2011 East Asian Celebration: Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity

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Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures have distinct and rich histories as well as overlapping and shared cultural traditions that cross geographic national boundaries. In this workshop, educators explore how the wishes of long life, happiness, and prosperity are revealed throughout Asia in decorative arts, folk tales, painting and dance movement. Within this artistic medley are connections to festivals, performing arts, health, and society that make for a fascinating day-long experience with East Asian cultures. Lectures, performance, and hands-on teaching ideas—SB-CEUs provided.

Every culture develops unique ways of viewing the world and identifying those invisible or intangible forces that affect the quality of human life. Throughout much of Asian culture, we find hidden meanings and culturally-specific symbols in visual imagery, theatrical performances, literary forms and folklore that reveal wishes of happiness, wealth or long life. This constant preoccupation with good fortune is not necessarily thought of as something transcendental—it is connected with worldly advantages, riches and honor, and extending one’s life. Across East Asian symbology, we see flowers masquerading as blessings, children heralding more children, immortals granting pleasure and happiness, and animals standing for a life of service and fulfillment. The key to this lexicon of good luck is provided through resources provided at our workshop and includes scavenger hunts at the University Art Museum. Stay tuned for images and techniques that can be used over and over in the classroom—and new ways to appropriate the global dimensions of happiness.

The foundation of this workshop complements the U-M theme semester “What Makes Life Worth Living.” Through this immersion, we hope to contribute towards a broad array of opportunities for students to read, think, talk and write about what constitutes a full life across time and half the globe. How do we ensure lasting relationships, a prosperous business, good health or creativity? How do we make meaningful commitments to ourselves, family, and community? How have the traditions of good living been expressed historically and how are such traditions expressed today? Students should begin to value the diversity of ways that people engage and answer these queries. We’ll see how responses to these enduring issues are transmitted now—and what might be in store for the future.