Children of Hangzhou
Study areas: China, Youth, Chinese Culture
The best way for children and teenagers to understand the similarities and differences between their own culture and another is to meet someone their own age from that culture. Study abroad, student exchanges, and home stays are too expensive for many young people, so video diaries are excellent alternatives for students. Created by the Boston Children's Museum as a supplement to their traveling exhibition, Children of Hangzhou: Connecting with China, the DVD of the same name is a wonderful way to help Americans learn about the daily life of young people in China. The bilingual DVD introduces four teens: Doudou, a 12-year-old girl; Weicheng, a 14-year old boy; Quanyun, a 16-year old girl; and Gangzheng, a 15-year-old boy, as guides to life in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, located on the southeast coast of China.
Hangzhou is a fortunate choice for setting since it is a modern city adjacent to beautiful rice-growing countryside. Each vignette thus explores traditional Chinese culture against the backdrop of contemporary life. Doudou (a nickname) visits her grandparents on their farm outside Hangzhou, where she helps her grandfather plant rice and her grandmother create crafts. Weicheng is shown in his modern apartment helping prepare “long-life” noodles and tea shrimp for his grandmother's birthday celebration. Qianyun is a student at the Zhejiang Professional Art School, where she is studying traditional Chinese opera. Her parents are both professional Chinese opera performers. Gangzheng invites the viewer to his ninth grade class, where they are studying the abacus, and to a basketball game after school.
Although the teens’ lively personalities offset this somewhat, the film does focus on exotic and traditional activities, reinforcing some stereotypes about China. For example, although Gangzheng's math teacher is shown teaching the abacus, most math classes in China today look very much like their American counterparts, with students using calculators. Students do study the history of Chinese opera in high school, but it is likely that most spend more time listening to rock and roll.
The accompanying glossary, facilitator’s guide and pronunciation guide are quite useful and should be reviewed before viewing the video. For example, the two sets of grandparents in the videos have different kinship terms of reference and address based upon whether they are related through the father or mother, an important distinction in Chinese culture. The printable activities for students look tasty and/or simple to make and can be adjusted for students of different ages. Unfortunately, the Bonus Material section in which Qianyun shows the stylized movements of Chinese opera is misleadingly labeled "Chinese Dance Demonstration."
While the DVD can be viewed with any video player, this is a hybrid DVD-ROM containing interactive content created for a computer with a DVD drive, including:
Although the videos do not correct all the stereotypes about China, the children from Hangzhou are natural, open, and inviting. In their daily activities, the old and new coexist easily, allowing the viewer to see how the children's lives reflect a culture modern yet uniquely Chinese.
Children of Hangzhou is Available from Cheng and Tsui.
Cheng & Tsui offers both Language Lab (Lab) and Individual (Ind) versions of their software and audio learning materials. Lab versions are specifically for use in a language laboratory or classroom setting, and include a site license. Teachers may offer the lab version to multiple students in a language lab, or in the classroom. Individual versions of software and audio learning materials are for individual use only and duplication is prohibited. There is no difference in the material for Individual and Language Lab versions.
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Last Updated: October 17, 2011