In the past week I was required to read the following: Early Chinese Literature and Thought, Classics of Poetry, Confucius, Du Fu, and Yuan Zhen. I have to start out by saying how completely terrified I was going into these readings by two things. One, that much of what I read was poetry and two, it was Chinese literature. With further inspection, I found that the wen (aesthetic pattern) in the stories I had the fortune to be introduced to, is the most inspiring and heart felt literature that I have read to date. The use of logos and pathos entwined beautifully in the words of famous Chinese poets and writers blew me away. Also some terms mentioned and also the theme of these writings such as “wen” became obvious to me as I discovered the meaning of each story. I soon found out that, for me, I could understand most poems more clearly than I had any other poems I have read in all my schooling. While I imagine it is very difficult for any teacher to introduce poetry to a class, I would absolutely share my own experience when first reading the selections.
To again put myself in a teaching position, I would announce the reading selections and talk about each one separately even before reading had begun. This is key because it reduces the anxiety that can happen when addressing any poetry. Poetry itself seems to be frightening to some people. So addressing this issue head on would lead to the best possible outcome. While also addressing the stress of the title, “Chinese literature” because again, this can be very daunting to most. Reminding students not to assume first before getting into their reading and that all the writings are in English to be easily interpreted. The students themselves are the ones who decide whether something interests them or not, however… it is important they do attempt to read the text. They will probably find they love what they are reading such as I did.
Another way would be to introduce film first. This way students could experience another medium that may be more understandable. Hopefully getting them engaged in the text. There are many movies that are based on Chinese literature. A few are the following: The Flower of War with Christian Bale, The Romance of Three Kingdoms, and Raise the Red Lantern. Which all can be found here.
I did find this article interesting as it relates to why Chinese literature in the Western world (The U.S) does not get as much respect or recognition it deserves. Overall, I would highly recommend picking up some Chinese literature. You will not regret being whisked away by it.