Tongues of Jade Critical Essays

Laurence Yep


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Tongues of Jade is an important collection of folktales for young readers because it serves not only as a vehicle for understanding immigrant history but also as a tool for teaching American students about the ethnic minorities in the United States. The tales provide insight into Chinese culture and unveil the heritage and values that many Chinese Americans prize and pass on from generation to generation. The sections cover a broad range of subject areas, and subthemes such as the ethic of hard work, self-sacrifice, perseverance, filial piety, responsibility, charity, and modesty emerge.

Hard work, responsibility, self-sacrifice, and the dutiful performance of one’s role are emphasized through several tales, such as “The Guardian,” “The Little Emperor,” “Royal Robes,” and “Fish Heads.” The hardship that farmers experience is depicted in a lively manner in “The Guardians.” Furthermore, self-sacrifice is emphasized as a virtue, one that glorifies those who go beyond their social roles. The idea of what should be valued and how one should behave in Chinese culture provides non-Chinese readers the opportunity to learn about Chinese and Chinese American cultures and to gain different perspectives about things that they know in their own cultures.

Filial piety and respect for elders are important traditions in Chinese culture. Being disrespectful, even to the extent that one does not take care of one’s parents or elders, is almost considered a crime. For example, the little emperor is despised by the...

(The entire section is 635 words.)