The Six Inspirational Chinese Characters in Chloé Zhao’s Oscar Speech

On April 25th, 2021, Chloé Zhao (赵婷) won the best director award for Nomadland at the 93rd annual Academy AwardsZhao is the first Asian woman and the second woman in history to win this coveted award. She is also the first woman to receive four Oscar nominations in one year, including the Best Film Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture categories. 

Zhao was born and raised in Beijing, China. She has been heavily influenced by traditional Chinese culture and literature. In her award speech last night, she credited her success to the significant impact of the Three Character Classics (三字经)on her life perspective and artistic pursuits. In particular,  Zhao recited the first verse from the text, which goes “人之初,性本善” (i.e., People at birth are inherently good). In a nutshell, these six Chinese characters illuminate the core credo of the text, of which Zhao stressed the profound influence on her since childhood.

The Three Character Classic, known in Chinese as 三字经 (San Zi Jing),  is one of the most widely read and taught Chinese classic texts. It was written in the 13th century by Wang Yinglin (王應麟 1223-1292), a prominent Confucian scholar and publisher in the late Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The text was intended to impart Confucianism upon young children and has served as the first formal textbook for Chinese children for centuries.

Many attributed the enormous popularity of 三字经 to its unique structure. The text contains 101 verses, each being a block of four phrases of triplets of characters, ideal for easy recitation and memorization. When studying 三字经young children can master 1,145 different Chinese characters, learn basic grammar structures, and are also exposed to key concepts of math, science, music, Chinese culture and history, as well as fundamental Confucian doctrines (e.g., diligence, filial piety, and respect for elders). 

During the Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties, the Three Character Classic was one of the cornerstones of elementary education in China. In fact, Chinese-speaking children and adults around the world are still studying the Three Character Classic (三字经) at school and home today. If you and your kids are interested in learning 三字经, or other classics of traditional Chinese literature and arts, we encourage you to join us this summer at Language Lab Academy in Frisco. Together, we will embark on an exciting and fulfilling adventure by exploring Chinese culture, reciting Chinese poems, practicing calligraphy, while having tons of fun! 


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