Wan Hu is in the Stars

by Jennifer Armstrong and illustrated by Barry Root (Tambourine Books NY) 1995

peace with ourselves-peace with each other

recommended but unavailable - maybe a copy in your local library


Peace-building stories deliver messages of hope, and they involve happy endings in which everyone wins, but there is another essential element that is particularly represented in this story. Wan Hu is a story possessing all the peace-building elements listed below.

  • happy endings

  •     everyone winning

  • nonviolent resolution

  • imaginative and creative

  • challenges existing stereotyping

  • faith and hope

  •     peace with the environment

  • finding personal peace

  •     Ö..an element that supports the idea that peace is possible

But Jennifer's book is very magical. It gives permission for us to dream...

The story of Wan Hu is an original story that was inspired by a Chinese legend and it has been beautifully told. Wan Hu lived in a village near Beijing. He was absent-minded and did not pay any attention to the things the other villagers felt were important. He would wear only one shoe and a copper rice pot on his head, or give greetings to pigs, and keep his parasol unfolded when it rained.

All Wan Hu seemed interested in was the heavens. He merely wanted to know how the stars hung in the heavens....and he was prepared to try anything to find the answer to his question...even though his choices were quite absurd.

His crazy attempts failed.....but on one night as he was watching the firecrackers being lit for the celebrations for the emperor's mother's birthday an idea popped into his head.

Wan Hu decided that he would tie forty seven firecrackers to a bamboo chair, then tie himself to the chair and light the firecrackers.

Yes what utter foolishness!!!!

Wan Hu was never seen or heard of again.

As the villagers looked at the heavens at night a blaze of stars shaped like a lotus flower, similar to the flower Wan Hu used to wear on his robe, shone above his house.

Perhaps he did achieve his goal????

2003 was the 50th anniversary year of the death of Dr Martin Luther King. Although he died seeking his dream's fulfilment, his hopes and desires for peace live on.

Perhaps if we all could dream a little more like Dr Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi...dream of peace...dream of how we could create it.....

then we also might be able to achieve our goal of creating a peaceful world.

Yes Wan Hu was foolish!

Yes he dreamed impossible dreams.

But many once considered the dreams of Gandhi and Dr King to be foolish also.

As with the story of the dream dragon, we might all begin dreaming again...

dreaming of a peaceful world.

The story of Sadako and a Thousand Paper Cranes (Eleanor Coerr) certainly speaks of happy endings also, even though she succumbs to her illness.

The essential peace-building elements inherent in this beautiful story.

It is a story of hope...a story of desire.

It is a story that gives us permission to dream.

It is a story that teaches us to be open to new ideas and possibilities.

It is a story that teaches us to dream big dreams..even impossible ones...and teases our imaginations.

It is most importantly a story that focusses our attention beyond the day to day.....

......and helps us move beyond ourselves

What other endings could there be for this story?????

Did Wan Hu really die????

What happy ending can we create to finish this story????

Children love to use their imaginations and create wonderful endings to this story.

Critical questions to explore with children

  • What was different about Wan Hu?
  • What did he dream of doing?
  • Were his attempts at reaching the stars successful?
  • What did the villagers believe happened to Wan Hu?
  • What do you think happened to Wan Hu?
  • Does the story have a happy win-win ending?

Creative questions to explore with children

  • Do you think Wan Hu was crazy?
  • Do you ever day dream?
  • How would you have found out the answer to Wan Huís question?
  • What do you think the stars are made of?
  • What question about the universe would you like answered?
  • How else could the story have ended with win-win?

© Teaching and Learning for Peace Foundation February 2005

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