Category Archives: Asian Heritage Month

May Is Asian Heritage Month!

May Is Asian Heritage Month!

05.15.2013

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Today I was reminded how important it is to learn about and honour one’s own heritage and culture. As a Canadian-born Filipina, married to a Salvadorean man with children whose identities are split in a diversity of language and customs, it’s especially important to pass on a knowledge and attitude of both cultural pride, understanding, and inclusivity.

The month of May is a great opportunity for me personally to share my Asian heritage with my children.

While we speak English in the home to correspond with what my son and daughter are learning in school, they are also exposed to hearing three Filipino dialects (Tagalog, Kapampangan, and Pangasinan) and El Salvadorean Spanish from their grandparents.

Our food menu at home is as eclectic as our music ranging from rice, egg, and longanisa for breakfast, to tortillas, pupusas, and beans for dinner; to sad and slow Filipino ballads to the feisty rhythms of Salvadorean folk.

And our traditional wear is not only visible during special occasions such as weddings and religious observances, but worn with cultural pride.

Today, my son’s school celebrates Cultural Day in the spirit of Asian Heritage Month. He was excited to be able to wear his Barong Tagalog, a Filipino long-sleeved shirt made out of piña fabric, worn by boys and men usually for formal occasions. My daughter does not own her own Filipina traditional wear such as a Mestiza gown, so she wore a Salvadorean poncho instead to represent her father’s Latino heritage.

Michael in the Filipino traditional menswear, the Barong. Mercedes in a Salvadorean poncho. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Michael in the Filipino traditional menswear, the Barong. Mercedes in a Salvadorean poncho. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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As a Filipina, here are some of my recommendations on the taste of Filipino culture found in some of my cultural favourites:

1. Pancit Bihon

Pancit Bihon is a traditional Filipino dish composed of very thin rice noodles, fried with soy sauce, patis (fish sauce), and a mix of chicken, sausage, cabbage, and assorted chopped vegetables. It is usually cooked for large gatherings and especially made for birthdays in the traditional belief that the length of its noodles symbolize long life for the birthday celebrant.

Pancit Bihon
Pancit Bihon

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2. Longanisa

Longanisa is sweet, Filipino pork sausage that is first boiled and then fried, usually accompanied with egg and rice, and eaten at breakfast or dinner.

Longanisa
Longanisa

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3. Filipino Empanada

Filipino empanadas usually contain ground beef, pork or chicken, potatoes, chopped onions, and raisins in a sweet, flour pastry. They can be either baked or deep-fried and are a party favourite.

Filipino empanada
Filipino empanada

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4. Espasol

Espasol is one of my favourite Filipino desserts, a Filipino rice cake shaped in cylinder logs that originated from the province of Laguna and is made from rice flour and coconut milk, dusted with rice flour. It has a soft, subtly sweet, and chewy texture that compel me to always eat more than one! While the recipe is quite simple, its production is not. One wrong move and the Espasol is too dry or hard. But, if made correctly, mmm…what a treat!

espasol
Espasol

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5. Cassava cake

Filipino Cassava cake is made from grated cassava (Kamoteng Kahoy)  mixed  with coconut milk, eggs, butter and topped with a creamy, condensed milk. A person who can make a great cassava cake is highly respected in the Filipino household and community.

Cassava Cake
Cassava Cake

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6. Filipino Jeepney

The Filipino jeepney is one of the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines, which were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II. They are flamboyantly painted and decorated and have become a symbol of Philippine culture and art. Unlike the North American buses, which require you to push a button to ring for a stop, Filipino passengers bang the roof of the jeepney, yelling, “Para! Para! [Stop! Stop!]”.

Manila City, Philippines - Jeepney buses -  Photo by B.Henry.
Manila City, Philippines – Jeepney buses – Photo by B. Henry.

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7. Freddie Aguilar

I grew up listening to the Tagalog singing and guitar playing of Freddie Aguilar. Here’s one of my all-time favourite Filipino songs called, Anak:


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8. Illustrado by Miguel Syjuco

Illustrado is the winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize, published in 2010. It’s a story about the character, Miguel, a student who pieces together the story of his teacher’s life through his poetry, novels, and memoirs after his body is pulled out of the Hudson River. It tells of a rich and dramatic family saga of four generations, tracing a hundred and fifty years of Philippine history forged under the Spanish, the Americans, and the Filipinos themselves.

ILLUSTRADO by Miguel Syjuco
ILLUSTRADO by Miguel Syjuco

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In what ways are you celebrating Asian Heritage Month this May?

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zara alexis blog signature

The Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest Winners! 07.06.2012

The Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest Winners!

07.06.2012

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

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In honour of Asian Heritage Month in May, The Bibliotaphe’s Closet hosted The Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest from May to June.

While a number of submissions were made, it’s clear that there are many photography enthusiasts with a creative and instinctive eye, which truly made my job a difficult, but extremely enjoyable one in trying to choose a final winner.

So, rather than award only one winner with one book, I’ve decided to increase the number of winners to award a first place, second place, and third place standing for the contest with added prizes as opposed to the original post in consideration of the quality and creativity of the photos entered, which makes me want to throw cherry blossoms up in the air in celebration!

Pink sakura. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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The third place winner will receive a Chinese lucky coin packaged in a Chinese lucky red envelope and a jade elephant pendant.

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The second place winner will receive his or her choice of book listed for the contest from The Book Depository that is related to the cherry blossom theme as well as a Chinese lucky coin in a Chinese lucky red envelope and a green jade elephant pendant that will be separately mailed from me.

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And the first prize winner will receive his or her book of choice listed for the contest, a Chinese lucky coin with a Chinese lucky red envelope, a green jade elephant pendant, and a 50 mL glass bottle of Japanese Cherry Blossom Eau de Toilette from Bath and Body Works.

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For those of you who shied away from submitting a photo for this contest, don’t you wish you did? Not to worry. The photo entries and the process impressed me so much as an avid photographer myself that I’ve decided to host a periodical photo contest at The Bibliotaphe’s Closet on various topics. So, be sure to get your camera ready and click, click, click!

Now, for a kumi-daiko drum roll, please…

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Third Prize

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The photo awarded third prize goes to:

Staci A.

for her black and white submission of Two men talking in Chinatown.

Third Prize Winner: Two men talking in Chinatown. (c) Staci A., 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I chose this photo as a winner not only because of its black and white treatment, but because I especially love its visual story—the one that is told through the “unheard,” yet animated dialogue between the two Asian men against the backdrop of Chinatown. It’s a creative and raw depiction, layered with meaning.

Congratulations Staci on A job well done!

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Second Prize

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The photo awarded second prize goes to:

Jen F. of Perogies and Gyoza

for her submission of Cherry Blossom Shrine.

Second Prize Winner: Cherry Blossom Shrine. (c) Jen F., 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I chose this photo for its shy beauty and subtlety. It features both the cherry blossom and an Asian theme with the light sakura set against a shrine in Japan. I love the photo’s juxtaposition and the fact that the photo on a whole is not contrived. Jen saw beauty at an angle that was composed of both the blossom and Japanese architecture and took a shot that reveals her instinctive eye as a photographer.

The outcome? A simplicity and airy lightness that resounds both the delicacy and beauty of the sakura cherry blossom, which shyly hangs its flowers and flowering buds from the top and tip of the photograph to the traditional beauty and grace embedded in Japanese culture that is evoked by the architectural shrine, which stands firm on the ground as the base and backdrop of the photo. Even the stone head of the dragon, which was most likely unintentionally cut off at the bottom of the photo, peeks from the edge, hinting at the controlled, yet passionate decorum of majesty, pride, folklore, and tradition found within the beauty and heart of Japan.

Thank you, Jen, for submitting such a simple, yet evocative photo.

The visual story it tells is one that is both of beauty, art, and shy subtlety without its blatant attempt to do so, which is what I love about this photograph. Congratulations! I sincerely hope you enjoy your prizes. They are well deserved.

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First Prize

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And the photo awarded first prize goes to:

Justine L.

for her submission of Palace Doorway taken in Korea.

First Prize Winner: Palace Doorway. (c) Justine L., 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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I chose this photo for its beautiful Asian architecture as found in the detailing of the gate’s roof, its perfect centering, clarity, and colour—but especially for its movement and “image within an image” capture as told by the angle and context in which the photo was taken.

Its wide open gates first offer an outstretched invitation into the photograph that not only beckons, but calls out to its viewer, “Look at me. Come in. Welcome. There is a story here.”

The photo simultaneously depicts both an external and an internal place; a cohesive and symbiotic relationship as shown by its frame and context. There is the external space that is clearly defined by the viewer’s place outside the palace walls when first looking at the image.

But even though the photo and its palace walls are blatantly still, the viewer’s eyes are not only first caught into the outstretched arms of the green doors at the mouth its gates, but must travel further into the photograph to the tree gardens within the palace walls.

This movement is both natural, necessary, and enriches the photographic experience. For this, the “image within an image” is successfully portrayed and the intelligence and instinctive sensitivity of the photographer is clearly revealed.

Congratulations Justine on your exquisite capture of a significant part of Korea’s cultural architecture and history!

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Emails will be sent out shortly to all the winners who will need to acknowledge and confirm their win by responding to the notification.

A special thanks to all who participated in The Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest and for humbly submitting their creative and intuitive work.

I thoroughly enjoyed previewing all photos that were submitted and appreciate the work and creativity that were behind each one.

Until the next photo contest, may you capture the best visual stories behind your lens!

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What kind of thematic topics would you like to see featured in upcoming photo contests here at The Bibliotaphe’s Closet?

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Asian Heritage Month Ends with a Winner!

Asian Heritage Month Ends with a Winner!

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

May has come and gone and the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event is now over at The Bibliotaphe’s Closet.

It was not only an honour to feature different cultural aspects and literature about Asian places such as Japan, China, and Tibet, it was also a learning experience for me (and I’m Asian!).

Special post highlights for me were features on the geisha, the Tibetan language, and the various children’s books about Japan, China, Tibet, and Korea, and learning the translations of my own name in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tibetan.

My chinese name: Zhenrui
My Japanese name: 清水 Shimizu (clear water) 子 Aiko (child of the morning sun).
My Korean name: Park Dae Rae
My Vietnamese name: Ai Le
My Tibetan name.

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To see the posts featured for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

And what better way to celebrate Asia then with a winner of the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event Giveaway?

I am happy to announce that a fellow vocalist and book reviewer has won the coveted prize of the book, Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize. You can read my review here.

PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOM by Kyung-Sook Shin

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I-Ching was certainly in this entrant’s favour!

Congratulations to…

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Margaret, a Literary Chanteuse!

I’m positive she’ll be “singing a great tune” when she receives the book in the mail and finishes reading it.

Thanks to all who visited my blog and entered the giveaway contest.

Just a kind reminder that the Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest is still open until the end of June. If you don’t have a photo of cherry blossoms to submit, photos portraying an Asian theme are more than welcome.

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The prizes are books related to the Cherry Blossom and will be delivered by The Book Depository.

Depending on the amount and quality of photos that are submitted, more winners and prizes may be added to the pile!

So, get your photos in!

Cherry blossoms at Kariya Park. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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For more details about the Cherry Blossom (or Asian Theme) Photo Contest, please visit here.

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And a special thanks to L.R. of Random House of Canada and Vintage Canada publishers for kindly providing the literary prize for this contest. Looking for your next great read? You can check out new titles at their website here.

 

May we all continue to work together to encourage respect, reading, and inclusivity!

Asian Heritage Month: The Tibetan Festival of Losar

Asian Heritage Month:

The Tibetan Festival of Losar

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

The Tibetan calendar is made up of twelve lunar months and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. It is the Tibetan word for new year and is celebrated for 15 days, with the first three days as the time for the main celebration.

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On the first day of Losar, a beverage called changkol is made from chhaang, a Tibetan drink much like beer.

Changkol

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The second day of Losar is known as King’s Losar (gyal-po lo-sar) because officially the day is reserved for a secular gathering in the hall of Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana. His Holiness and his government exchange greetings with both monastic and lay dignitaries, and other foreign visitors.

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Then from the third day onwards, the people and monks begin to celebrate and enjoy the festive season.

Losar is also known as Bal Gyal Lo. Bal is Tibet, Gyal is King, Lo is year since it has been celebrated since the first King’s enthronement.

In the monasteries, the celebrations for the Losar begin on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month, the day before the Tibetan New Year’s Eve. On that day the monasteries do a protector deities’ special ritual called a puja and prepare for the celebrations. The custom that day is to make special noodle called guthuk.

Guthuk

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Dough balls with hidden ingredients such as chillies, salt, wool, rice, or coal are given out. It is believed that the ingredients one finds hidden in one’s dough ball comments on one’s own character. If a person finds chilies in their dough, it can mean they are talkative. Good signs are predicted with white-coloured ingredients like salt, wool, or rice. But, if a person finds coal in the dough it can mean that person has a black heart.

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Lama Losar are elaborate offerings made on the last day of the Tibetan year when decorations are put up and the monks of the Namgyal Monastery offer a sacrificial cake called tor ma on top of the Potala temple. They do this as an offering to the supreme hierarchy of Dharma protectors, the goddess Palden Lhamo.

Potala
Palden Lhamo

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Led by the Dalai Lama, the abbots of three monasteries, lamas, tulku (reincarnated monks), government officials, and dignitaries join the ceremony and offer prayers, while the monks of Namgyal Monastery recite the Palden Lhamo invocation. After the ceremony, they all assemble in the hall called Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana for a formal greeting ceremony where, seated on his or her cushions, they exchange the traditional greeting, Tashi Delek.

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In order to wish the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year, ril bu (consecrated sacred pills made out of roasted barley dough) are offered to him by the representatives of the three great monasteries, the two Tantric Colleges, etc.

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Then the garma (entertainers) perform a dance of good wishes.

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And two senior monks stage a debate on buddhist philosophy and conclude their debate with an auspicious recitation in which the Buddhist teaching is briefly reviewed.

A request is made to the Dalai Lama and to all holders of the doctrine to remain for a long time amongst beings in Samsara (Sanskrit) in order to serve them through their enlightened activities. The official ceremony of the day then concludes with a ceremonial farewell to the His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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If you were to receive the dough balls during the Losar celebrations, which hidden ingredient do you think you would most likely receive? 

Chillies, salt, wool, rice, or coal?

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My name in Tibetan.

Asian Heritage Month: Tibetan Meditation and Mala Beads

Asian Heritage Month:

Tibetan Meditation

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Tibetan Chi Kung meditation or Qi Gong began by ancient societies in the mountains of Tibet which were influenced by Chinese martial arts and Indian yogic practices.

Tibetan Chi Kung incorporates many different schools of Chinese martial arts and is particularly dependent on visualization and the circulation of the breath.

It is practiced not only for health, but for spiritual purposes and does not arise from Tibetan Buddhism as expected, but from an older, nature-based religion.

In Tibetan Chi Kung, intuition is classified as receiving a thought about a situation or a person, and empathy is classified as having a somatic sensation in the body about a person or situation.

It is linked to the practice of an internal martial art called Lin Con Ji or Empty Force, which is a process where an Empty Force/Chi Kung master directs and manipulates energy to transmit to his students, allowing them to raise their level of energy. Various exercises combined with the teacher’s presence and intention to transmit energy cause this to happen.

 Tibetan priests are called Lamas, and many of them also learned martial arts. Because of the different cultural background, not only are the Lama’s meditation techniques different from those of the Chinese or Indian Buddhists, but their martial techniques are also different. Tibetan Qigong Meditation and martial arts were kept secret from the outside world, and were therefore called Mi Zong, with means secret style and emphasizes spiritual cultivation through still meditation.

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Malas

Malas are mainly used to count mantras that can be recited for different purposes. In Tibetan Buddhism, malas traditionally consist of 108 beads. Doing one 108-bead mala counts as 100 mantra recitations where the extra repetitions are done to amend for any mistakes.

The material used to make the beads can vary according to the purpose of the mantras used. Some beads can be used for all purposes and can be made from the wood of the Bodhi tree or from Bodhi seeds. Another general-purpose mala is made from an unknown seed, the beads called Moon and Stars by Tibetans, and sometimes referred to as lotus root, lotus seed or linden nut.

Lotus seed mala

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I am truly humbled by the Tibetan spirit and in my search to better understand a part of the Tibetan culture, I studied a little about Buddhist meditation and searched for my own mala beads.

In doing so, I discovered I wanted to be able to make them personally for myself and others.

Here are some of the mala beads I have created in honour of the Tibetan people, their struggle for religious freedom, and in support of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

The black onyx stone can help to release negative emotions such as sorrow and grief and used to end unhealthy relationships. It has protective properties. since black has an absence of light and known to create invisibility. – Mala beads created by (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.
Picture Jasper’s grounding energy can give you a strong sense of who you are. It is said to encourage creative visualisation and creativity. – (c) Mala beads created by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.
Coral symbolizes life and blood force energy. It is used as an aid to depression, lethargy or deficient nutrition. – Mala beads created by (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.
Mala beads created by (c) Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.

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Here is the space I created for myself for quiet meditation:

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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To learn how to make your own set of mala beads, here is a video clip lesson found on YouTube.

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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If you are a practicing Buddhist, what is the mantra you use the most during your meditation?

Have you ever made your own personal mala beads?

What are your mala beads made of? If you don’t yet own mala beads, what kind of beads would you most likely want to use?

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My name in Tibetan.

Asian Heritage Month: Tibetan Music

Asian Heritage Month: Tibetan Music

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Since the 12th century, Tibetans have practiced a tradition called the Lama Mani, which is the telling of Buddhist parables through song. They were performed by storytellers who travelled from village to village and Buddhist thangka paintings helped the audience in the teaching.

Street musicians in Ladakh.

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Chanting

Tibetan music often involves chanting in Tibetan, which is an integral part of its Buddhist religion. The chants are often recitations of sacred religious texts or in celebration of Tibetan festivals.

Tibetan monks playing the conch, 1938.

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World Music

One of my few hobbies includes listening to world music. And in doing so, I discovered the beautiful voice of Yunchen Lhamo, who had fled Tibet on foot in 1989; a voice gifted in devotional singing and has performed for the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, numerous times.

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

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Here is a video clip of Yunchen Lhamo singing at the American Music Festival in 2009. It is live and without any accompaniment:

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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Are you a practicing Buddhist? Have you ever chanted or meditated?

What do you think of Yunchen Lhamo’s voice?

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My name in Tibetan.

Asian Heritage Month: The Tibetan Language

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: The Tibetan Language

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

Dzongkha (Bhutanese) (རྫོང་ཁ) is the national language in Bhutan and is spoken by about 130,000 people in Bhutan, Nepal, and India. It is a Sino-Tibetan language which is closely related to Tibetan and distantly related to Chinese.

The Tibetan alphabet

The form of the alphabet below is known as u-chen (དབུ་ཅན་) and is used for printing. Cursive versions of the alphabet, such as the gyuk yig or ‘flowing script’ (རྒྱུག་ཡིག་) are used for informal writing.

Consonants

Tibetan consonants

Vowels

Tibetan vowel diacritics

Numerals

Tibetan numerals

Punctuation and other symbols

Tibetan punctuation and other symbols

From: Omniglot: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/tibetan.htm

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Here is an excellent audio and video introduction to the consonants by Lama David Curtis on YouTube:

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What other rare Asian dialects are you familiar with or would like to learn?

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My name in Tibetan.

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: You Don’t Have to Go All the Way to Asia When You Can Go Here…

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event:

You don’t have to go all the way to Asia when you can go here…

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

I’m a Canadian-born descendent of the native islands of the Philippines. I’ve been there a total of three times in my life. And it’s always been my desire to visit Japan, China, Tibet, and Korea.

Rice terraces, Philippines.

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But, as a Canadian on a budget with two young children and very little vacation time, that desire stays contained within the confines of my imagination.

In the meantime, I, do, instead, frequent some local spots that give me a little “taste” of Asia.

A Taste of Japan

One of my favourite foods is Japanese sushi. And so, when I get an opportunity to eat as much of it as I can in one sitting without restraint, I go to 168 Sushi Japan Restaurant, a Japanese sushi buffet.

168 Sushi Japan Restaurant

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I particularly love that the menu also includes Chinese wok favourites and Korean dishes. It’s a three-in-one Asian fiesta dream!

The prices are more than reasonable and the food, fresh. You can order as little or as much as you want at one time and work through the entire menu. Dessert and drinks are also included in the buffet price.

If you do get a chance to visit, be sure to try my favourites:

Miso Soup

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Beef Noodle

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Kimchi (Korean)

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Bulgogi (Korean)

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Kalbi (Korean)

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Sushi

Maguro (tuna)

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Unagi (eel)

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Sakura-masu (cherry salmon)

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Spicy Tuna Wrap

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Red Bean ice cream

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Green Tea ice cream

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A Taste of China

Yes, there’s always Chinatown in downtown Toronto, which I have frequented often enough during the summer. There’s a myriad of restaurants, shops, and local vendors to give you a sense of Chinese Asia.

But, when I can’t wait until the summer and I only want to travel a few clicks, I go to The Mississauga Chinese Centre.

Dragon wall,Mississauga Chinese Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Mississauga Chinese Centre entrance. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Small bridge, Mississauga Chinese Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Statue, Mississauga Chinese Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Chinese building, Mississauga Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.
Water fountain, Mississauga Chinese Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My daughter and husband looking at the fish in the pond. Mississauga Chinese Centre. May 18, 2012. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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My favourite little shop is called Arts Court, owner Jacqueline Tsui, which has a number of Asian trinkets, statues, and other goodies. And it has great prices! Just the other day, on Friday, I splurged on the following:

Trinkets from the Mississauga Chinese Centre. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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 I bought Geisha chopsticks and floral Japanese chopsticks; four small Chinese coin purses; one Chinese embroidered wallet; a Chinese turquoise bracelet; two compact mirrors; a geisha hanging figurine; three Chinese lucky coins; a Buddha figurine set (6); red Chinese coin envelopes; red Chinese slippers; Lucky golden Chinese cat; a Japanese statue tea light lamp; and a tin of Tikuanyin Tea.

(c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My geisha and floral Japanese chopsticks. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My Chinese lucky golden cat. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
Tikuanyin Tea. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My lucky Chinese cat. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

A Taste of Korea

And on our wedding anniversary, my husband has taken me to Miga, a Japanese & Korean Restaurant.

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It’s reasonably priced for a restaurant  that cooks or BBQ’s your food right in front of you at your table!

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A Taste of Tibet

I have visited a nice little shop, The Tibet Shoppe  in Toronto that hosts a beautiful array of Tibetan artifacts and jewellery. It’s a little pricey, but I don’t mind spending a little money in support of the artists of the Tibetan diaspora.

Inside the Tibet Shoppe.

I especially purchased these items:

Tibetan necklace and black obsidian mala beads. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.
My Tibetan jewellery. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez. All rights reserved.

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I bought a Lapis Lazuli (blue) silver ring, earrings, and bracelet; a sterling silver Tibetan necklace; a coral gem ring; a turquoise necklace; a sterling silver elephant ring; and an om mani padme hum turning-wheel ring.

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To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What local spots do you like to visit that give you a little “taste” of Asia?

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My name in Tibetan.

Asian Heritage Month: Children’s Feature: Books about Korea

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: Children’s Feature: Books about Korea

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez

In light of Asian Heritage Month and Mother’s Day, the posts on The Bibliotaphe’s Closet will feature children’s books and stories about and originating from Asian countries every day of this week.

To not only celebrate the beauty of Asian culture, it’s also important to share cultural stories with children to broaden their understanding of the importance of cultural diversity and inclusivity.

Today’s children feature is about books and stories about and originating from Korea.

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The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Author: Janie Jaehyun Park

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre

ISBN: 0-88899-485-0

Pub Date: 2002

My Review:

The Tiger and the Dried Persimmon by Janie Jaehyun Park is a retelling of a classic Korean folktale of a tiger out of hunger wishes to hunt for food. In a nearby village, he finds an ox sleeping near a cottage, but just as he plans to pounce on the animal, he hears a mother inside the cottage trying to calm her crying baby.

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Interpreting the baby’s cries as cries of bravery, the tiger believes that the baby is not fearful of the animals that its mother names—until the baby is appeased by dried persimmon, which the tiger confuses to be the “wildest and fiercest beast in the world.”

Persimmons

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Janie Jaehyun’s illustrative paintings are thickened with texture by the impression of her brushstrokes, which allows for the tiger’s expressions to take different forms.

It’s a modern retelling of one of Korea’s folktales that speaks to the outcome of foolish decisions that stem from pride, fear, and vanity and includes a note about persimmon at the end of the book.

Zara’s Rating

***

The Firekeeper’s Son

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Author Linda Sue Park

Illustrator Julie Downing

Format Children’s Hardcover, 38 pages

Publisher: Clarion Books (imprint of Houghton Mifflin)

ISBN: 0-618-13337-2

Pub Date: 2004

My Review

The Firekeeper’s Son by Linda Sue Park is a children’s historical fiction of the early bonfire signal system used in Korea in the early 1800’s. The mountains faced the king’s palace and each fire had to “halves” and together the eight halves represented the country’s eight provinces. When lit, the king and his court would be assured of the country’s safety. When unlit, the king and his court would be alarmed to potential danger.

***

This story is about Sang-hee, a young boy who must light the fire in lieu of his father’s injury in order to deter an onslaught of the king’s army to arise for battle towards an imaginary, non-existent foe.

***

The art illustrations are realistic watercolour paintings that make a believable backdrop to the story.

It is a story that shares a little about Korea’s early bonfire signal system, the honour in inheriting long-standing traditions within a family and bloodline, and the importance of choosing to do the right thing in the name of the greater good rather than meeting one’s own personal desires.

Zara’s Rating

***

The Royal Bee

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Authors: Frances Park and Ginger Park

Illustrated by Christopher Zhong-Yuan Zhang 

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press

ISBN: 1-56397-614-5

Pub Date: 2000

My Review

The Royal Bee by Frances Park and Ginger Park is based on a true story of the author’s grandfather, Hong Seung Han, an illiterate boy who was too poor to be allowed to attend school in the late 19th century, which is what makes this story even more compelling.

The story is about a young boy named Song-ho who was considered a sangmin boy, too poor to be allowed to attend school like the privileged yangban children, but dreamed “when he could read books and write poetry.”

***

Even so, he asked Master Min, if he could be his pupil, but was rejected due to the rules of the education ministry. This, however, did not deter the young boy from hiding outside the school’s door to listen in on daily lessons—even in the cold of winter!

***

While Song-ho was unaware of it, Master Min was well aware of his presence on a daily basis and finally asked him to enter the classroom to be tested by the students in his knowledge. Once passing the test, he was welcomed to attend the school regardless of the ministry rules.

Eventually, Song-ho was chosen to be the representative of his school at the school to compete in the Royal Bee held at the Governor’s Palace. Students are tested in their knowledge until a wrong answer removes them from the contest.

Song-ho was of the last remaining two people standing to be judged at the prestigious Royal Bee competition. And though he and his competitor were intellectually equal in their academic knowledge, it was Song-Ho’s personal and honest answer that deemed him the reigning champion.

The artist’s painted illustrations are just as tender as the story itself and a beautiful rendition of Korean dress and custom in the early 19th century.

The Royal Bee is an excellent cultural story that shares the historical dichotomy between the rich and the poor and its educational divide. But, most importantly, it also shares the lesson learned from opportunity gained through compassion, a willingness to learn, drive, and perseverance that far exceeds the limitations of poverty.

Zara’s Rating

***

My Name Is Yoon

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Category: Children’s/Korea

Author: Helen Recorvits

Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Frances Foster Books (Imprint of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)

ISBN: 978-0-374-35114-4

Pub Date: 2003

My Review

My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits is about a young girl who migrates from Korea to America and feels anxious about using and writing out her name in English. As written in Korean, Yoon means “Shining Wisdom.” In English, she does not like how her name looks with “lines, circles, each standing alone.”

 윤

So, at school when her teacher asks her to write out her name “Yoon” on the empty lines of a piece of paper, Yoon rebels and writes out different English words instead like “cat,” “bird,” and “cupcake.”

***

Yoon’s imagination recreates her identity as the animals and objects that she writes until an American girl finally befriends her from her class.

It is then, that she becomes ready to identify herself in the English written form of her name.

The illustrative paintings in this children’s book are gorgeous, depicting a very real main character.

***

The story is one that speaks to the anxiety of the new immigrant experience and the time it takes to feel acknowledged, accepted, and ready to integrate or assimilate into a new culture without losing the identity of your native country. It’s a story of inclusion and empowerment of a young girl who comes to terms with who she is as a Korean and as an American.

Zara’s Rating

***

To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What’s one thing you appreciate most about Korea and the Korean culture?

Were you ever a new immigrant to a foreign country? If so, what was your experience like for the first time?

In what ways can we help make the transition easier for new immigrants in schools?

***

My Korean name: Park Dae Rae

Asian Heritage Month: Children’s Feature: Books about Tibet

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event: Children’s Feature: Books about Tibet

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez/@ZaraAlexis

In light of Asian Heritage Month and Mother’s Day, the posts on The Bibliotaphe’s Closet will feature children’s books and stories about and originating from Asian countries every day of this week.

To not only celebrate the beauty of Asian culture, it’s also important to share cultural stories with children to broaden their understanding of the importance of cultural diversity and inclusivity.

Today’s children feature is about books and stories about and originating from Tibet.

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All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet

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Category: Children’s/Tibet

Author: Barbara Helen Berger

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Philomel Books (imprint of Penguin Putnam Books)

ISBN: 0-399-23387-3

Pub Date: 2002

My Review :

All the Way to Lhasa is a retelling of a parable from Tibet as heard by the author and artist, Barbara Helen Berger from Lama Tharchin Rinpoche.

It is a quiet, meditative, and encouraging story of a young boy who would like to know how far it is to travel to the holy city of Lhasa.

The first boy is told that it is very far and so he rushes off into the distance, running towards the city of Lhasa with his horse.

The second boy is told that it is close enough to reach before night fall and so he takes one step and then another, plodding slowly with his yak.

The boy who took his time towards his goal was the one who was able to reach the city.

The book is exquisitely illustrated indicative of Asian art, Tibetan colours and symbols, the majesty of Lhasa as a holy city, and hints of the Tibetan prayer and meditation: Om mani padme hum.

It’s a beautiful and peaceful narrative that encourages young readers to continue faithfully and perseveringly towards their path.

Zara’s Rating

***

The Mountains of Tibet

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Category: Children’s/Tibet

Authors: Mordicai Gerstein

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Harper & Row Publishers

ISBN: 0-06-022144-5

Pub Date: 1987

My Review:

The Mountains of Tibet by Mordecai Gerstein was the winner of the New York Times Best Illustrated Book in 1987.

It’s a story of reincarnation told in a step-by-step process by a conversation between a boy who grows into a man, dies, and then hears “a voice speaking to him.”

At each turn of the page, the man in given a choice to “become part” of something. First the universe, the galaxy, the planet, the species, the ethnicity, the place to live, to his choice of parents, and then whether or not he wants to be a boy or girl.

***

It’s a wonderful story of inclusion as the man is given the freedom of choice at every turn and each choice displayed to him as equally good and valuable.

The illustrations, too, help to share the theme of inclusivity as the drawings are enclosed in a circle with pictures closely swirling and almost entwined in a theme of “togetherness.”

The Mountains of Tibet is kind introduction to children about the simple process of reincarnation, the cycle of life and death, and the beauty, gift, and value of all living things, living and working together in cooperative harmony.

Zara’s Rating

***

To read more posts for the Asian Heritage Month Blog Event, please visit here.

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What’s one thing you appreciate most about Tibet and the Tibetan culture?

Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?

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My chinese name: Zhenrui