New Year legends in story-telling fest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 February, 2005, 12:00am

Once upon a time, the God of Heaven organised a campaign to decide which 12 animals should make up the Chinese zodiac. Both the Dragon and the Rooster were selected, but the Rooster ranked lower than the Dragon because he had lent his horns to the cunning Dragon. Ever since then, the Rooster crows loudly to the Dragon every sunrise to return his horns

This is just one of the Chinese New Year legends to be narrated by mythologist and English lecturer Dr Mark Greene, in a free story-telling session.

Dr Greene, a New York City native with a Ph.D in Mythological Studies and Psychology, has been fascinated by mythology since he was a child. According to him, story-telling is an important element in mythology, which preserves culture. Thousands of years ago, only very few people could read and write. If people wanted to pass a custom on to the next generation, they would either draw pictures or tell the stories verbally.

Story-telling was not only crucial in ancient times, but is in modern times too. 'I believe story-telling points children in a positive direction by sparking their curiosity for their own culture as well as cultures from all over the world,' Dr Greene said.

'Kids have the ability to let themselves completely go into the stories. When you say a big monster growls, you will see the fear in the children's eyes. They are good at visualising things in their minds.'

According to Dr Greene, there are many similarities between Chinese and western cultures. For example, a lot of festivals are centred around food - turkey for Christmas and steamed pudding for Chinese New Year, to name just two. But most importantly, the whole family will gather together during traditional festivals for dinner, as a way of developing family bonding.

'Ideally, the child will glimpse the fact that humans around the world have more in common than they might have thought and that it is in learning about and enjoying our diversity that our lives are enriched,' Dr Greene said.

But why ask a westerner to tell Chinese stories in English? 'Telling Chinese stories in English is a practical and important way to bridge the cultures of East and West ' he said.

'When a local child hears a Chinese myth in English, something may click in his mind along the lines of, 'Wow, that's a Chinese story and people from other countries know it, translate it and tell it in their language: our stories are part of a greater world of stories.''

Dr Greene will share interesting stories of Chinese New Year on February 20, at 4pm and 5pm, in the fourth floor lobby of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Admission is free. Reservations can be made on February 14 and 15, from 10am to noon. To book your seat, call 2734 2154. Other festive activities such as Chinese paper cutting and guided tours at the museum will also take place during Chinese New Year.