Michael Hsieh, 9th grader, Developing Virtue BoyS School
At the age of eight, I came to the United States of America. In a blink of an eye, I’ve already spent seven years studying in the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB). Even though I’ve had Chinese class in school everyday, I feel I have little knowledge of Chinese culture. When the teacher told me that I was going to participate in the Chinese Culture Competition, I couldn’t stop complaining. Why didn’t the teacher find someone else who is better than me in Chinese?
The reason was that the Association of Northern California Chinese Schools (ANCCS) wanted to encourage children who grew up in the US to study Chinese culture, and so they changed some of the rules in the competition this year. The competitors this year had to have lived in the US for at least six years. This meant that I was qualified. Also our school is really small, so if I didn’t go there might not have been enough students to form a team.
Our Chinese culture class started in the middle of March. At first, we were not familiar with much Chinese culture, history, or geography, and none of us wanted to spend a lot of time to study it. A month passed, and we were still rather confused. When the teacher tested us, we were unable to answer most of his questions. Later, the teacher increased the class time and became stricter about the class. He even said, “I am not teaching you just so that you can win. Since you signed up for the competition, you should have a more responsible attitude. You must prepare yourself for it; you need to learn responsibility. If your level of understanding is still really poor before the competition, then don’t waste your time and energy to participate in the competition.”
It was as if we had just been awakened from a dream; everyone started to put their energy into studying hard. During spring break, we sacrificed our vacation to spend a couple hours in school everyday for this Chinese culture class. It was a team competition, and not only did we need the skill of each individual, we needed teamwork. After ten days, everyone was really into the class and our interest in Chinese culture had increased greatly, as well as our knowledge of it. “All of you are really intelligent, and the only thing to worry about is whether you work hard or not.”
The content of Chinese culture is very broad. It includes science, geography, etc. and it ranges from history to current events; it includes almost everything. We originally thought this class was going to be dull and boring, but when our interest was aroused, we started to think of it as if it was a fascinating treasury. Our teacher used various methods to teach us how to connect our knowledge of the dynasties, famous people, places, time and events together, so they became stories that we were very familiar with.
Before leaving for the competition, our teacher told us that since we had already tried our best in preparing ourselves, we should just do the best we could. The result of the contest was not that important. We should not be upset if we lose, and we should congratulate those who win. During this trip, none of us were worried about the contest and we had a great time.
Qin Zhi Lau, 9th grader, Developing Virtue Boys School
So, at long last, May 2nd came. The weather was exceptionally good, and it was a good day for a competition.
When we arrived at San Jose, it was already noon and so we went to a nearby park to have lunch. Since we had done a lot of talking in the car, the two teachers accompanying us had headaches. After we sat down to eat, I was quite nervous about the competition, and so I did not eat a lot. Michael, on the other hand, acted as if nothing was happening and ate three containers of noodles!
At one o’clock, we went to the site of the competition to sign in and register. This year was special for there were fourteen teams competing, and these fourteen teams were divided into four groups (by drawing straws). From each group, the top two would advance to the semifinals. We happened to be in the first group, so we were one of the first four to compete.
On stage, I was wondering: “What if we lose? Will we disappoint our parents and teachers?” Luckily, we were all very familiar with the nature of the questions, and so we did pretty good, even though the other teams were very aggressive too. So we got in to the semifinals.
During the semifinals, the eight teams that advanced from the initial competition were divided into another two groups, and as before, the first two teams would go into the finals. During the semifinals, we
and the Girls’ School both got to the top two places in the
same contest. The MC said, “Wow! Developing Virtue School is strong indeed! Both the Boys and Girls have duked it out, and both can now go to the finals!”
Now, when the finals came, we all felt the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were watching over us. For example, there was a particular multiple-choice question that asked, “Who was the first Chinese citizen in space?” Now, for multiple-choice questions, you have to say both the answer and the answer number. I knew the answer, but before the question was finished I hit the buzzer. Oh no! I had no idea what the number was! So I guessed. “2, Yang Liwei” was my response and amazingly I got it right!” The crowd exploded with applause and gasps. All the people on the team gave a good performance, and we got first place.
After the contest was over, we found out that the room directly behind us was a Buddha Hall, and it was very adorned. We all went in to bow to the Buddhas, and to transfer merit. It was very inconceivable indeed!
Grover Chen, 11th grader, Developing Virtue Boys School
After the finals, our victory was assured, and the Boys’ School and the Girls’ School got first and second place respectively. Our group was very excited, for after a month of hard work, our effort had finally paid off. This contest made me realize the meaning of “You reap what you sow.” During the award ceremony, we felt honored to receive such applause. Why? Not only did we represent DVS, we also showed everyone the educational achievements of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
In fact, all the participants in this contest were very good, and everyone had a very good understanding of Chinese culture. Winning first place didn’t mean that we are the strongest; it just meant that we had passed. I think that the purpose of this contest is great; it can enable students to further their understanding in Chinese history, geography, culture, ethics, medical science, science, literature, and philosophy, and also increase everyone’s interest in Chinese studies. The whole process was intense and exciting, and it was fun as well!
After the contest, we were still excited. On the way back to the City, we kept discussing the experiences we had in the contest. We had gained a lot of knowledge and experience during this contest, and I think that is the most precious. In this contest, we could not rely on just one person; rather, all of us had to work together. Only then could we accomplish something. We learned the importance of teamwork.
Winning first place in this Northern California Chinese Culture Competition is just the first step to the national competition. Therefore, we have to make additional efforts to improve ourselves. Finally, I would like to thank our Chinese teacher for teaching us strictly and diligently, as well as our parents for supporting us enthusiastically, thereby enabling us to have a successful and satisfying competition.