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Culture Smart: Wrap a Gift and Don’t Forget the Feather

by Sheron Long on December 8, 2013

Swan standing on planet Earth, representing a Chinese gift giving legend. Image © Denis Zaporozhtsev / Hemera.

China’s swan feather legend is a gift to the world.
© Denis Zaporozhtsev / Hemera

In Chinese tradition, the legend of the swan feather dates to the Tang Dynasty (618-906 CE) and is still relevant today, especially during this gift-giving season.

According to legend,  a local official in a far-away vassal state asked Mian Bogao to take two swans to the emperor as a gift. Such gift-giving was customary to show respect to the emperor, and swans (rarely found in China) were the most precious of gifts.

Swan feather, symbolizing gift giving with sincerity and respect in Chinese tradition. Image © Lendy 16 / iStock.

A single swan feather sends a significant message.
© Lendy 16 / iStock

Culture Smart: The Musical Scale Across Cultures

by OIC Staff on November 24, 2013

Children learning to play the violin, symbolizing the different musical scales across cultures

Learning to play different styles of music

Tonal Patterns and Changing Intervals

When you first learn to play an instrument, the first series of notes taught is called a scale. A scale is a series of ascending pitches, usually ending on the octave, the same note, at a higher pitch. Music from different cultures uses different intervals between the notes of an octave.

If you’ve seen The Sound of Music, you know the Western music major scale: do, re, mi, fa, so la, ti, do. It consists of 7 unique notes, with the 8th note being the octave. Listen to a C Major Scale:

Art Goes Across Cultures in “Tribute to Mandela”

by Sheron Long on August 15, 2013

How is it that a Belgian emerging artist, working with Chinese seals, honors South African activist and former President Nelson Mandela with a monumental portrait in the streets of Shanghai?

The inspiration that comes from going across cultures is, at least, part of the answer. In this video, seal artist Phil Akashi, shows his creative process.

If the video does not play, watch it here

Mandela,  An International Hero

Nelson Mandela (1918– ) celebrated his 95th birthday on July 18, 2013.

Nelson Mandela, subject of Phil Akashi's "Tribute to Mandela," a portrait created with Chinese seals and illustrating the art of going across cultures

Nelson Mandela, 2008
© South Africa The Good News

His vision of equal rights for the citizens of South Africa led to resistance against apartheid policies and to his imprisonment for 27 years.

After his 1990 release, he and President FW de Klerk negotiated an end to apartheid for which they won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

At age 77, Mandela voted for the first time in the 1994 elections, in which he became South Africa’s first democratically elected President.

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