On creating a multi-media classroom for discussing an ancient text
Welcome to my three kingdoms community, I created this community to support my class at MIT, Three Kingdoms from history to fiction, comic, film and game.
So we're here now on the landing page, where I welcome students to the community. And then they have a button right here where they can go ahead and create their account to join our community. And for most of my students, it was a very first time using Pub Pub. And so it was easy for them to go here to create their account. And in the navigation bar, you can see here we have the main projects that the students were working on throughout the term, and sharing with one another, the character profiles, their timelines of the novel. The maps of the actual main action and battles in the novel crossmedia comparisons because the central theme of our class was not only to read this historical novel, but also to compare adaptions of the history of the original history into fiction, and then adaptations of the fiction later into comic books, films, TV series, games, you name it. And then we also had pubs where we worked on various brainstorming activities about main themes in the novel together, and explorations was just completely open for them to do whatever they wanted to do.
So let me scroll down now to share with you some of my pubs that I added to the community. The first one I'd like to share is “omens.” And I created this page as a response to some of the student questions. Because as we started to read through the novel, like right away in chapter one, there's a lot of omens that the students especially who haven't taken any Chinese history before, were really unfamiliar with what these almonds were and what they meant. And so they had a lot of questions. So I began to map out some of the omens as they appear chapter by chapter snakes were really important in chapter one, white snakes, as well as green snakes. And that led us into a conversation about color symbolism in traditional Chinese culture, and snakes, of course, also being related to dragons in Chinese mythology. So that led us into a lot of discussions about various kinds of omens. And whether the dragons that appeared in the texts were auspicious, or actually evil omens, and they compared with the use of the dragon in Western literature. And then we came to weather and other natural phenomenon because there's a lot of omens connected with weather in the novel, anomalous animals. So here just mapped out how they appeared in chapter one, and then continued to show up again and again in the novel. This omen is really fun, because it's a secondary rainbow that appeared in the palace at a certain time, which was actually a negative omen. And I add just added something. Some thoughts about this this morning, because interestingly, when Queen Elizabeth the Second of Great Britain died in September 2022, you might recall that a double rainbow appeared over Buckingham Palace. So these omens I think, you know, appear in different cultures in different times and places. And here, I kind of broke down some of the omens that were in the poetry because they go character by character. And that's really hard for students to understand when they're reading the text in translation, and if they're not familiar with the Chinese language. So that was the first one that I wanted to share with you.
Go back to our homepage. Another I can just show you my exploratory pub where I was trying out different digital humanities tools that the students could use for their projects. And I had samples here so they could see how they might work. So the first example I had is a timeline. have key events leading up to the battle at Red Cliffs in the novel. And I use timeline J S, which is produced by the Knight Lab for this project. So here, we can just easily go through date by date, and see some of the major events and movements that happened in the novel leading up to some of the major battles that happened. And using different kinds of media to illustrate those scenes from the novel. Then my second visualization was to take essentially the same events and show them on a map. And this was quite important because a lot of students aren't familiar with the geography of ancient China. And the events of our novel take place all over the kingdom. And so through this, they could see how the action, the main action of the novel that we've just seen the timeline covers some of the key geography of the Chinese landscape. That was all done. So that was also done with story map JS, again from the night lab. And then the third tool from the night lab is Juxtapoz JS. And this is a really clever tool that allows you to juxtapose two images. And so I chose here two images that represent the Oath of the Peach Garden, which is one of the key episodes of the novel, because it's in this Peach Garden, that are three primary heroes swear an oath of allegiance to one another. And in this image, they can see how the scene is depicted in the summer palace at Beijing, from the Qing Dynasty. And on this side, it's depicted in a Japanese woodblock print, by Gustavo Hakuna Yoshi from roughly 1853. And they can see that it's depicted a very, very different light, the same scene from the novel is imagined very, very differently. And so that led the way to a lot of different conversations, and in particularly about gender, because you can see that two women actually show up in this Japanese print, which call to mind the fact that they're very much absent. Women are absent from this Chinese depiction of the same scene and very much absent from the novel itself. So that by looking at those images, and focusing on the differences, we were able to get into a lot of conversations about gender in the novel.
And finally, I'd like to wrap up by showing you one more of my cross media comparisons. This was again, an example that I shared with the students so that they could get started on their own blog pages, that they did her and that was a project that culminated at the end of the semester. And in this post, I wanted to focus on the many fates of Dai Chen, who is one of the very, very few female characters from the novel. It's a very male centered novel, because it's all about battles and heroism. And the females are very much marginalised from the narrative. But there's one quite famous character Dai Chan, who is used basically in a honeypot scheme to bring down the usurper of the kingdom. And I juxtaposed here two different images, one from a comic book and this one from the 2010 TV series, and it broke down further you know, how this heroine is portrayed in the novel. And then in this comic book, so she is again in a used in this beauty trap or double snare honeypot scheme to bring down the main tyrant at the beginning of the novel. And here at the end of the comic book she needs to kind of happily ever after ending in the arms of her lover who rescues her. And it implies right here that he got a lot of wealth. He you know, captured the enemy and he got his love, since a happy ever after ending. The TV series from 2010 ends very, very differently because they add in a second honeypot scheme where Dai Chan uses her seductive beauty to entrap a second evil villain in the novel. And she comes to dance for him and then pulls out this sword in an attempt to assassinate him. And so tragically, she doesn't actually assassinate him and she ends up killing herself by suicide slitting her throat with this dagger. So instead of coming to a happy end with her love, here she comes to a very, very tragic end, but in the internet in an attempt, in fact to take revenge for her lover. So that was how I compare those two scenes. And that led the way for the students to do their own cross-media comparisons that we collected in this collection here. So that just gives you a basic overview of some of my contributions to the pub, and how I was encouraging students to add their own contributions to collectively, you know, make annotations for this wonderful, epic novel in Chinese history.