China Coin Belonging

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Studying the prescribed texts

The China Coin
By Allan Baillie

The Context
The writer researched the background for this novel while travelling through China in 1989 and was in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square events. The novel's historical context is centred on student protesters who were joined by ever increasing popular support and wanted democratic reforms and an end t o systemic corruption or 'guan xi'. The occupation of Tiananmen Square in Beijing by thousands o f students was seen s as a direct challenge to the ruling Communist government. I t led t o a swift response, with hundreds of students being killed by troops, in what Western countries now call the Tiananmen Square massacre.

W hat is t he t ext about?
The narrative focuses on a Eurasian teenager named Leah, who travels t o China with her mother Joan in search o f the other half o f a broken coin, which Joan's father sent her before he died. I t is the only connection they have with their lost family in China. I n searching for the other half o f the coin they discover not only their extended family b ut also the.ir extensive family history. This ultimately gives them a sense o f their Chinese identity and belonging and this brings a positive change in both o f them. Initially, Leah's unwillingness t o travel to China is shown in her attitude towards her mother and China. This is mainly due to the resentment she feels towards her mother for taking her to China so quickly after her father's death. However, as the two travel together they begin to understand more about themselves, their relationship with each other and their sense o f belonging t o an extended family in China. Through the many experiences they share, Leah matures and gains a deeper knowledge o f China, its history and people and the political situation at the time in 1989. The description o f their travels to actual places - villages, towns and cities - creates realism in the novel. Joan likewise learns t o trust Leah, even though she has real fears about the student protests and what could happen. Events cause Leah t o become more independent and change their relationship overall. Each stage in the novel is symbolic o f their changing relationship.

© Five Senses Education

49

T he Belonging ESL W orkbook
L esley Fitzpatrick & Judith M ee

Studying the prescribed texts

S tep1:

Orientation t o t he t ext

T itle

The China Coin

Composer

Allan Baillie

T ype o f t ext

Novel

Key e lements

Prose narrative, chapters

Source

First published in 1975

C ontext

Author in China a t t ime o f Tiananmen Square events
Migrants and international students from China in Australia
Young people a t school





Audience




Purpose

S tep2:

t o entertain
t o inform about China's history in the 20'h c entury

Content relevant t o Belonging


Leah/Joan



Leah/Ke



Relationships

Ke/Li-Nan

Acceptance o f
i dentity

Understanding
China

Challenging y our
o wn society

Ke

Barriers t o
belonging
Leah, Joan; Ke

© Five Senses Education

50

T he Belonging E SL W orkbook
Lesley Fitzpatrick & Judith Mee

Studying the prescribed texts
S tep3:

Textual features a nd t heir effects

Features

Examples

I nner
monologue

• " I am being taken t o a village
so primitive they file t heir teeth
and eat raw meat"(p. 9)

Effects
• takes the reader right
inside Leah's head





Dialogue

Joan: S hould h ave l eft y ou in

Chatswood!'
Leah: W hy d idn't y ou? I d idn't a sk

• reveals t he tensions
between Leah and her
mother

t o c ome! ... I t's y our rotten
China!(p. 65)

Flashbacks



• Leah and on Yangtze riverboat

• gives family
information

recalls her father's illness and
death (The Cough)

Descriptive
language




Market in Guangzhou, p. 19
Huangpu River, p. 69



• helps us t o visualize
w hat they're
experiencing

•...
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