China - Culture

Guiding Questions

1. What characterizes "Chinese art"?

2. The Google Art Project  as collected hundreds of works of art from around the world and made them available to all who have access to the internet. How can you utilize these resources in your classroom?

3. Which intercultural cues are especially important to be aware of prior to traveling to China?

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  • Chinese art is interesting in the fact it represents the grown and change of different time periods of the Chinese Culture. In painting itself, we see history to comes to life and when we look back to examine the works in the Google Art project, we see that early works actually were produced by anonymous artists, but then as time went on, works were made with more pride and made for the emperors and higher member of the courts. Being able to use the Google Art Project in order to pin point how in America/English Culture, it also develops in a similar way would be an eye opener to some elementary students who think all of our cultures are totally different, but in reality we have many of the same foundations.
    Calligraphy is an example of pride in ones work as writing in Chinese art is considered a fine art and it was known to reveal the character of the writer. After participating in learning to do Calligraphy at the February workshop, my appreciation for it is higher and I feel I can explain it better to my students and bring them to understand the simplistic art of the writing while also seeing how stories come to life in a dramatic fashion.
    Looking at the instruments and how music has developed over history, it interests me how past instruments were very simple yet used to pull the listeners into the feeling of the players and bring to life a setting that is imagined in the players head. Also, to be able to compare the western musical scale to the Chinese musical scale with my students would be a great discussion to start in the classroom. Why are they missing Fa and Ti? Was it because the instrument could not produce those sounds or is it more of tradition to not have those sounds? Exploring the differences would bring a more global understanding on how we all connect in the arts.
  • Chinese culture, the arts in particular, seems rooted in the past. Rather than breaking from tradition like many Western artists have done, Chinese artists seem to reinterpret those traditions in light of their contemporary concerns. Design (objects, clothing, musical instruments) seems to have more significant role than in many Western traditions. Humility and restraint seem to be important cultural characteristics to be aware of as we get ready for travel.
    • Certainly. Though I do think that globalization and the widespread nature of Western influence may definitely be changing this (ex: the heavy presence of U.S. companies like Disney and food chains like KFC, McDonalds, Starbucks, and even U.S. music genres like hip hop!)
  • The most obvious characteristic of Chinese art is the absence of realism. It hints at what is real, but allows the observer to feel the reality in their own personal perception of the art.
    • This is an interesting point, Crystal. I wonder to what extent Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution of the 60s and 70s influenced realist art (or the lack thereof) in China.
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Music - 音乐

Chinese Opera - Chinese, or Peking opera, also known as Beijing opera, is a complicated Chinese stage art which combines performances, acrobatics, music, arias, gongs, drums, facial paintings and many other features. For more information about Chinese Opera, check out Cultural Heritage of China

Teresa Teng - Possibly the most famous Chinese singer out there, 邓丽君 started singing professionally as a teenager in the 1960s and her career stayed strong until she died at age 42 in 1995. She’s known for romantic ballads and folk songs. Although most of her songs were covers, her interpretation of many songs is still the most recognized version.

Jay Chou - Jay Chou broke into the Taiwanese music scene in 2000, and is part of the younger generation of pop stars. Like other Chinese pop singers, he has a stable base of popular romantic ballads, but unlike many pop stars, he also has many songs that address societal issues like urban sprawl, drug addiction and domestic violence. He writes most of his own music but works with songwriters to craft the lyrics, generally speaking. His style is more rap or spoken word than melodic.

Calligraphy 书法

For more information about calligraphy, check out the China Online Museum and the Asian Art Museum's online educator resources (free downloadable pdf found here).

Featured Film - 电影

Winner of the Golden Lion for Best Film at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, Jia Zhangke’s Still Life is not so much a film as it is a philosophical treatise, one that gazes at the impossible transformation of China in the past decade with such languid intensity that it is impossible to look away. 
Set in Fengjie, one of the areas most affected by the building of the Three Gorges Dam, the narrative follows two wandering interlopers from Shanxi – a coalminer and a housewife – who are separately looking for their long-lost spouses: a mail-order bride and a budding property developer. Jia’s lingering representations are an effigy of a city in the process of its own destruction, and an ode to memory against a changing landscape. To hold on to the past, Jia suggests, is not an act of defiance but simply a human need.

Art - 艺术

Google Art - China Gallery

Google has partnered with 15 different museums to bring Chinese art exhibits alive and to the masses. Users can zoom in and interact with the art. Most pieces are paired with in-depth explanations. Some even come with sound clips. 

Freer-Sackler Gallery - Digitized Chinese Art Collection

Artsy is an extensive online resource for art collecting and education. Check out their section on Contemporary Chinese Art, which houses hundreds of works from current artists including Zhang Huan, Ai Wei Wei, and Zeng Fanzhi. This site boasts a huge gallery of Chinese propaganda posters from 1925 through today.  

Dance - 跳舞

Chinese Folk Dance, China Highlights

Articles & Essays

Young Lives in New China, China File, March 27, 2017

Chinese New Year 2017 Pictures: Millions Across The World Celebrate The Year Of The Rooster, International Business Times, January 30, 2017

Music and Art of China - The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Marvel superheroes get reimagined as Chinese opera characters by Jonathan Keshishoglou, Mashable

Boom Times for Chinese Opera by Sheila Melvin, The New York Times

Hollywood on the Yellow Sea by Whilly Shih and Henry McGhee, The Atlantic, December 2015

Five Myths About Chinese Contemporary Art by Alexandre Errera, Forbes, January 21, 2014


Intercultural Topics

Cultural Dimension - Geert Hofstede is the pioneer for cultural dimensions theory, a framework for cross-cultural communication.  It describes the effects of a society's culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behavior, using a structure derived from factor analysis. Click on the link to explore the drivers of Chinas culture relative to other world cultures.

13 Chinese customs that are shocking to foreigners by Talia Avakian, Forbes, September 3, 2015

Lesson Plans & Resources

Full lessons on ancient art in China on Khan Academy from the Neolithic period through the Ming Dynasty

Taoism & The Art of China - The Art Institute of Chicago (More background on Taoism and Chinese art found here from Asian Art Museum Online)

A Lesson Plan for Chinese New Year with Props - Kid World Citizen

VIF International: Compare and Contrast Cultural Fairytales "Yeh Shen" and "Cinderella" Students will identify the story elements in “Yeh-Shen” and “Cinderella” and compare and contrast the two fairy tales. Students will create and perform puppet shows based on one of the two fairy tales and then will record and edit video of their performances.

Chinese Calligraphy - Asia for Educators

Arts of Ancient and Traditional China: Bronze Bells - Primary Source (suggested for grades 2-6)