The Teaching Notes for NWCS

The above collection contains the following: 1. Collection of Notes for 12th grade  2. Notes Related to Chinese Chess+++ class  3. Syllabus for 12th grade class 2004 and 2005 and 4. Paper presented at American Chinese School Conference. The content below is class material for 12th grade Fall 2006:   

The Syllabus and Calendar for 12th Grade Fall 2006

The Fall class of 12th Grade is the final class before graduation. The class will review what the students have learned in previous 11 years by assigning students with various tasks listed in the table below. The class also will enhance the students' knowledge in various topics related to Chinese language, history and culture by offering seminars and preparing seminars on selected topics. Recognizing the busy schedule of 12th graders in taking tests and selecting colleges, the class will approve "request for absence" for a couple of classes if a legitimate reason is given. Each student's work and assignment will be tabulated in the table below. The total score will be used to determine the student's grade for this class. In the first class the instructor will take attendance and enter every student's name in the table below (print this page out). The class will introduce themselves and sign up an email list for communication use. Students will review their summer work if any and then review the class calendar below. In the final half hour, the students are required to write a zuo4 you4 ming2 (Motto) with one page on why the motto is selected. The instructor will explain what zuo4 you4 ming2 means and help students to develop their own.

Student Name


Chinese Story

Motto Pairing Phrase Poems Essays Idiom Seminar Attendance and report Translation Cover Design for Yearbook Graduation Play Total



The above table tabulates 12th grade students' study record and the total score determines the student's grade

The table below is an outline of class assignment according to the syllabus listed as the class calendar for 12th Grade 2006 Class

(Week 1)
 First Class: Introduction, Names & Faces, Contact Info, Calendar Review, Student Summer Review, Each student spend 30 minutes thinking and writing a zuo4 you4 ming2 (Motto) with one page on why the motto is selected. 第一學期開始上課。
Fall semester begins
(Week 2)
 Seminar: The Fun and Intrigue of Chinese Language by Dr. Donald Tang, One of the founders of NWCS and formerly Scientist at IBM TJ Watson Research Center with five years working in Chinese language processing in IBM China Research Lab before retiring.  新家長座談會。
New Parents' Conference, 12th Grade Seminar Open to NWCS parents and general audience
(Week 3)
Two lectures: (1) Chinese holidays and memorial days and (2) Chinese Music and instruments. These lectures will be delivered by Dr. Eric Wu in a seminar style showing slides and illustrations. The students are expected to write a review to list all Chinese Holidays with a brief explanation and a list of Chinese music instruments in both Chinese and English names.  董事會。消防演習。
Board Meeting; Fire Drill, 12th Grade can do the self study at home. If in school must participate in fire drill.


 xxx No Class! Self Study: Choose one topic, (1) The Similarity and Differences between Chinese Chess and Western Chess, Student attendance and submit one page report in Chinese (Do some Internet search and see reference lecture notes on Chess and Chess+++ class notes and chess rules) (2) The History and Introduction of Wei Chi (Go), Student do research online and see lecture notes on Wei Chi and submit one page report in Chinese. 學校停課。 北威獎學金截止申請。
Columbus Day; Application deadline for NWCS Scholarship

(Week 4)

 Attend and Participate in Seminar and submit one page seminar report in Chinese 專題座談會。

(Week 5)

 Chinese Pairing Phrase (Du Lian), introducing some famous Du Lian. Each Student spends 50 minutes writing a Du Lian and explain what does it mean in one page in Chinese 老師家長座談會。
Teacher/Parent Conferences

(Week 6)

 Chinese Poem and  Discussion on Class Play at Graduation Party: emphasizing Chinese Culture, Music, Poems and Calligraphy, Class photo session 董事會。班級照像。
Board Meeting; Class Pictures
(Week 7)

Student Seminar: up to four students giving a seminar with selected topics: 1. How to Learn Chinese 2. Chinese Culture (pick any subject, cooking, fashion, family, wedding, banquet, music, tea etc) 3. Selecting College and 4. My Experience in Chinese School (reference ACS conference papers see links above)

期中考。 專題座談會。
Midterm; Seminar
(Week 8)
 Student Seminar: up to four students giving a seminar with selected topics: 1. How to Learn Chinese 2. Chinese Culture (pick any subject, cooking, fashion, family, wedding, banquet, music, tea etc) 3. Selecting College and 4. My Experience in Chinese School (reference ACS conference papers and see links above) 董事會。
Board Meeting
(Week 9)
 Preparation of Class Play, Preparation and Rehearsal 家長大會。
General Meeting


 xxx No Class 學校停課。
Thanksgiving - no classes
(Week 10)
 Attend and Participate in Seminar and submit one page seminar report in Chinese 專題座談會。

(Week 11)

 Class Play Preparation 董事會。 北威背誦比賽。
Board Meeting; Speech Contest

(Week 12)

 Seminar on Chinese Culture: Painting, Music, Folk Arts or Chinese Famous Stories, Authors or Movies  

12/23 &12/30

 xxx No Class 學校停課。
Christmas/New Year - no classes

(Week 13)

 Rehearsal of Class Play and Review of Essays for Year Book 新年晚會餐券發售。 春季班選修課加改選。
New Year's Party Tickets On Sale; Spring Elective Class Enrollment
(Week 14)
 Final Exam Day Graduation Speech Preparation 期末考。 董事會。 學期結束。 春季班選修課加改選。 新年晚會。

Final Exam; Board Meeting; New Year's Party; Spring Elective Class Enrollment
 Reserved for Make Up Day 預留備下雪學期順延。
Make-up day for snow day



Sun Zi Bin Fa Lecture and Notes


I. Begining with Planning

 1. Sun Tzu said: The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a way leading to either survival or parish. Hence one can never be ignorant with no understanding or not investigating (studying, researching) it.

2. So threads with five key elements. Analyze them with thinking and planning to investigate the truth about war. The five key elements are:  (1) The first one is right of way (right or wrong) governed by principles (Moral Laws); (2) The second is Heaven (nature's constancy and unpredictability) ; (3)The third is Earth (environment's conditions and awareness); (4) The fourth is the Leader (the general or commander who shall leads the warfare); (5) The fifth is the rules ( military methods and disciplines). 

3. Achieving right of way via principles, means and aligns people (and soldiers) in agreement with their ruler's desire and action. (public opinion support is very important as evidenced by the US-Iraq war, the initial citizen's support, the foreign countries' opinions and anti-war dissent...)   The people (and soldiers) then can be led to death or survival without any fear of danger and regret.  

4. Heaven delivers time change, night and day, weather change, cold and heat, and seasonal variations (predictable and unpredictable changes). 

5. Earth  measures distances, far versus near; rough and danger versus simple and ease; open fields versus narrow passes; life versus death situations. 

6. The Leader is defined by  the virtues of wisdom, credibility, love and care, courage and power and discipline and strict with fairness. 

7. The Rules governs organizational structure and discipline, rank and file authorities and responsibilities, and control of supplies and expenditures.   

8. These five key elements should be familiar to every commander and general. One who knows and understands them will be victorious winners and who are ignorant will be doomed to be failures. 

9. So threads with five key elements. Analyze them with thinking and planning to investigate the truth about war.

Assignment: Continue the translation to the end of chapter 1.

Supplemental Notes on Chinese Chess

By Dr. Ifay Chang, Northern Westchester Chinese School 

Reference material 

1. from the Internet, "An Intorduction to Chinese Chess" by (Terence) Peter Donnelly

2. Chess+++ Notes, Comparison of Chinese Chess and American Chess

Mr.Donnelly's article is one of the best introductory material on Hsiang Ch’i, I have ever come across. He is the author of the book, "The Chinese Game of Chess", published in 1974. In the following I shall extract materials from the referenced material for the Chess+++ class. I shall take advantage of the web publishing tools to insert my comments into Mr. Donnelly's original text at appropriate places bracketted by [...]. Some original texts are omitted. Students can always visit the original article at

For the convenience of the students and their guardians to study this lecture together, this material is posted in the Chess+++ class web pages at 

An Introduction to Chinese Chess

by (Terence) Peter Donnelly
Author of Hsiang Ch’i: The Chinese Game of Chess (1974)

Chinese Chess, or xiangqi, is perhaps the most popular board game in the world, played by millions of people in China, other parts of Asia, and wherever Chinese have settled. In recent years it has started to become better known among non-Chinese. Westernized sets of boards and pieces sometimes show up in specialty games shops, and there have been several computer versions. But this wonderful game is still not as well known as it deserves to be.

For sheer fun, it’s hard to think of a two-player board game that matches Chinese chess. It exercises the brain in much the same way as Western (international) chess, but it is much faster moving. The movement of the pieces tends to be more fluid, the positions more open. It might be said that Chinese chess is more a tactical game than a strategic one. In a sense, it is all "middle game." There is no careful buildup of pawn structures, the major pieces come into play immediately, and drawn-out endgames are rare. Although the openings have been classified, my sense (as a pure amateur) is that it is possible to become a good player without a lot of rote learning.

[The students ought to be cautious about the strategic versus tactical game aspect in comparing Chinese Chess versus Western Chess. Mr. Donnelly's statement of Chinese Chess is 'all "middle game"' is not because of that Chinese Chess prevents a player to think strategically and build up a careful defense structure, rather it is because of that the Chinese Chess allows faster engagement (pieces tend to move more fluidly and positions are more open, less pawns to block the positions...), hence a careful defense structure (as usually done in Western Chess) can be easily interrupted by the fast engagement from the opponent. The Western Chess has eight pawns and placed in close proximity of the king lends itself to make more defensive positioning. The Chinese Chess, with its King confined in a castle square guarded by the confined bishops (also called mandarins) and the defensive movement-restricted elephants (also called ministers), does not require as much attention as Western Chess in setting up a defense. The castling of the king with either rook on the chess board unique in the Western Chess opens a lot more possibilities of setting up a defense as well as vulnerability of the king to be attacked. Since the placements of the pieces in Western Chess does not allow any fast attack (more pawns and all pieces are placed at the base two rows of the chess board, fast winning attack is difficult; fast trading is possible which tend to make the game a long drawn defensive game), it is natural for players to make careful initial moves to settle up a defense oriented strategy rather than an attack oriented strategy.]

[As to the learning to become a good player, studying game patterns is the best way whether studying alone or by playing with a better player in both Chinese Chess and Western Chess. It is true that the opening game patterns in Chinese Chess are few to dwell on (as they are easily dictated by the opponent's offensive moves, less so in Western Chess) but its middle games and end games are just as challenging if not more difficult to study as the Western Chess.]

[Mr. Donnelly's article contains a nice graphical picture of the Chinese Chess Board and pieces. The applet for playing Chinese online in solitaire is especially beneficial to students who want to learn the Chinese Chess game patterns to master the game. By entering the move commands in the command window, one can set up any game pattern, then one can play from there with thoughtful moves. Naturally two people can play. Students and their parents are encouraged to play together. They can follow any Chinese Chess book's game pattern to set it up then play. The class notes containing game patterns we have distributed in the past are excellent exercises for students to do on this Chinese Chess applet. *note: Applet is a computer program loaded and executable on mouse command.]        

Contents of This Page 

[Mr. Donnelly's Introduction Page contains a lot of information about the Chinese Chess. The history section is interesting although one must keep some reservation not accepted as gospel simply because evolution of games can be just complex as evolution of civilization. Often there is no authentic records for historians to go by. Chinese Chess has been mentioned by many old Chinese classical literature as well as story books because it was a game enjoyed by scholars, royals and common folks in China.]

[The students should refer to the Chess+++'s class notes on comparison of Chinese Chess versus Western Chess when reading the parts on Chess Board, pieces and movements.]

[From Setup and Sample Games onward, it will be shown in a separate window linked to Mr. Donnelly's page. My comments will be discussed in the classs.]


Like all forms of chess, xiangqi is a descendant of the Indian game of chaturanga, which developed around the middle of the first millenium CE. Chaturanga was evidently played on a board identical to that used in modern Western chess, with the same configuration of pieces, although the moves of some were more limited.

Chaturanga spread to the west through Persia and the Islamic world until it arrived in Europe in the Middle Ages. At the same time, it spread into China and thence to Japan, where it took a very distinct form as shogi. There is also a Korean version very similar to the Chinese one. (Further south, the chess of Thailand, which is holding its own as a national pastime, appears to be on a different evolutionary branch.) By the end of the Song dynasty (960-1279), the modern Chinese game was fully developed.

Some sources assert that China is the birthplace of chess, but this is improbable, since the Chinese game is an obvious improvement on chaturanga. What seems more likely is that chaturanga converged with one or more native Chinese games. The modern game may even contain traces of an ancient system of divination in which pieces representing celestial bodies were moved about a map of the cosmos, divided by the Milky Way. The Milky Way is called a river by the Chinese, and the chessboard, as we shall see, has a river running through it. Charles Kliene gives more evidence of this association in the highly entertaining Preface to his Seven Stars: A Chinese Chess Variation with Three Hundred Endings. See also Joseph Needham’s Science and Civilization in China, vol. 4 pt. 1, pp. 314 ff, and H.J.R. Murray’s A History of Chess (1913), p. 122.

Even the name of the game may suggest a connection with some type of astrological tablet. Qi qi means a strategy game, and xiang xiang is the character that appears on the so-called elephants of the black side. (The equivalent red pieces are called by a homonym that signifies "adviser" or "augur".) Like so many Chinese words, xiang has several meanings: it can indeed mean "elephant", but it might equally refer to the ivory from which some sets are made, or it might signify "image" or "symbol" or even (according to Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary) "star" or "heavenly body". Thus xiangqi might be translated "celestial game". "Elephant game" is a possible translation, but it does not seem apt, given the very limited role of the elephant in play; unless the name simply suggests the game's Indian origins.

[The piece Elephantmeans the minister or an adviser to the King or Emperor or the General. The minister or advisor often had to advise the king based on his observations of the stars (image of sky or heaven). The word xiang xiang is indeed used in 'image of heaven' and 'patterns of weather'. The equivalency of these two pieces make perfect sense in Chinese Chess. Therefore, the milky way and celestial game may be a good interpretation.  However, the modern game since Song Dynasty definitely depicts more as a war game between countries.] 

It is interesting to compare the evolution of chess in China and the West. The game of chaturanga suffered from several weaknesses, and these weaknesses were remedied in very different ways, as follows:

  1. The pawns in chaturanga were slow to come into contact with the enemy. In Western chess, this problem was solved by allowing the pawns their initial two-step move. The Chinese solution was to set up the pawns in a forward position.
  2. The original game suffered from a lack of mobile attacking forces. Among the major pieces, only the rook and knight had their modern moves. The bishop moved just two squares diagonally, the queen just one. In the West, this problem was solved first by extending the move of the bishop, then finally during the Renaissance by the unleashing of the modern queen -- delightfully called in Italian the dama rabiosa. In China, the queen and bishop became if anything weaker than in chaturanga, but two powerful new mobile pieces, the cannons, were added. Moreover, the reduction of the number of pawns to five opened up files for the rapid deployment of the rooks.
  3. Games of chaturanga that reached the endgame must often have ended in a draw, because the pawn only promoted to the weak queen. In the West, the extension of the powers of the queen made it easier to enforce checkmate in the endgame. In China, the approach was very different: the king was confined to a small part of the board, making him easier to pin down, and the pawns were promoted earlier, being granted lateral movement as soon as they passed the river at the centre of the board. In addition, the king was given the extraordinary power of striking across the board like a rook against the opposing king, making it easier to checkmate with just a few pieces left on the board.

[These observations are very good based on the assumption that both Chinese and Western Chess games are evolved from Chaturanga. Students may refer to the previous class notes on how culture may have influenced the evolution of the Chess game in the Western World and the East. In the past, both West and East were male dominated societies in reality, but Queens are more glorified and empowered by her beauties in the West (a 'civility' accepted among royals and citizens which may have led to the evolution of Queen's power in Western Chess) whereas Queens in the East were not permitted to have much influence in politics or national affairs (a 'morality' regarded by royals and citizens - Queen ought to be a mother caring for her children and husband - which may have led to the disappearance of the Queen in the Chinese Chess.). Of course, it is entirely possible, the Chinese Chess was evolved from one of the many ancient Chinese board games just like Wei Qi or Go game.]   

An important part of the game’s history is the development of the problem. Unlike Western chess problems of the "black to move and mate in three" variety, xiangqi problems usually offer one side an easy forced win, given the first move, but can also be won by the other side if the advantage is reversed. Charles Kliene has documented one such ending, and gives a colourful description of the hustlers (bai3 qishi di, which translates as something like "powers of chess layout") who would set up such jeux partis at the side of the road and challenge all comers. Evidently this custom is still alive today.

[Setting up a challenge game pattern and let the opponents to choose which side to play and always beat them is an interesting gambling game. Typically, there may be hundreds of ways of starting the game from a game pattern but only one sequence will lead to victory for one side red or black. The Chess Master had memorized all these hundreds of play sequences, hence leaving the challenger a small probability, one of several hundred, to win. With that kind of odds, the Chess Master can afford to offer 10 to pay off if a challenger wins. When someone did win, the Chess Master knows that he has found another master. They will make friends and play chess for amusement.]    

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Basic Rules

Player take alternate turns. In each turn, a player must make a single move with a single piece. If a piece ends its move on a point occupied by an enemy piece, that piece is captured and permanently removed from play.

The object of the game is to capture the enemy general. The game is won as soon as one player can make no move that prevents capture of his general. This is checkmate. Stalemate, where one player has no legal move but is not in check, is a win for the last player to move.

It is illegal to make any move that exposes your general to immediate capture. This is called moving into check.

It is illegal to avoid defeat or attempt to force a draw by repeating the same series of moves over and over. In particular, perpetual check is not allowed, and the onus is on the attacker to vary his move.

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The Board

As can be seen from the diagram, the board is very different from the one used for Western chess. The pieces are played on the lines, not on the squares; the playing field is therefore a grid of nine files (numbered here for traditional game notation) and ten ranks, making it 40 percent larger than the Western chessboard.

The board

The markings on the board have the following significance:

  1. The blank strip dividing the two sides is the river. This is important for two pieces: the elephant, which can advance only as far as the near bank, and the soldier, which achieves greater power of movement (promotion) as soon as it reaches the far bank. The river is usually decorated with a calligraphic inscription such as "River Boundary" hejie, or sometimes a more elaborate motto.
  2. The nine points marked by an X on each side constitute the castle or palace. The general and his two mandarins cannot leave this area.
  3. The small markings on the third and fourth ranks on each side are simply an aid to the initial placement of the soldiers and the cannons. All other pieces are placed on the first rank.

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The Pieces

The pieces are small discs of wood, plastic, or some other material. Pieces are identified by Chinese ideograms in the team colours, typically black (sometimes another dark colour) and red. The names of some of the pieces differ on the two sides. The character on the red elephant, for example, actually means minister or augur. However, discussions of the game in English invariably assign the same names to the pieces on both sides.

There is also some variation in the form of the characters, especially in older sets.

Although the pieces are often referred to by the names of their Western equivalents, I believe this practice dishonours the distinct tradition of the Chinese game, and I prefer to use translations of the Chinese names. I have, however, retained the standard abbreviations of the pieces for notation.

ImageNameNo. on each sideAbbreviation [Other Name]
GeneralGeneralGeneral (King)1K Emporer
MandarinMandarinMandarin (Assistant)2ABishop
ElephantElephantElephant2E Minister
HorseHorseHorse2H Knight
ChariotChariotChariot (Rook)2R Vehicle
CannonCannonCannon2C Cannon
SoldierSoldierSoldier (Pawn)5P Pawn

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Moves of the Pieces

In all cases except that of the cannon, pieces move when capturing just as they do when not capturing.

General. One square in any non-diagonal direction within the castle. Cannot move outside the castle. In addition, the general has the theoretical power of moving like a rook along a file from his own castle to the enemy castle, to capture the opposing general. Therefore it is illegal to make any move that leaves your own general on an open file opposite the opposing general, because to do so would be to move into check.

Mandarin. One square in any diagonal direction within the castle. Cannot move outside the castle.

Elephant. Two points in any diagonal direction. It must move two points, and cannot leap another piece of either colour. Cannot cross the river. An elephant can thus reach only seven points on the board.

Horse. One point in any non-diagonal direction, followed by one point in a diagonal direction, so that it ends two points away from where it started. This is similar to the knight’s move in Western chess, except that the move is blocked by any piece occupying the point at the "elbow" of the move. Hence it is important to remember that the non-diagonal part of the move comes first.

Chariot. Any number of points in any non-diagonal direction. Cannot leap. This is just like the rook’s move in Western chess.

Cannon. When not capturing, moves just like the chariot. When capturing, must leap a single piece of either colour before proceeding to the point occupied by the target piece. This intervening piece is called a screen.

Soldier. One point straight forward. After it reaches the opposite river bank, can move one point forward or directly sideways. Never moves diagonally or backward. No further promotion is gained when a soldier reaches the farthest rank of the board.

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Setup and Sample Game

The pieces are set up as shown in the following diagram. Red moves first. (Some older books have black moving first; see note).

Using the viewer applet you can also see the moves of a sample game, from a collection published in Shanghai in 1958. This game is by no means typical in its brilliancy, but it does show the fast-moving, tactical nature of Chinese chess.

Click here for a popup reminder of the pieces and how they move.

Click here for a popup reminder of the pieces and how they move.

Click here to open the applet.
Follow the Game Notation and Examples Then play the games and classical endings. Enjoy! 

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Skookum’s home page

Chinese 'Common Language' and 21st Century

珍惜華人的 『共同語言』

此文乃參加校友會有感而發。 每個讀書人都會是校友﹐ 不論那個學校﹐校友們都有他們的『共同語言』﹐由此推廣那麼華人是不是有華人的共同語言?

一個成功的學校必有優秀凝聚的校友。 成功的校友有其特殊的地方。 個人成功校友自因人而有其不同的特點﹐而團體成功的校友們則有其共同的特點。這個特點就是他們有一個『共同語言』。凡是校友都能感覺到﹐相聚的時候大家的談話有一種『共同的語言』。每次校友會聚會﹐校友們報名字和報班級之後,不分男女、不分老少、不分貧富、不分地方、不分專業談起了話就都是校友話,大家聽說的有味,互相了解,自然的就形成了一種『共同語言』這種『共同語言』就有極大的凝聚力﹐校友們會自願出力、出錢幫助校友會及母校。成功的校友們不論分散在什麼地方、什麼國家﹐任何公司行業﹐只要聚在一起就會說著校友們的『共同語言』。這在地方性的、全國性、以來至於全球性的校友會都可目睹。即使是個人的語言不同﹐廣東話、福州話、客家話、英語、日語、法語甚至馬來語﹐在校友會裡他們都會變成了『共同語言』的一部份。一個成功的學校不論誰做校長校友們總是能保有他們的『共同語言』。這種共同的語言甚至能把非校友的校長也凝聚在校友的共同語言中。舉個例﹐成功大學的台大畢業生高強校長就融會在成功大學校友的『共同語言』之中。 


在人類演變進展中﹐人與人爭、國與國爭是不斷的有記載。現在人類進入了世界村或地球村的世紀﹐我們可以觀察到越是先進國家越能了解到人類互爭是只有毀滅之途。人類發展到現在﹐人類有共同的敵人﹐譬如說天然環境上的共同敵人 -風災、水災、地震等﹐又譬如說自然生理的共同敵人 - 愛滋病、癌症、其他濾過性病原體。這種共同的敵人才是對人類的威脅。在這世界村時代先進的國家都在尋求『共同語言』﹐也就是大家要尋求共識、共享環境、共同合作。即使在開發中國家賢明的領導者也是在找尋『共同語言』。這就是為什麼開發中國家都想要加入WTOWHO等等國際組織的原因。因為這些組織的目的就是尋求共識、共享環境、和共同合作。


華人遍居世界各州﹐生活在不同的國家裡﹐有多種的方言﹐和不同國家語﹐華人怎麼會有一個『共同語言』呢?筆者的看法是華人是有一個『共同的語言』﹐它的根基就建立在一個共同的環境﹐我們的地球。也建立在一個共識﹐那就是五千年的中華歷史 - 大家都是炎黃子孫。這個共同的語言有凝聚力﹐也造成了華人可以互利地共同合作。筆者以上所談的校友的『共同語言』﹐是當作一個例子來引證﹐相似地﹐華人有華人的『共同語言』﹐有了共同的語言才有可能把二十一世紀作為華人的世紀。





Homework Assignment: Translate the above essay into English. (10-15/2005)

Chinese Poem and Poetry

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