A Voyage Through Asian Culture (LS-ME-707)

To reach Japan and China one has to travel a long distance from Europe. This learning scenario tries to shorten this distance with the help of works of art which present some major elements of this faraway culture.


In the delicate Japanese or Chinese art works one admires the economy of the lines, the colors and the synthetic forms. So do some of the contemporary artists and great admirers of the video game culture. One of this artists is El Marques, a Spanish artist. His work, “Chun Li” contains most of the elements I wanted to present:

  • lotus flower
  • heron bird
  • sun
  • red, yellow and orange color
  • Chinese writing
  • a title evoking a traditional Chinese given name.

Additionally, Europeana ressources permitted me to introduce this faraway culture to young children.

How to present recurrent motifs of Asian art

Japanese and Chinese art and cultural vocabulary contains several recurring motifs: elements of nature’s fauna and flora, red, yellow, black and orange color, logograms, origamis, figurines, traditional given names.

In order to better present all these elements, I decided to use a theatrical scenography. Therefore, I did 3 more paintings that completed the scene of the artwork of the artist El Marques. In this way I obtained a story illustrated by 4 images. I also chose to create a small poem that presents this story. Each image and strophe introduced one or more recurring motifs of Asian culture.

As I worked with participants aged from 2 to 10 years old, I imagined a lot of playful activities using Europeana ressources. Bringing art works in the classroom or in a non formal educational space makes the implementation more special already. Adding a poem and dynamic activities, creates an atmosphere of a show !

Nature in Japanese and Chinese imagery : heron bird and lotus flower

Flowers, birds and landscapes are the center of the of the Japanese or Chinese art works. The heron is one of those birds that appear often in the Asian artistic representations. Its beauty and its grace resides in the silhouette of its body.

I wanted to stimulate the interest of the participants to the forms of heron’s anatomy by demanding them to imitate its flight. With the help of a heron paper puppet I gave rhythm to their mouvements.

Lotus flower is sacred in Japan and China, its image appears a lot on the art works. Using paper to obtain forms – the origami technique – is a very delicate handcraft in Japan. The participants experienced origami technique and other techniques to create a paper lotus flower.

Explaining logograms

Asian people use a different type of writing than the European one. To explain to the participants how logograms are created I made a step by step demonstration of the logogram “SUN”. I also invited the participants to create a logogram for the word “HERON” following the forms of the bird’s anatomy. For this activity I used an image from the Europeana collection.

This experience makes them understand better the starting point of some logograms and the creative process of other synthetic forms.

Asian traditional given names

Chinese traditional given names are descriptive and they refer to the personality or the appearance of the person. My goal was to present not only artistic elements but cultural aspects as well.

Therefore, to ease the comprehension of this practice, I imagined a game. Each participant was supposed to invented a given name for himself/herself taking according to his/her outfit. This exercise improves their analytical and observational capacity.

The importance of the colors

When looking at the Chinese or Japanese works of art of the Europeana collection one can see that red, yellow, orange and black are often employed. Therefore it is important to talk with the participants about colors.

Orange is used for the representation of the sun. I made a demonstration on how to obtain orange by mixing red and yellow.

To expand the information about Asian culture I used Europeana ressources for the practical part. The participants painted either an origami cat head, a cat mask or a sunset. They had on the painting tray just red and yellow. Thus, the participants experienced how to obtain orange.

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Public Domain Mark 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Rijksmuseum.

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