Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chengyu: Lord Ye's Love of Dragons

Lord Ye's Love of Dragons

Lord Ye lived in ancient times, and was known for his love of dragons. His home was filled with his dragon collection, found in jade sculptures, wood carvings, silk paintings, and embroidered bedding and clothing.

A celestial dragon heard of Lord Ye and his love of dragons, and decided to honor him with a visit. The dragon descended to Lord Ye's home, wrapping its tail around the house and sticking its head his bedroom. Lord Ye was far from honored - he was completely horrified! He ran from his house wanting nothing to do with the real dragon.

This idiom represents a person who loves the idea of something rather than the reality of it.

Discuss: Have you ever been excited about the idea of something but lost interest when presented with it? Have you ever wanted something, more than anything else (like a toy, or a pet), but once you had it realized it wasn't as much fun as you thought it would be? Are ideas sometimes preferable to real life objects or situations?

An idiom is an expression that is not meant to be taken literally. For example, in English, we often use the expression "It's raining cats and dogs". Obviously, we don't take this expression literally, we come to learn that it means it's raining hard outside. 

Though the Chinese have many proverbs and idioms, Chengyu are formalized idioms, usually using only four characters and relating to folktales, classical literature, and historical accounts. The four characters typically state a moral, and in order to properly understand their meaning, it is important to know the story behind them. There are at least 5,000 Chengyu. 

To learn about Chinese idioms is to gain another insight into the Chinese culture, their mores, and their history. We will be learning Chengyu, and their related stories, regularly for the rest of our "year in China". I believe the insights we'll gain will highlight many universal facets of human nature within their cultural context.

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