Peking Opera Introduces Students to a Local Beijing Treasure
For 85 years, Yew Chung schools have developed the reputation of providing one of the top bilingual English and Chinese programmes in the world. As one of the school foundation’s chief priorities, students undertake a language programme which promotes context as the key to communication. In addition to daily language lessons, the unique Co-Teaching and Co-Principal models, as well as dedicated Chinese culture classes, together make up a programme that immerses children in a truly bilingual learning environment.
Luckily for students at Yew Chung International School of Beijing, they also live in a city with more than 3,000 years of Chinese history. Cultural treasures such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are short bus rides away, and the capital is rich will opportunities to experience firsthand the breadth and depth of Chinese culture.
Last week, Primary students were able to draw upon the resources of Beijing to experience one such cultural treasure in person, as they joined together for a Peking Opera Workshop put on by veteran actress Ms Chen Xiaoyan. To explain more, Year 5 Co-Teacher Jane Liu discuss the activities in which students partook, as well as the ways in which Chinese cultural education is essential for students who wish to
understand and communicate in Chinese.
Future Stars in the Making
Ms Chen’s Peking Opera Workshop is one of Primary students’ favourite activities of the year. With the opportunity to dress up in traditional costumes, wear colourful face paint and sing and dance together with their classmates, Year 5 students excitedly joined in the afternoon activities. Teachers meanwhile loved the educational value brought to students through exploring this rich aspect of local Chinese culture.
The workshop began with a presentation by Ms Chen, offering a historical look at the art form through videos of classic performances. Children learned that the characters on a Peking Opera stage fall into four major roles – Sheng, Dan, Jing, and Chou – and that in each role the actors will project different movements, voices, and styles.
Students were then invited to the stage to practice each of the different roles in front of their classmates and teachers. Many students volunteered, laughing and learning through the experience of bringing their character to life. Ms Chen also noted that many of the students had great potential for becoming opera stars themselves in the future!
The Art of Communication
The goal of both the English and Chinese Programmes at YCIS Beijing is for students to be able to communicate in their target language. Yet communication consists of more than words and grammar. Not only is learning about Chinese culture fun for students, it’s also essential towards their ability to understand and interact with people from different parts of the world.
At best, language without context will be bland and uninspired. At worst, it will be unintelligible. A strong Chinese culture curriculum is an essential ingredient of any Chinese Programme, from exposure to different teaching styles and perspectives through a co-teaching model, to field trips and workshops such as the Peking Opera Workshop last week.