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Harmony: A Treasury of Chinese Wisdom for Children and Parents (This Little Light of Mine) Paperback – June 2, 2010
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About the Author
Sarah Conover's interests lie with world religion and multicultural storytelling traditions. She holds a BA in religious studies from the University of Colorado and an MFA in poetry from Eastern Washington University. The founder and general editor of the This Little Light of Mine series, she lives and writes in Spokane, Washington, where she teaches at Spokane Valley High School.
Chen Hui majored in English literature and education at Hunan Normal University, in Chansha. She subsequently earned an MA in education from Harding University, in Searcy, Arkansas, and taught Chinese at St. George's School, in Spokane, before her recent move back to China.
Ji Ruoxiao is a professor of art at Sichuan Normal University, in Chengdu. She studied at Beijing's Central Institute of Fine Arts, and her paintings hang in the Chinese Art Museum, also in Beijing. The recipient of many honors, she was one of two Chinese artists whose work was chosen for the art exhibition at the Fourth United Nations World Conference of Women. She lives in Seattle and returns to Sichuan each year to teach.
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One of the things I most noticed and appreciated about this book is how well it crosses over to readers of all ages. I can only imagine this is not an easy task for an author to accomplish. From young to old it is a perfect introduction to China. Young children will love having this book read to them and will gaze for hours at the incredible brush paintings and illustrations by Ji Ruoxiao. Adults of all walks of life, from students of Chinese, businessmen traveling to China, Congressmen and women needing to understand Chinese culture, will greatly benefit from this book. Many of these chengyu are frequently used by the Chinese people to state and/or clarify their position on an issue--sometimes overtly, sometimes not. As an example given in the book, Mao Zedong used the proverb "foolish old man moves mountain" to show that obstacles can be removed given enough determination. And, we have all heard about actual hills in China being leveled and moved to make way for modern projects.
The chengyu are brought to light by 3 methods; the title and exact translation of the original proverb, the stunning brush paintings that capture the essence of the fable, and the "retelling" of the story for modern audiences. The retellings are terrific in that they flesh out the traditional proverbs, some of which may not have immediate meaning to a western audience since we largely grew up with different ones. (You will immediately recognize some of the fables or titles, such as "Yu Gong Moved Mountains", and "Blind Men Touch an Elephant", however, the storylines do not always progress how one might expect, as in the case of "Practice Makes Perfect"). At the end of the book Conover has provided a final recap explanation on each chengyu's use in today's society.
Conover and Chen also incorporate a section on philosophical and religious influences in China over the millennia that created the chengyu and a handy guide to pronunciation of common Chinese expressions.
Finally, if it is the goal of chengyu and fables world wide to distill a story down into teachable sayings, the title of this book, Harmony, could not be more appropriate. One gets a very clear picture that harmony itself is the driving force behind Chinese Culture.