On Thursday, April 19, the intrepid Tiger class trekked via BART to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to participate in a special storytelling tour of the museum.
In a gallery filled with animal sculptures carved from stone, the children heard the story of the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, in which the emperor decrees that there will be a river race to determine which animal will lead the twelve-year calendar. According to legend, the rat and the cat, who are clever but unskilled at swimming, convince the naive but good-natured water ox to carry them on his back across the river. Just before reaching the finish line, the rat pushes the cat into the river and then leaps off the ox’s back to land on the opposite bank first. Thus, the rat wins the race and also the prized position at the head of the zodiac calendar.
In the jade gallery, the tour paused in front of a long paintbrush with an intricately carved jade handle. Here the guide told the story of a poor village boy who is given the gift of a magic paintbrush that can make whatever he paints come to life. When his fellow villagers need water for the fields, for example, the boy paints a river that magically irrigates the fields. When the evil emperor hears of the boy and his brush, however, he demands that the boy appear at his court to paint pictures that will bring the emperor incredible wealth and power. Because the magic brush can be used only for good—and because our young hero is clever—the boy manages to use his brush to rid the kingdom of the evil emperor so that a good ruler can rise up and care properly for his people.
The museum guide led the children through several more galleries and shared two more Chinese legends relating to objects in the rooms. The children sat through all four stories with incredibly rapt attention…
After the museum tour, the Tiger class spilled out for a sunny lunch across the street at the Civic Center Plaza. The return BART ride back to school was mellow as the children were lulled, perhaps, by musings of the clever rat, the good-natured ox, or the boy and his magic paintbrush.
- Contributed by Devra Nelson, parent of Raina in the Tiger class