day outing scheduled for the Great Wall.  We’re looking forward to the hike with your children.
Best from Beijing,

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