Learning about China through Books


Disclosure: I was sent copies of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

May is Asian American Heritage Month. Last week we focused on Vietnam and this week we will focus on China. I have two books to share with you today. One of them I reviewed an older edition several years ago. The other is a book of children's stories from both China and Tibet. I began to wonder about Tibet. Tibet was taken over by the Communist Chinese Government in 1949. The leader of Tibet prior to that was the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama escaped to India and lives there in exile with over 100,000 Tibetan refugees. (Source) We will start with Favorite Children's Stories from China and Tibet by Lotta Carswell Hume and illustrated by Lo Koon-chiu.

This book has 18 stories in it. Five of the stories are from Tibet. 

It also has a version of the Chinese Cinderella. In this version the Cinderella has a different name than the other versions I shared as part of our Fairy Tales in Different Cultures series. In this version her name is Shih Chieh. Her father dies after her mother and her stepmother is horrible to her. She befriends the red fish with the golden eyes and when her stepmother eats it a spirit tells Shih Chieh where the bones are buried and that she can wish for whatever she wants on the bones. She goes to the festival and loses a slipper. The Cave Chief Wu finds it and ends up selling it to another king. The other king looks for the maiden who wore such a beautiful slipper and finds Shih Chieh. Before leaving to marry him, Shih Chieh digs up the fish bones and takes them with her. Her husband discovers the magic of them and begins making wishes. He makes so many wishes that eventually the wishes stop being granted. He buries the bones near the ocean and they wash away.

The stories in this book share where they are from. I love that it tells which part of China a story comes from and of course if it is from Tibet. The difference in the stories add to the cultures from the different areas (and perhaps that is why I have found three slightly different versions of the Chinese Cinderella). Each story has beautiful illustrations. They start with one and then there are more throughout including a full page illustration. 

I love reading the children's stories to learn more about the culture. I find there is so much woven into children's stories that we may not think about in a culture. There are things from the houses, the environment and homes, food and more. These stories do not disappoint and add to learning about the culture of China and Tibet.

Our next book is All About China: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids by Allison "Aixin" Branscombe and illustrated by Lin Wang. I love the books in this series and wish they would make one for every country in the world!! I was interested to look at the newest version of All About China because Hazel has been studying Ancient China in school and also did some Chinese calligraphy in art class. This book is full of information about the history of China as well as the current culture and Chinese life. 

The book begins introducing China and shares about the famous historic places, and its geography. The pages throughout the book are full of pictures and information. There are often asides that share something about the language or culture. 

On the first page we meet Meiling and Liming. They will be our hosts throughout the book and have little speech blurbs throughout the book sharing more information. Since Hazel has been learning about Ancient China I found the pages about the dynasties extremely interesting. I quizzed her on different dynasties when they did the unit in history class this year. I love how they also share different inventions as well as the culture with each dynasty. 
They also share things like the typical Chinese house. I have been to a local museum that has a typical Chinese house attached to it. They brought it over from China and rebuilt it here. This page brought back memories of the house at the museum which I went to probably about 20 years ago. 

The book delves into daily life in China and it focuses on the daily lives of Meiling and Liming. I love that it focuses on the children so kids are learning how kids in China live compared to their own lives. The book also shares things about sports, medicine, and holidays and festivals. Throughout the book are craft ideas as well as recipes. Last time we tried several of the recipes and did a few of the crafts. I decided to try some of the calligraphy but didn't have much time to do it.

I was practicing the characters that mean Happy New Year. Hazel's art class have been working with brushes and Chinese characters. She brought this home. I believe this is her name, but may be mistaken.

They also used the Chinese brushes and ink to make a picture.

I love how this book ties into what Hazel is doing in school this year. The connections are wonderful and make it fun for me to read and follow what she is learning a bit about.

I love how there are little aside "did you know" boxes as well as crafts to go with different parts of the book. The book goes through so much about the culture and gives the reader an excellent sense for what the country is like and what it is like to be a kid there.

I love learning more about things I already know something about. They share the Chinese Horoscope but also share about the dragon and the lion dance. Did you know lions were brought to China by Middle Eastern countries to ensure trade with the Chinese? It is that kind of facts that make the book even more interesting for kids to read. 

Now you might be wondering why I am focusing on countries during Asian American Heritage Month. I focus on the country to learn a bit about the culture so I can understand more about how Asian Americans can combine cultures between their ancestral country and America. I hope you will check out these books and learn more about China as well!

For more Chinese books and resources check out here. There are books about Chinese paper quilling, Chinese quilts, Mandarin language and more!