Multicultural on another level

Chinese Culture and “wen”…

This week I read several stories all relating to that of Chinese culture and each having a commonality in their theme: “wen” which is a term I had never heard before and has the potential for use in a classroom setting for learning. Before trying to justify my reasoning for the theme and getting into all the teaching stuff, let’s first touch on that weird word I mentioned. “Wen”, what is it and why is it being listed as a theme? The best way to describe “wen” is that it is the manifestation of nature. According to author Longxi who wrote the article What is Wen and why is it made so terribly strange “wen” is a huge part of what makes up the poetry and stories within Chinese culture. The best example I find of “wen” would be the two poems below. They both are very descriptive in relation to nature and compare nature to life as well. The Analects written by dear Confucius and The Story of Yingying written by Yuan Zhen are also great examples of readings that contain the theme of “wen”. So, it is settled then, “wen” aka nature is the common theme and easy to understand.

In the poem below Plums are Falling the “wen” is the seemingly flawless comparison between the plums and what appears to be suitors in the story being told here. If you read the poem below you will notice that as the plums fall from the tree so does the number of suitors that have come to marry the main character. In my opinion, the woman in the poem sounds hopeful. Do you pick up on that? As though she is hoping that one of the seven suitors could be her true love. I really liked this poem for the flawless way it explains her emotions with the carefully chosen words and the reflection of Chinese culture and Confucianism.

For the poem Thoughts while Travelling at Night by Du Fu, it also really reflects well the Confucianism and Chinese culture in the story. The theme of “wen” in this story is not easy to identify. I personally identify the theme of the story as his dreams in comparison to nature. What I assume is a man in the telling of this poems story seems as though he has high expectations in life and feels as if he is too old to gain success. What gave me a clue was when the storyteller says: “A gull between the earth and sky.” His expectations and success are stuck between him (the earth) and whatever goal (the sky) he is reaching toward.

For Confucius story of Analects (link below) there was a lot there to take in for me. In my opinion it wasn’t an easy read and with my 21st century way of thinking, perhaps that is where I struggled with it. In many of the different parts of Confucius’ Analects there were definite signs of “wen” such as how the Master sought answers from his disciples on what they wished for and one of the disciples said that he wanted to spend time with companions and friends. His time by the river relaxing with good people and good company. To me it’s fairly simplistic, but vivid nonetheless.

For my final story to discuss and review, I read The Story of Yingying by Yuan Zhen. Other than the story/poem Plums are Falling I really found immense interest in reading this one just as much. Though of course this being a full story there was so much there to read and understand. This story, first and foremost, does reflect well as a documentation of Chinese culture and jives well with Confucius writings. The entire story is about how a man named Zhang and a woman named Cui aka Yingying fell in love. It’s not the romantic happy ending time of love story though. The whole story started with Zhang saving Cui and her family from soldiers. At first Zhang’s advances of love on Cui were for nothing as she wasn’t interested. Per the suggestion of the made Zhang began writing love poems to Cui and I feel that is where the love started to blossom even though it wasn’t instant. The poems that were written definitely had that theme of “wen” (example poem below). Zhang writes to his love Cui that he will be awaiting her in the chambers (most like his room). When he says that he “awaits by the moon” it’s meaning by the window where the moonlight will show. This comparison in itself is “wen”. The story of course ends with the two lovers not ending up together as they marry other people.

This concept or theme of “wen” I feel interestingly has the capability to be useful in the classroom for learning purposes, as I earlier mentioned (third link mentioned below). The best way to use “wen” would be to integrate the students into nature. I suggest creating a lesson plan where you teach the students outside the school (on school grounds) where they can look around them, find a great spot to sit quietly with their peers, and write their own poem inspired by Chinese culture. Teachers are always trying to find great ways to engage their students and make learning fun. Pop culture references and elements is always one great way to help students engage in their learning. Young adults nowadays enjoy film, television, and comics, which are all different elements of pop culture. Having students make a short film or draw a comic whilst incorporating the theme and concept of “wen” is another great way to get their attention and teach them the lessons at hand.

Plums are Falling
From Classic of Poetry

Plums are falling,
seven are the fruits;
many men want me,
let me have a fine one.

Plums are falling,
three are the fruits;
many men want me,
let me have a steady one.

Plums are falling,
catch them in the basket;
many men want me,
let me be bride of one.

Thoughts while Travelling at Night
By Du Fu

Light breeze on the fine grass.
I stand alone at the mast.

Stars lean on the vast wild plain.
Moon bobs in the Great River’s spate.

Letters have brought no fame.
Office? Too old to obtain.

Drifting, what am I like?
A gull between the earth and sky.

Poem from The Story of Yingying
By Du Fu

I await the moon in the western chamber

Where the breeze comes through the half-opened door.

Sweeping the wall the flower shadows move:

I imagine it is my lover who comes.

Analects by Confucius

The Story of Yingying by Yuan Zhen

Ideas for pop culture in the classroom mentioned in the review text


© Donovan G. Ward

Multicultural Literature Review

Donovan Ward from CWP View All →

I am attending college online with Grand Canyon University (GCU) for an English Teaching degree for Secondary Education. The first question I was asked when I made the decision to embark on this journey to be a teacher was, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" My response: "It is not for the money." Regardless, I am looking forward to being a teacher and am on this blog as part of a college course. I have written (never published) books and poetry of all kinds and have a love for writing in general. I have never done a blog before so we will see how this goes. Let's do this!

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