April 1


Vocab for April 1: sprawled (p.26), groggy (p.26),  rummaged (p.27)


  1. Compare Beijing with Toronto (p. 13, 19).
  2. Identify each of the following characters:

a)     Mr. Xu

b)     Eddie Nolan

  1. What is Eddie Nowlan’s initial reaction to Alex ?  Why do you think he reacts this way?
  2. What is Alex’s Chinese name?  Who gives it to him?  What does it mean?
  3. What is the Forbidden City? (2 points)
  4. What square is located in the Forbidden City?


Vocab for April 4: scruffy (p.29), tweed (p.29), crummy (p.30)


April 4


1.      Describe the menu of Alex’s first official Chinese meal.  What is Alex’s first reaction to his meal?  What is his later reaction?

2.      What do Alex and Lao Xu have in common?

3.      What eating custom exists in China?  How does this custom differ from that of Canada?


Vocab for April 6: feat (p.35), amateur (p.37), atheist (p.39), dossier (p.42)


April 6


  1. Name two things that excite Alex at the beginning of this journal entry.
  2. Identify the PLA.  According to Lao Xu, how do the Chinese people regard the PLA?  Why?
  3. In this journal entry, we learn much more about Lao Xu.  List at least four new facts about Lao Xu.
  4. How does Alex’s opinion of Lao Xu change?  What begins to bother him about his new friend?  How does Dad help Alex to resolve this dilemma?


Vocab for April 7: jet lag (p.43), isolated (p.44), to be in ones element (p.44)


April 7


  1. Alex is beginning to experience “culture shock” in this entry.  List at least four concerns he voices in this section/


Vocab for April 8:  lacquer (p.46), vary (p.46), paranoid (p.47), exposed (p.47), fallout (p. 47)


April 8


  1. What is the official language of China?
  2. What is Alex’s plan to “pass time” while he is in this strange new environment?
  3. What feature of Chinese society disturbs Alex?
  4. How does Alex’s Dad ‘recruit’ him?


Vocab for April 14:  tone (p.52), reconnaissance (p.53), expansive (p.54), lattice (p.54),  intimidating (p.55), footage (p.55)


April 14


  1. Name two ways that Alex manages to overcome his ‘culture shock.’
  2. What does Alex to in order to ‘blend in’ with Chinese society?
  3. The Chinese language differs considerably from European languages.  List three ways in which Chinese is different from European languages and give an example for each.
  4. What ingenious method does Alex devise to film the city as he explores it?
  5. What remarkable contrasting features does Alex discover about Beijing?
  6. How does Dad encourage Alex in this section?


Vocab for April 15:  bigwig (p.56),  lenient (p.56), laborious (p.61), cynic (p.62)


April 15 (two entries)


  1. Account for the flurry of activity on the part of Dad, Eddie, and Lao Xu at 12:15am on April 15.
  2. Identify each of the following men:  Hu Yao-bang and Deng Xiao-ping.


Vocab for April 24:  execution (p.64), dodging (p.64), dais (p.65), quavered (p.67), ambitious (p.67), edition (p.73)


April 24


  1. Where does Lao Xu take Alex? Why?
  2. Why does Alex go to this event disguised?
  3. What seemingly impossible promise does Zhu Ge-liang make to Zhou Yu at risk of his head?
  4. Reread pp. 52-54 and briefly, in your own words, describe by what clever ruse Zhu Ge-liang manages to honour his promise.
  5. Explain the phrase “Use your opponent’s strengths against him” as it is illustrated in the old man’s story of Zhu Ge-liang and Cao Cao (p.54).


Vocab for April 26:  diplomat (p.75), revered (p.76), mouthpiece (p.77), deteriorate (p.78), conjecture (p.78), militant (p.78)  


April 26


  1. Contrast school in China with school in Canada on at least five points.
  2. Of what does the editorial in the Ren Min Ri Bao People’s Daily newspaper accuse the student demonstrators?  Who controls this newspaper?
  3. What are Dad’s, Eddie’s, and Alex’s views on this newspaper’s charges against the students?
  4. How does Lao Xu view the editorial? What is his concern?
  5. Comment on Alex’s opinion of Lao Xu as a spy.


Vocab for April 27: mausoleum (p.81), claustrophobic (p.81), accomplish (p.82), conscious (p.82), socialism (p.83), voice-over (p.85), enthusiasm (p.85) 


April 27


  1. “It was electric.”  (p.59)  What is Alex describing in this comment?
  2. (pp.60-61) How do the students react to Alex’s presence?  Explain their reaction.
  3. List the students’ demands.
  4. May fourth in very important to the students.  Explain its significance.
  5.  What important change has taken place in Alex?  (*Refer back to the Prologue and Alex’s observation that he and Ulysses are alike.)


Vocab for May 5:  phony (p.87), autonomous (p.87), grim (p.88), notch (p.88), turmoil (p.89)


May 5


  1. What role has Alex assumed?
  2. Of the students, Eddie says, “Everything is controlled.”  Give three examples of how the students are controlled.  What happens if the students don’t cooperate?
  3. Explain the “big trouble” that awaits the students.


Vocab for May 20:  tactics (p.90), vowed (p91), vague (p.91), to center someone out (p.91), contradicted (p.92), braying (p.95), commandeered (p.96), deliriously (p.99), demeaning (p.99)


May 20


  1. Give two points explaining how do the students “up the ante” in their protest.
  2. Reread p.67 and list the students’ demands.
  3. Who are the most powerful men in the Communist Party?
  4. Why don’t the Party officials take Gorbachev to Tian An Men Square?
  5. Who are Lan and Hong?  What sacrifices are they making?
  6. Explain how Alex becomes an important part of the reporting team.  Describe Eddie’s new attitude toward Alex.
  7. Account for Chairman Zhao Zi-yang’s removal from office.
  8. Name one other piece of sinister news that comes out at the end of this section.
  9. What does martial law mean?  Has it ever been invoked in Canada?
  10. What did Zhao mean when he told the students, “It’s too late?”


Vocab for May 21/22:  restriction (p.103), smuggle (p.105), determination (p.105), renewal (p.106)


May 21/22


  1. What risk is Alex’s father willing to take?
  2. What is he not anxious to risk?  What does this say about Alex’s Dad?


Vocab for May 23: latrines (p.108), eavesdropped (p.108), barricading (p.108), intense (p.109), objective (p.109),  defiance (p.109), feign (p.110)


May 23


  1. “Things are getting really intense.”  What is taking place that causes this intensity?
  2. The PLA soldiers are unarmed and are treating the civilians and students leniently.  Alex suddenly realises why.  Briefly explain what disturbing realisation Alex has arrived at.
  3. What triggers Alex’s disturbing realisation?
  4. What strategy from Sun Zi’s The Art of War do the State officials appear to be implementing?  (NOTE:  Alex is beginning to realise that war is more than a ‘game.’)
  5. Suspicion again surrounds Lao Xu.  Explain.


Vocab for May 24:  vicious (p.113), dread (p.113), impression (p.113), cot (p.113), find two similes on (p.115)


May 24


  1. The demonstrators begin to escalate their protest.  Explain briefly how they do this.
  2. PATHETIC FALLACY is a literary device in which Nature is used to reflect the state of mind or circumstances of a character or characters in a text.  Find an example of pathetic fallacy on p.115 and explain how it mirrors the circumstances of the demonstrating students.
  3. On p.114  Alex contemplates the situation of the Chinese students and reflects on his own life.  What conclusion does he come to about himself?


Vocab for May 25/26: rebellious (p.116), hooligans P.116), propaganda (p.117), scanned (p.119), binoculars (p.119), reconnoitre (p.120)


May 25/26


  1. Explain the significance of the State labelling the students “counter-revolutionaries.”  Note that the State, like the students, is escalating the confrontation: a) martial law has been declared, b) the students are labelled counter-revolutionaries, c) the army surrounds Beijing.


Vocab for 27/28:  massed (p.121), demented (p.122), trickles (p.123), desolate (p.123), expanse (p.123)


May 27/28


  1. Note the length of the sentences in these two entries.  What do they indicate about the writer’s state of mind?


Vocab for May 29:  tense (p.125)


May 29


  1. A “tall white figure of a woman” is set up in Tian An Men Square.  Whom does she represent?  What does shy symbolise?
  2. What is significant about the spot in which she has been set up?


Vocab for May 30 – June 2: conspicuous (p.128), bolt (p.128), bayonet (p.129), ammunition (p.129), bewildered (p.129), stalemate (p.129)



May 30 – June 1


  1. Not everyone in Beijing supports the State.  Explain.
  2. There is a significant and sinister difference in the appearance of the soldiers.  What is it?  What new twist does this change foreshadow?
  3. Explain the significance of “losing face” in Chinese culture.  What is the equivalent condition in Western culture?


Vocab for June 3:  florid (p.132), letdown (p.133), to mill around (p.133), truncheons (p.135), teargas (p.135), standoff (p.135), stalled (p.137), passive resistance (p.138), deposed (p.143)





June 3


  1. Account for the guilty looks on the faces of Eddie and Dad when Alex appears before them.
  2. What is their chief reason for having Alex remain in the news office instead of accompanying them on their excursion to Tian An Men Square?
  3. What important change takes place in the relationship between the demonstrators and the PLA soldiers?
  4. What is the objective of the PLA in this encounter?
  5. Describe the situation at Tian An Men Square as it is characterised by the anonymous reporter whom Alex is monitoring.
  6. What ominous change have the Party leaders made in their choice of troops to occupy Tian An Men Square?  Explain the significance of the number 27.
  7. “The students are pawns.”  Note the chess imagery.  Explain.
  8. Explain what is meant by the term ‘da feng.”


Vocab for June 4: flinching (p.147), surveillance (p.148), engulf (p.149), scythe (p.158), indiscriminately (p.160), defiant (p.160), contingent (p.161), overwhelmed (p.169), paternal (p.174), bedraggled (p.179)


June 4


  1. What conviction does Alex now hold regarding Lao Xu?  Why does Alex feel this way?  What strong feeling does this conviction engender in Alex?
  2. The student demonstration has escalated into a serious battle.  Explain.
  3. Why does Alex eventually disobey his Dad’s instructions to stay away from Tian An Men Square?
  4. Lao Xu now shows his true colours.  Explain how he does this.
  5. Alex’s “worst nightmare” is realised.  What is it?
  6. Cite two significant events that happen to Alex during the melee at Tian An Men Square that will forever change his former attitudes concerning was as he expressed them on p.11.  What has Alex learned about battle in his ‘baptism by fire?’
  7. After being shot, Alex remembers being “gripped [by] iron hands.” In whose hands does Alex find himself?
  8. What does Alex have in his possession that causes him concern?  Explain.
  9. Find evidence of Alex’s keen powers of observation.
  10. Name two things that cause Alex distress and two things that afford him comfort.
  11.  The stress that Alex feels from his recent experiences reveals itself.  Cite the incident that shows his distress.
  12. Although Alex is safe for the moment, he is still in considerable danger.  Show the truth of this statement by citing two examples of evidence.
  13. What is a Molotov cocktail?  Who uses them?
  14. Xin-hua brings Alex up to date on events at the square.  What occurred recently at Tian An Men Square was nothing short of a massacre.  Use examples from Xin-hua’s account of events to support this statement.
  15. An additional horror is added by the PLA.  What is it?  Why does the PLA do this?  What is Alex’s answer to this PLA ploy?
  16. Alex has made the transition from observer to active participant in the Tian An Men Square uprising.  Justify the truth of this statement by citing supporting examples.
  17. Explain the following Chinese terms:  kang, hu tong, tie guo.


Vocab for June 6: moping (p.182), fitfully (p.182), rummaged (p.190), sterilise (p.191), deployed (p.194), verge (p.105)


June 6


  1. Select an example of pathetic fallacy from the beginning of this section.  Explain how this device mirrors the events at Tian An Men Square.
  2. By what means does the State attempt to prevent the news of the massacre from getting to the Chinese people and out to the world?  Find two to three ways.  The news still gets out.  Find at least two ways in which this newsspread occurs.
  3. In what sense in Chinese medicine a combination of Eastern and Western methods?
  4. By the end of this journal entry we are aware that things have become very ugly.  Select two to three instances that verify this notion.
  5. What is ping ban che?  For what is it used?


Vocab for June 7:  wardrobe (p.201), lull (p.201), detached (p.201), assume (p.202), request (p.205), curfew (p.207), anticipation (p.210)


June 7


  1. Alex is getting better despite the pain he feels in his leg.  What signs of improvement in Alex’s condition can you find?
  2. Alex has had enough.  What does he desperately want to do?  Select a quote that expresses his strong desire.
  3. What is Xin-hua’s plan for Alex?  What is Alex’s plan?  Whose plan prevails?
  4. What has Alex decided to do with the audio and visual tapes he recorded? Give Alex’s reasons for this decision.
  5. Alex next alters this decision.  What vivid images cause Alex to change his mind?  What powerful emotion overcomes Alex as a result of these images?  What logical reasons does Alex summon up to support his new decision?
  6. Briefly outline the plans for Alex’s escape.


Vocab for June 8:  assault (p.215), convoy (p.218), fend off (p.219), momentum (p.219), sprocket (p.221), adrenalin (p.224), pagoda (p.227), sacred (p.228), deface (p.231)


June 8


  1. Name four of Alex’s Chinese ‘saviours’ and in a sentence, identify each of them.
  2. Why is Fu Xing Men Avenue, also known as Chang An Avenue, so dangerous to Xin-hua and Alex?
  3. How does Alex plan to turn this dangerous situation to and advantage?
  4. Contrast Yue Tan Bei Jie Street with Fu Xing Men Avenue.
  5. What does the incident between the soldiers and the young man in the yellow Sport Game t-shirt tell us about the soldiers?
  6. Explain why Xin-hua suddenly breaks down and cries.
  7. What is Xin-hua’s explanation for the terrible massacre at Tian An Men Square”  From something you learned in this novel about Chinese custom, explain why her explanation is a plausible one.
  8. Explain the expression “Straw boat borrow arrows.”
  9. The term incongruous refers to something being out of place.  Find an example of incongruity in this chapter and explain the incongruity of this image.
  10. Pathos is a literary term which can be defined as a feeling of pity or compassion toward a person/character.  Who experiences a feeling of pathos near the end of this chapter?  Toward whom is this feeling directed?  Account for this feeling on the part of the character who experiences it.
  11. “Things at home would seem different now.  I knew, I just knew that from now on there would be some kind of gap between me and the other kids.”  Relate these thoughts to an earlier comment made by Alex.


Vocab for June 9:  monstrosity (p.243), dejected (p.244), alibi (p.246), gambit (p.246), credible (p.246), efficient (p.246), resonated (p.251), scowling (p.255), haggard (p.260), quiver (p.260)


June 9


  1. In what sense is Alex “trapped” by his disguise?
  2. Earlier, the students complained of corruption on the part of State officials.  Find an example of corruption of a minor official.
  3. Xin-hua finally succumbs to despair over their desperate situation.  How does Alex give her strength to continue?
  4. Find an example of pathetic fallacy and explain how it mirrors the circumstances of Xin-hua and Alex.
  5. Alex writes that he feels responsible for Xin-hua.  Why?  What does he want to do on her behalf?  What is XIn-hua’s response?
  6. Find four details from Alex’s description of the officers that prepares us for Xin-hua’s execution.
  7. What saves Alex from a similar fate?
  8. Why did the PLA shoot Xin-hua?
  9. Offer an explanation for Alex’s peculiar behaviour at the airport.


Vocab for June 28:  chartered (p.261), sedated (p.262), retrieved (p.263), condensed (p.263), traumatised (p.265), defy (p.267)


June 28


  1. Reread paragraph one of the Prologue.  Apply the last three sentences of this paragraph to Alex in the light of his experiences during and immediately after the Tian An Men Square massacre.
  2. “You know, Alex, I think I’ve finally started to grow up.”  What has happened to Alex’s Dad to make him ‘grow up?’
  3. Reread paragraph five of the Prologue.  Relate the comments made by Alex here to the events described on pp. 269-272.  What triggers this extraordinary behaviour on the part of Alex?