Every time we are back home in the US, we try to make time for activities and places that were part of our usual orbit when we still lived there. Among our usual visits are the Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh. In Oakland, we divide our time between the Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History since they are physically connected. It really is something to wander between the two, always an opportunity to see how closely related nature and art are, and not always in obvious ways.
After all these years of visiting these museums, I’m still delighted when we see something we have walked by a hundred times, but see it in a new, revelatory way. For instance, in the Hillman Hall of Minerals on one of our winter visits, the kids and I really focused on this mesolite specimen from India.
We could not get over how much we thought it looked like a character from the popular Chinese cartoon series 喜羊羊与灰太狼 (Pleasant Goat and the Big Big Wolf)
These characters are ubiquitous in China, therefore difficult to avoid. Even before she ever watched the show, Brigid could recognize the characters at a very young age. So popular in China is 喜羊羊 that one time when we were coming through immigration at the Beijing airport that the Chinese agent remarked that he could tell we had been living in China a very long time, not because of our Chinese-speaking but rather because of Brigid’s 喜羊羊 backpack.
As a social media junkie, I couldn’t help but post a picture of this on my Twitter and Chinese Weixin accounts. One of my American-in-China tweeps immediately saw what we did. On Weixin, though, I was in for a surprise. In my post there, I noted that I thought the crystal formation looked familiar, without expressly saying anything at first about 喜羊羊. The comments I received were interesting. From my Chinese friends on Weixin (many of them parents of young children, too), not one also recognized the 喜羊羊 in this rock. They saw things like a unicorn or a "little Beijing dog." Only one other foreigner, also a parent of a child being raised in China, saw what the kids and I saw.
If it were only me that thought this was so clearly doppelganger in mineral, or if I thought it resembled something from a really obscure reference, I wouldn’t find this so curious. But I thought this was so obvious, as did my kids, and the little cartoon goats are really everywhere. My sample size was statistically insignificant, and the survey unscientific, but anecdotally, my Chinese friends saw something completely different than we did in this rock.
This post first appeared on Jennifer Ambrose’s site on January 26, 2014.
Jennifer Ambrose hails from Western Pennsylvania and misses it terribly. She still maintains an intense devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers. She has lived in China since 2006 and is currently an at-home mother. With her husband Randy and children Myles and Brigid, she resides outside the Sixth Ring Road in Changping, northwest of Beijing
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ambrose