This time I will finish my look at The Dim Sum Anthology, by Nong A (阿濃的“點心集 ”). We’ll cover the last half of the book, which encompasses essays on educational writings, lifestyle writings, nature writings, and art & literary writings.
Part 5, “Educational Writings,” has 39 essays. A few essays refer to presenting specific, famous books in class, such as criticizing a special note-taking method of teaching the Confucian Analects in “Notes” or how frightening it is for students to encounter Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World with its test tube babies in “A Frightening Book.”
In the essay “Brushing One’s Sleeves” Nong A discusses how even well-cultivated teachers still have times when their tempers flare up. When a male teacher has a bad moment, his voice gets stern, and he even scolds the students for ten full minutes, leaving everyone awestruck. When a female teacher gets angry, she cries in the classroom, leaving the boys ashamed and the girls empathetic. If the teachers injure a student in a moment of anger, they risk a lawsuit, but even without injuring any student physically, it can leave an impression of cruelty and lack of civility. Throwing things also can injure and leave a terrible impression. The essay wraps up by recommending brushing off one’s sleeves and leaving the room to cool down first before returning to class and apologizing.
“Crying” explains the reasons why teachers don’t like students who are habitual cryers. At the elementary level, these bawlers cry at the drop of a hat, making a terrific commotion, then other students bully them. The teacher lets it go and doesn’t feel like dealing with it. Other students are disgusted by the weepy faces, and their long crying jags hamper effective teaching. Students who hold back and force themselves not to cry don’t really get more sympathy from the teacher, however. When they get scolded, they look like they might cry just enough to make it obvious that the punishment was effective. Bu teachers like the perpetually smiling student. When they get scolded, their eyes get red and a few tears fall quietly, which immediately softens the teacher’s heart to give some words of comfort.
In “Fearing Disgrace,” Nong A notes that there are fewer students these days who are afraid of looking bad in public. If the teacher asks “who is willing to participate in a speech competition?” nearly everyone volunteers. Only two students in the class don’t dare respond. Or if the teacher asks “Who is willing to be the class leader?” a forest of hands go up. Again, only the same two don’t volunteer. Nong A sees these two as having a hard shell that they don’t have the courage to come out of and explains how it is the teacher’s responsibility to help those who are afraid of looking stupid to take risks.
The essay “Chewing Wax” describes how hard it is to pique students’ interest in their Chinese language lessons. All teachers have experienced using excellent content to get the students involved in their classes, but at some point, such as introducing sentence patterns, it becomes boring, like chewing wax, and students lose interest.
Moving on to the next section, part 6, it is titled “Lifestyle Writings” and has 82 essays. This is by far the largest of the eight topics the essays in the book are sorted into.
“Two Eyes” is about the eyes of animals. It starts off with the flatfish, or flounder fish, which lives on the ocean floor in the silt and has two eyes that can slide from either side of the fish. The facial structure of the hippopotamus with its eyes on its forehead is considered next. It soaks in the water with only the top of its head exposed to the air. These two animals are held up as examples of animal eyes in general, considering that there are two types of face structure. Eyes are either on the same side looking in the same direction, or they are on opposite sides of the face looking in opposite directions. It generalizes that the animals with divided eyes are typically weak and helpless, such as deer or rabbits that need to be able to see more of the area around them to detect predators. Animals with eyes in the same place looking the same direction are typically strong, like the lion or tiger, who don’t need to see the totality of their environment for the sake of safety.
In the essay “Sweet Potato,” it starts with an image of smelling the scent of baking sweet potatoes in a cold wind. The outside of the potato is burned black, while the inside is uncooked. Nong A describes some of the village food during winter, such as roast wheatgrass or sweet potatoes that mother made. Kids ate baked sweet potatoes when they came home from school and warmed their hands with them, too. The potatoes were also barbecued in wet newspaper wrappers buried in charcoal, which caused more uneven cooking. Now Nong A buys the children sweet potatoes on the streets today, too.
I wasn’t sure what wheatgrass was, so here is a description:
According to the essay “Another Group,” Easter holiday is also the day for sweeping the ancestral tombs. Some children visit businesses, watch movies, eat a big holiday meal, while some groups of children go to the tombs to clean them. They take writing brushes, lacquer varnish, and a weeding sickle to straighten them up.
In the essay, “Making An Apology,” Nong A starts out discussing how it can be seen on Japanese TV that every time the Japanese make a mistake, they get on their knees and acknowledge their mistake, feeling very badly. In contrast, chinese people love keeping face and maintaining their reputation, so when they make a mistake, they are generally shy about acknowledging it, don’t want to kneel or ask for forgiveness.
“Snacks” explains more about street food in Nong A’s childhood hometown, such as the way children would buy sweet porridge that was just simply white rice gruel with red dates added. In Hong Kong, street food includes types of beef, fish eggs, fermented tofu, stinky tofu, cold fruit, coconut water, chestnuts, etc. Schools also have many types of snacks around.
The essay “Boiling Water to Make Tea” begins with Nong A drinking tea in a teahouse with a friend. They steep some tea, but it’s so light that it tastes nearly the same as plain boiling water. The author goes on to explain that with work becoming busier, there is less time to read books, and one’s circle of friends gets narrower. It gets into the finer points of boiling water for tea and how fragrant and pleasant it is.
The second to the last section, “Nature Writings,” has 15 essays. “Little Dog” describes the author seeing a little dog playing outside the school doors some mornings. It comes down the road beside some of the students and gets honked at by cars. Nong A explains that some immature animals are looked upon with great affection, such as kittens, little monkeys, baby tigers and lions. The essay compares older animals with baby animals, then looks at how human children are similar.
The final section, “Art & Literary Writings,” has 19 essays, but I’m going to skip this part and not look at any essays from it since it is a little more abstract. On the whole, this is a cute book that has some light, student-friendly content.
Part two of a two part series.
Next time: We will look at new Sanrio webcomics, Ichigoman and Funny Kuromi-chan!