This book is a compilation of the 230 best student essays submitted in English composition classes at the Teachers College of Qingdao University in Qingdao, Shandong, P. R. China, during the spring semester of 2000. The stories were submitted to fulfill assignments given by American instructor, Mark F. Harris, for his students to write about their grandparents, parents, family life and some of their own childhood and school experiences as well as to contemplate the future.
In doing research for the essays, a few of the students had the good fortune to interview their grandparents, while many more were able to question their parents. They wrote about times of hardship, sacrifice and deprivation. They gave brief but graphic accounts of the Japanese invasion and occupation of China, the War of Liberation and the founding of modern China, the Cultural Revolution and of hardships associated with famine and poverty. Some of the essays described the common relationships that exist in the traditional Chinese family.
In writing about themselves, most students related memorable events of their normal, carefree childhood. They also mentioned encountering frustrations in their growing up and changing years and of competing with classmates in school activities. Almost universally, they wrote about the challenge of preparing for and passing the university entrance examination. Many essays conveyed messages portraying strong cultural values, such as honesty, perseverance, loyalty, devotion, justice and responsibility. Stories depicting situations of great seriousness are balanced with those reflecting childhood innocence and humor.
The students wrote inEnglish, which is their second language. Mr. Harris quickly learned there was a unique style to their "Chinese English". They were able to superimpose English over their Chinese language and thought patterns, resulting in writing with less precision and exactness when compared to American usage. Yet, beautiful imagery and poetic expressions seemed to flow naturally. Even though the reader may have no knowledge of the Chinese language, most probably, he will unknowingly be reading "Chinese" when studying these essays.
A good example of this beautiful language is expressed in an essay by Liu Ranji (James), who concluded that "a distant place is not only a concept of space, it is a higher pursuit in spirit. The pursuit will be endless, since a distant place is like a beacon that guides my journey in life. " The title of the book comes from this essay, since the "pursuit" described by the writer in many ways parallels the author's "pursuit", even in traveling to "a distant place" called China.
This timely collection of essays, written by some of China's brightest young people, gives clear insight into a way of life that properly needs to be recorded.
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About the Author
For thirty-five years, Mark Harris taught high school biology and photography in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. After retiring, he and his wife Luree spent two years in China teaching English to university students who were preparing to be secondary school teachers of English. Mark and Luree were associated with the China Teacher's Program sponsored by the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Recently, Mark and Luree sold their home in the Bay Area and moved to their new "retirement" home in the Sierra Nevada foothill community of Cameron Park, thirty miles east of Sacramento, California. Both are involved with numerous hobbies. Being a great storyteller, Mark made an audio recording of "Devastating American Jokes" which was marketed in China to university and high school students of English. Even above writing, Mark enjoys nature photography. Soon, he plans to publish a book displaying his one hundred best photographs. Mark and Luree have five children and thirteen grandchildren.