Special, Language

A Summer Special Course by Ben Wang : Jewels of a Culture – The Magical Chinese Proverbs

Rich and colorful, the Chinese language blends music and painting: a language nonpareil in its unique visceral nature, which casts its special charm and power on the popular proverbs and idioms of China for the past nearly 3.000 years. They possess the lasting force of motto, wisdom, irony, concision, advisory, witticism, and incisiveness with only a few characters that make up the sayings, most of them quatrosyllabic lines, as Chinese is a monosyllabic language with one syllable set to every character.

Learning the etymology of the pictographic characters and their musicality through the tonal scheme renders a profoundly joyful and enlightening experience in exploring and understanding the mind and the heart of the people of China. And THAT is precisely how this new course will be given: a combination of a rounded study of these bon mots. Used properly in writings or speeches, these proverbs can achieve what cannot otherwise be achieved through any other attempt to articulate the same thoughts.

Twice offered by Ben Wang at China Institute in the past 25 years, this summer’s new 5-session course (in English) on the Chinese proverbs, including an in-depth focus on etymology and tonal balance, starting this July 11th will present to students 30 poignant, evocative, and never-before-taught proverbs/idioms. Previous knowledge of Chinese is not required.

Lecturer: Ben Wang – Senior Lecturer in Humanities and Chinese Language at China Institute.

Tuesday, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
July 11 – August 8
5 sessions (10 hours)
$280 member / $320 non-member
(plus a $30 non-refundable registration fee)
*This class will be taught in English.


6:30 - 8:30 PM
Instructor: Ben Wang


Ben Wang

Ben Wang: Senior Lecturer in Language and Humanities at China Institute, Co-Chair of Renwen Society of China Institute, retired Instructor of Chinese at the United Nations Language Program.  A published writer on classical Chinese poetry and others, Ben Wang is an award winning translator both from Chinese into English and vice versa; He taught Chinese and translation at Columbia University, New York University, Pace University and City University of New York between 1969 and 1991.

Ben Wang teaches and lectures on the Chinese language, calligraphy, and classical Chinese literature, including the Book of Songs, the Songs of the South; Han, Tang and Song poetry; Yuan and Ming poetic dramas; Story of the Stone of the Qing; classical Kunqu Drama and Beijing Opera; Literati Painting. Ben Wang’s lectures on and translations of Kunqu dramas have been reviewed and acclaimed three times in the New York Times by the Times’ music and drama critic James Oestreich as “magnificent,” “captivating,” and “colorful.”

Since 1989, Ben Wang has lectured (extensively on the above-mentioned subjects)at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Barnard, Williams, U.C. Berkeley, New York University, Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. Mary’s College in California, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, ABC Nightline, the BBC, among other academic and cultural institutions.

Latest publications in English:

  1. Forlorn in the Rain: Translation and Annotation of Selected Classical Chinese Poetry and Others; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: Oct. 2018
  2. A series of 4 books on the Forbidden City in Beijing, China:
    1. We All Live in the Forbidden City
    2. This Is the Greatest Place!
    3. Bowls of Happiness
    4. What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor?

    (Published by China Institute and Released by Tuttle Publishing; 2014, 2015, the series has garnered 9 US book awards, as of September 2016.)

  3. Laughter and Tears: Libretti from Highlight Scenes of 26 Classical Poetic Kunqu Dramas; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: 2009.

(January 2019)

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