Whilst Chinese New Year and the Mid Autumn festival are perhaps the best known Chinese Festivals , there are many other festivals which can be exploited to deepen pupils’ understanding of Chinese language and culture. One is 清明节 Qīnɡmínɡjié which, unlike Chinese New Year, follows the solar calendar and falls on or around April 5th – 15 days after the Spring equinox.
It is an occasion for the Chinese to remember and honour their ancestors by visiting the cemetery to tend the graves, hence the popular title of “Tomb Sweeping Day”, although Qīnɡmínɡ literally means “Clear bright” . Offerings of food are made to the dead and paper money is burnt to honour them. Qīnɡmínɡ is also a time to celebrate the advent of Spring with the rebirth of nature, so it is the start of the planting season and a time to engage in outdoor activities, such as kite flying.
Looking at kites is a good way to develop pupils’ linguistic skills in Chinese within a cultural context. On the Mandarin page are some slides I’ve used both with my KS3 club and my Year 12s to:
- look at high frequency structures and vocabulary such as numbers, colours and 有 yǒu
- develop speaking skills by comparing kites
- develop comprehension skills by looking for clues as to meaning
- develop thinking skills: categorising, analysing (odd one out)
- engage in team work and group work
- be creative – create own design for a kite and to describe it
- understand more about characters and how words are formed in Chinese.
The one word that really caught the imagination of the year 12s was the Chinese for owl: 猫头鹰 māotóuyīng “Cat head eagle”! Love it!