Creatively Blending Chinese and Western Traditions
Posted 06/13/2019 11:14AM


Keystone is a special community nestled in the hills of Shunyi comprised of students, teachers, faculty, and staff from China and the world. Each member of the community contributes in big, and small ways to the greater good of the school. One of the many traditions that unite every member of the community is Keystone’s unique House System. Our house tradition comes from elite British boarding schools, where each residential student is assigned to a specific house that they live in for the remainder of their tenure at their respective institution.


At Keystone, we have drawn inspiration from this model and molded it to fit our school. With roots drawn from the traditional Chinese philosophy of the Five Elements, each of the houses at Keystone is also closely linked to one of the school’s Five Shared Values; and each house embodies the birth, existence, processes, history, and development of our school. Every member of the community belongs to a house, fostering a bond with the school that lasts a lifetime.


For Ian Liu, a member of the Class of 2019, Keystone’s house system inspired him to create and leave a legacy for all members of the community. For Ian’s IB CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) project, he utilized his creative talents and technical skills, blending aesthetic elements from Chinese and Western mythological philosophies to reimagine and design house flags for Keystone.


“I came up with the idea of designing house flags because of my interest in Chinese mythological literature,” said Ian. “I chose quite a common structure for the flags, intended to be as universal and customizable as possible, and infused this with the original color that each of the houses at Keystone is represented by. I darkened many of the shades of the original color, to give each flag a feeling of an object that has a long history as if it were always a part of the Keystone housing system tradition. I hope that the flags will give each person a strong sense of belonging and honor.”


Each of the houses (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood) have accompanying colors, house trivia, and one of Keystone’s Five Shared Values. For Ian’s CAS project, he created new flags modeled after not only one of the five elements found in the natural world, but he attributed each flag to a mythological animal which symbolize a number of characteristics such as confidence, kindness, nobleness, determination, and wisdom. After presenting the newly designed flags to his the community during the final secondary school assembly in May, students, faculty, and staff cheered with rounds of applause as a new tradition was born at the Academy.


“As for the five elements themselves, they are indispensable to each other,” remarked Ian. “This was the entire purpose of my project. I wanted to strengthen our community by creating something that each person can feel proud to be a member of. Houses at Keystone are one of the backbones of this community. Unifying each member of the community through this project also reinforces our Shared Values. All of the original elements are embedded in each of the flags, with great mythological creatures found in ancient texts. I hope that these flags will create a sense of community not only for students, but for everyone at Keystone.”

The Keystone Magazine

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