Tag Archives: Asian Heritage Month Blog Event

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.”

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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!

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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

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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?

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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

Asian Heritage Month:

Children’s Feature: Books about China

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 China.

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Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats

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Category: Children’s/China

Authors: Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, The Children’s Museum, Boston

llustrated by: Meilo So

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 74 pages

Publisher: Gulliver Books, Harcourt Inc.

ISBN: 0-15-201983-9

Pub Date: 2002

My Review:

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats is an extensive collection of Chinese holiday folktales, fun activities for kids, and easy-to-learn recipes.

It’s broken into four parts:

  1. Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival
  2. Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival
  3. The Dragon Boat Festival
  4. Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

And has a wonderful variety of Chinese folktales and information on the meaning of Chinese practices, traditions, and significant Chinese symbols that children can easily understand.

The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) crafts are creative and fun and include craft ideas for New Year prints, good luck characters, Chinese shuttlecocks, paper lanterns, kites, dragon boats, pinwheels, fragrant bags, and shadow puppets.

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And though it’s children’s treasury, an adult could easily find the content readable, interesting, and a fun instructional guide for the children in his or her life. It’s also an excellent resource for teachers and those in need of an Asian educational tool.

I especially enjoyed learning about the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival also known as the Harvest Moon Festival that honours the female goddess of the moon. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the moon cake (which is one of my favourite Asian pastries) and how to make the Five-Treasure Moon Cakes, which I may just try before the month ends in celebration of Asian Heritage Month.

Moon cake

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This book would be an excellent addition to the culturally appreciative reader and an excellent resource for families.

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Zara’s Rating

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Maples in the Mist: Children’s Poems and the Tang Dynasty

 

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Category: Children’s/China

Authors: Minfong Ho

Illustrated By: Jean & Mou-sien Tseng

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books

ISBN: 0-688-12044-X

Pub Date: 1996

My Review:

The Tang Dynasty from 618-907 A.D. was a time when arts and poetry flourished and Tang poems were widely accepted as the best classical poems in China’s literary history. The poems in the Maples in the Mist collection are translations of a few of the well-known Three Hundred Tang poems of the 18th century.

These are exceptionally important to honour as Chinese children have always learned how to read by reading poetry and has been an important literary fabric in the Chinese tradition.

A beautifully translated poem, which is one of my favourites of the collection, is:

Moon

When I was little

I thought the moon was a white jade plate,

Or maybe a mirror in heaven

Flying through the blue clouds.

–        Li Bai

***

The illustrative paintings by Jean & Mou-sien Tseng are exquisite and as a collection, heightens the value of this children’s book of classical poetry. The art on its own is sufficient enough reason to purchase this book and add to a personal library, but the poetry is a testament to China’s long-standing literary tradition and easily bridges the old generation with the new, reaching the children, both Chinese and non-Chinese, of today.

Zara’s Rating

***

Kites: Magic Wishes that Fly Up to the Sky

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Category: Children’s/China

Author: Demi

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 35 pages

Publisher: Crown Publishers (imprint of Random House)

ISBN: 0-517-80049-7

Pub Date: 1999

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My Review:

Kites by Demi is a wonderfully illustrated children’s book about the history, origins, and symbolism found on Chinese kites and the art of kite flying.

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It includes a detailed description of the various animals and symbols that are found on Asian kites and what they mean in Chinese culture.

Do you know that the Mandarin Duck means nobility, faithfulness, and happiness? Or the Thin Swallow for female loveliness? The Wasp for industry and thrift and the Carp for abundance?

A tree swallow

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These are just a few explanations of the symbolism of animals on Chinese kites.

The book is prettily illustrated and includes a step-by-step instruction guide on how to make your own Chinese kite.

Children of any culture will enjoy learning about the beauty and history of the Asian kite and how to make one on their own. It’s also a great resource for parents and teachers.

Zara’s Rating

***

The Empty Pot

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Category: Children’s/China

Author: Demi

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

ISBN: 0-8050-1217-6

Pub Date: 1990

My Review:

The Empty Pot by Demi is a quiet and lovely story based on Chinese folktale of a boy named Ping who loved to plant flowers. When it was time for the Emperor to choose an heir he decided to give each child in the kingdom a seed to plant and grow and instructed the children that “Whoever can show [him] their best in a year’s time, shall succeed [him] to the throne!”

***

It’s a beautifully illustrated and classic story that teaches the importance of hard work and honesty and how doing the right thing can be abundantly repaid.

Zara’s Rating

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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 China and the Chinese culture?

If you have children, what’s your favourite DIY project with them?

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My chinese name: Zhenrui

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

Asian Heritage Month Blog Event:

Children’s Feature: Books on Japan

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 Japan.

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The Paper Crane

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Category: Children’s/Japan

Author: Molly Bang

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 18 pages

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (imprint of HarperCollins)

ISBN: 978-0-688-04108-3

Pub Date: 1985

Summary:

This children’s story is based on an old Japanese folktale of the paper crane. It is a modern story of a man and his son who own a restaurant on a “busy” road that eventually loses most of its patrons because a new highway is built that deters customers from passing by the family owned restaurant.

One evening an unnamed stranger enters the restaurant, but does not have any money to pay for food. Regardless of this, the owner of the restaurant welcomes him in and served him the “best meal he could make and served him like a king.”

The stranger who could not pay with food, paid instead with a paper crane that he folded from a napkin in the restaurant.

And it was only when the owner clapped his hands that the paper crane would come to life and dance.

The news of the dancing crane spread around the community and soon people travelled to the restaurant to see this magic bird. And because of this the owner was able to host many guests at his restaurant.

My Review:

The Paper Crane by Molly Bang is a story of kindness and teaches the importance of compassion and community regardless of difficult circumstances. It’s also a modern rendering of an old folktale that encourages the belief and faith in legendary magic and the result of in acting with integrity.

Crane made by origami.

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The illustrations are three-dimensional paper cutouts in correlation to its theme of the paper crane and is a light story to introduce children to a folktale of Japan.

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Zara’s Rating

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Chibi: A True Story from Japan

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Category: Children’s/Japan

Authors: Barbara Brenner and Julia Takaya

Illustrated by: June Otani

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 64 pages

Publisher: Clarion Books (imprint of Houghton Mifflin)

ISBN: 0-395-69623-2

Pub Date: 1996

Summary:

Chibi is a true story of the Spotbill Duck who built her nest beside a pool in an office park in downtown Tokyo and raised her duckling until she could transfer them to the moat in the Emperor’s Gardens across the Uchibori Dori.

Imperial Gardens, Tokyo

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The arrival of the ducks in the city had caused a stir of media frenzy including bird watchers and enthusiasts.

Spotbill Duck like “Chibi.”

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When the ducks were finally able to reach the moat, a typhoon struck killing two ducklings with one favoured duckling gone missing. A search party for the duckling ensued until the two deceased ducklings were found and the other found “balanced like a surfer on a piece of Styrofoam.”

Because of this, the Emperor who had learned of the kamo, ordered a duck house be built in the moat of the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo, which still stands there today while the Mitsui Company of Tokyo also placed a duck house on the pond of the office park for returning duck families.

My Review:

The story of Chibi is a children’s historical story that documents the true events of a particular Spotbill Duck family that aroused Tokyo’s interest alongside the emperor’s. It includes illustrations and a few Japanese words with a language index at the end of the book.

Zara’s Rating

***

Tea with Milk

Category: Children’s/Japan

Author: Allen Say

Format: Children’s Hardcover, 32 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company

ISBN: 0-395-90495-1

Pub Date: 1999

Summary:

Tea with Milk is a true story of a young, Japanese girl named Masako who was born and raised in America and later returns to native Japan with her parents, but essentially feels like an outsider, having been raised in a foreign country.

My review:

Tea with Milk by Allen Say is a wonderful inversion of the cultural demise of new immigrants at the introduction of their immigration experience in a foreign country. Though the main character, Masako, is of Japanese ethnic descent, she is culturally raised as a young American girl.

Upon returning to native Japan with her parents, her acceptance and assimilation proves to be difficult as her first language is English not Japanese and her views on work and marriage more liberal than the expectations of her family and her Japanese culture.

***

The art illustrations in the book are beautiful and realistic paintings and portraits of Masako, her family, and her life in Osaka, Japan.

It’s an important story about culture, racism, and issues of identity and a wonderful “coming-of-age” and “identity” story of a young girl who must defy cultural traditions in order to discover self-acceptance, happiness, and love.

Zara’s Rating

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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 Japan and the Japanese culture?

If you have children, how do you teach them about inclusivity?

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My Japanese name: 清水 Shimizu (clear water) 子 Aiko (child of the morning sun).