Welcoming the Chinese New Year and Sharing Cultural Traditions

During the first half of February, the main hallway of the Forchheimer building, commonly referred to as Einstein's "Main Street," took on a festive atmosphere, adorned by red lanterns and other colorful decorations that hung along the length of the recently renovated space. The decor was hung by members of the Chinese Students Club (CSC) to mark the Chinese Lunar New Year, one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar.

"This is the first time the CSC has hung so many red lanterns and decorations around Einstein," said second-year graduate student Zhejun Ji, who is chair of the CSC.

She explained, "Hanging lanterns is a traditional part of celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year. Red signifies a lively, beautiful and healthy life."

She added, "And since this is the year of horse, we wish that everything will run as fast and as smoothly as a horse."

Celebrations typically run from the Chinese New Year's Eve to the Lantern Festival, which lasts about two weeks. To mark the culmination of their celebration, the CSC hosted "Beautiful China—Happy Chinese New Year Gala," held in Robbins Auditorium on Sunday, February 9, 2014.

The gala was open to all members of the Einstein community, their families and friends. In keeping with custom, the event began with a feast that included spring rollsand tangyuan, a traditional rice dessert eaten during the YuanXiao festival, which represents the last day of the Chinese New Year period.

"It's traditional to eat spring rolls at New Year," explained Dr. Yuanyuan Wu, a postdoctoral research fellow who performed with her punk rock band at the gala. "New Year is also known as Spring Festival. That's where the rolls get their name."

Ms. Ji organized the gala with fellow second-year graduate students and CSC members Jingyao Han, Jiahao Chen, Yizhou Zhu, Yun-rui Gao and Jing Wen. Performances by Einstein staff and students featured traditional dancing by Mengyan Li and Ying Cai, vice chair of the CSC; tai chi demonstrations; and a music performed on a Chinese fiddle known as an erhu.

A highlight of the evening featured an actor named Guohui Peng, who wowed the audience with his rendition of the ancient Chinese dramatic art of Bian Lian, which is generally performed as part of the Sichuan Opera. The term literally means "face-changing"; actors in colorful costume change vividly decorated masks with the instantaneous swipe of a fan or movement of their head or hand.

The CSC was founded in 1990 by a group of Chinese graduate students. "We have two aims," noted Ms. Ji. "We organize academic and cultural activities for the entire Chinese community at Einstein and we promote cultural exchange on campus. While ‘Beautiful China' is our premier event, we also host other events throughout the year, including Chinese barbeques."

 

Guohui Peng and Han Jingyao during a performance of Bian Lian, or
Guohui Peng and Han Jingyao during a performance of Bian Lian, or
Wu Yuanyuan, Zhang Dachuan, Peng Jing and Liang Yuanxin entertained with some punk rock
Wu Yuanyuan, Zhang Dachuan, Peng Jing and Liang Yuanxin entertained with some punk rock
Members of the Chinese Student Club and performers at the Beautiful China event
Members of the Chinese Student Club and performers at the Beautiful China event
 

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