Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Chinese children's favourite stories

Ye, Mingmei. Chinese children's favourite stories, Boston, MA. : Tuttle Pub, 2004.
This children’s book collects 12 Chinese traditional folktales and legends, which feature talking animals, a ghost catcher, a trickster fox, the River Dragon King, and the prankish monkey Wu Kong, as well as cowherds, scholars, musicians, and emperors. Most of the stories are familiar to Chinese people. Some stories regard morals; others explain the origins of customs or traditions. These stories include “The Frog Who Lived in the Well” and “The Monkey King who Turned the Heavenly Palace Upside Down”, and they are all suitable for reading to children at bedtime. The art has traditional Chinese characters with abundant colorful illustrations and the writing is clear and acceptable to children.

The Silk Princess

Santore, Charles. The silk princess, New York: Random House Children's Books, c2007.
This is a picture book for children aged 9-12 years with beautiful illustrations. It is a vivid Chinese folklore legend which retells a story of how silk was discovered. A princess watches a cocoon fall from a mulberry tree into her mother’s teacup and the cocoon unravels in the hot water. She wonders how far the thread will stretch. She thinks up a fun game in which she ties one end of the thread to her waist, and her mother holds the remaining, then she walks away slowly. She walks through the palace and goes too far way. She goes onto the nearby mountains. There she meets a dragon and a wise old man, who is a silk weaver. The old man teaches her the secret of how to harvest the cocoons and weave the thread into gorgeous silk cloth. After a time, she goes back to her mother and shares her secret.

The beggar's magic: a Chinese tale

Chang, Margaret Scrogin. The beggar's magic: a Chinese tale, New York: M. K. McElderry, c1997.

This is an ancient Chinese folktale, which retells a story about selfishness and sharing. An old beggar-priest arrives in a small village, Fu Nan and his father are totally astonished by the priest who shows the most wonderful and miraculous magic tricks in the world: He draws a sparrow on a paper, then the sparrow turns into a real sparrow and escapes from the page; he fills an old widow’s dry well with full of sweet clean water. When the Moon Festival arrives, the wealthy farmer Wu refuses to share his food with the other villagers, and ripe pears with the priest. The slighted beggar-priest picks up a pear seed, and performs a magic trick that makes the selfish, greedy farmer the laughingstock of the village.

The cat's tale: why the years are named for animals

Orgel, Doris. The cat's tale: why the years are named for animals, New York: Roaring Brook, 2008.

This is a well-know Chinese folktale explaining the naming of the Chinese zodiac. When Willow’s grandma is reading a titular story, the child’s cat, Mao, scratches her granddaughter, Nai Nai, so Nai Nai pushes the cat away from her lap. Mao gets angry and tells her own story. Mao narrates the story of how the Emperor Jade once invited his 13 favorite animals including the Ox, Rat, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig and Cat to a river race. Because some of the animals cannot swim, the emperor arranges that Rabbit and Rooster ride on Dragon’s back, Rat and his friend Cat sit on Ox’s back, and the rest of other animals plunge into the river. The cunning rat betrays the Cat by pushing him into the river. By clawing his way onto a rock in the river, Cat watches how Rat leaps ashore ahead of Ox and comes first to win. Jade Emperor is very happy, and decides to name the first year of the cycle the Year of Rat with every successive year named for the animals that completed the race, except Cat who has not finished. So the Cat and Rat became enemies from that time on. This is a beautiful picture book for children with bright watercolour painting illustrations.

White tiger, blue serpent

Tseng, Grace. White tiger, blue serpent, New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, c1999.
A lovely original fantasy based on a folktale from China’s Yunan Province. Two lands are divided by a raging river, one of which is a rich and fertile land which belongs to a Jealous goddess Qin, and is protected by a white tiger and a serpent; the other shore is barren and poor. There is a bridge that connects the two lands, but no one goes to the rich land. Kai and his mother grow up on the barren west shore. Kai’s mother is a master weaver who is good at weaving gorgeous silk brocades, which she barters for food and firewood. Kai has loved brocades for years, and he persuades his mother to make one for him to keep. To compensate for the loss, they make a pact; during the day she works on it, Kai has to work harder and longer to support them. Kai works like a man for a thousand days to fulfill his promise, and becomes supernaturally strong, agile and sharp-eyed. When the brilliant brocade is finished, the greedy goddess Qin sends a wind that sweeps it away. Kai starts his journey bravely to regain the brocade. He uses his newfound strengths to defeat the white tiger and the serpent…

How the rooster got his crown

Poole, Amy Lowry. How the rooster got his crown, New York: Holiday House, c1999.
This is a traditional well-know Chinese folktale set in ancient China. This book has stunningly, transporting artworks and a lovely story. In the early days of the earth, there are 9 suns in the sky. People named them with ancient icons such as Yin-Yang, the spiral, the maze, the raven and a star. When the rains fail, the suns start to roast the earth. All soil, rivers and lakes are in ruins; all living things die one after another. People have to live in caves and cannot come out in the daylight. Wise people gather together to discuss how to take action to save the earth. As a result, a clever and skilful archer named Yi is called from a remote land. He faces 9 suns bravely, uses his powerful arch shooting every suns’ reflection in a pond, so 8 suns drop except one sun which survives. After this he is so scared so that he hides in a cave and never comes out. Nine suns are too many, but only one is very essential. The earth turns into dark. People make every effort to coax the sun out, but the sun still refuses to come out. Until the lowly rooster starts to sing, and the sun is bewitched by the rooster’s singular song and appears. Once the sun hears the people’s cheers for his appearance, he relaxes, enjoys the encouragement, and then goes back to the heaven. Therefore, people gave the crown to the rooster to reward his outstanding achievement in saving the earth, and the rooster gets his glorious task to wake up the sun by singing every morning.

Yeh Shen: a Cinderella story from China

Louie, Ai-Ling. Yeh Shen: a Cinderella story from China, New York: Philomel, c1982.

This picture book won an award for children’s books. This Chinese folklore is set in the Chinese Han dynasty.  A poor girl named Yeh Shen lives with her stepmother and a stepsister. Her stepmother doesn’t like Yeh Shen because she is more beautiful and kinder than her own daughter and treats her poorly. Yeh Shen’s only one friend is a beautiful fish with golden eyes. But one day her stepmother kills the fish and cooks it for dinner. While Yeh Shen is crying for the dead fish, a mysterious old man appears and tells her a secret; the fish bones are filled with a powerful spirit, so Yeh Shen retrieves the bones from trash and hides them in a safe place. After a time, her stepmother and stepsister leave for the spring festival to look for a mate for her daughter and leave Yeh Shen alone at home. Yeh Shen desires to go to that party, so she begs the bone for clothes to wear. Her dream comes true. She is suddenly dressed in a brilliant gown and cloak. On her feet are a pair of gorgeous golden slippers. She grabs all the attention in the village, but she leaves one of her golden slippers behind when she is dashing out of the village due to the fear of being discovered by her stepmother. Soon a merchant finds her lost slipper and the slipper is passed on to the king. The king wonders who is the owner of this tiny slipper and sends people to search around his kingdom, and finally finds Yeh Shen. The king is captivated by her beauty and marries her and lives happily ever after.