Folklife festival enthralls audience

Updated: 2014-07-04 12:12

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA)

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The hot weather in Washington on Thursday did not dampen people's enthusiasm for the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival being held on the National Mall in Washington that features China and Kenya.

Sophia Ebel, from Illinois, was among a dozen visitors practicing fan dancing following a Chinese instructor in an area called the People's Park, the kind of park found in many Chinese cities where people demonstrate the art of living.

"I really like it. It was fun," she told China Daily after the dance.

Nearby in a tent, five-year-old Norah Crist was working on her paper cut after being tutored by paper-cut artist Tian Yali from northwest China's Shaanxi province.

Crist said she really loved it.

Next to the paper-cutting tent, Sherry Brennan, from Washington, was examining the batik work by batik dyer Yang Wenbin from southwest China's Guizhou province.

"It's wonderful. I always wanted to go to China on vacation, and this just makes me want to go even more," said Brennan. "I want to go on a cruise and visit different places in China,"

The Dragon-Lion Cart show performed by the Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe has been a top attraction since the folklife festival opened on June 25. The early- afternoon show on Thursday attracted some 200 people with lots of laughter, applause and shouting of the Chinese word most of the audience just learned, hao, which means great.

Kelli Haun and other staff workers from the Greenmount Recreation Center in Baltimore, Maryland, were taking some 70 children on a field trip to the National Mall and many of them watched the cart show.

"They (the children) were very excited to see what's going on, so they really enjoyed it," she said.

In the huge Moonrise Pavilion tent, after the Hua'er folk singers from northwest China's Qinghai province performed on stage, the artists hit the dance floor, drawing dozens of audience members to join in a circle dance.

Bill Berlin, from Arlington Virginia, was sweaty after a 15-minute dance. "It's like the circle dance we would do at American and European weddings, so it's the type of thing everybody can get into," he said.

He said it's exciting to see the folk traditions from around the world. "I'm grateful to China for bringing these performers to the festival," Berlin said.

While visitors enjoyed the folk art from China, Liu Lanfang, a sachet maker and embroider from Qingyang in northwest China's Gansu province, said she was surprised to see people, both old and young, fall in love with the sachets

The sachets, made from silk and embroidered with colorful patterns, contain cinnabar, calamus, wormwood and chrysanthemum. They are used as air fresheners, insect repellent and protection against evil spirits.

"A lot of people ask about the history of the sachet art in Qingyang and what special meaning different patterns carry," said Liu, one of the 108 Chinese folk artists and craftsmen to attend this year's festival.

Gao Fenglian, in her late 70s, is the oldest among the Chinese folk artists. Known as China's Picasso, she creates complex paper cuts without making sketches. This time, she came with her daughter, Liu Jieqiong, and granddaughter, Fan Rongrong.

"Everybody gets very interested in the paper cut," said Gao, a legendary folk artist from Shaanxi province.

The Chinese artists from 15 provinces and municipalities were selected from a long list of candidates, to reflect this year's theme: China: Tradition and the Art of Living.

The folklife festival has been made a permanent event on the National Mall and draws about 1 million visitors each year. This year's festival ends Sunday.

(China Daily USA 07/04/2014 page2)