Cultural exchange to ring in New Year in capital

Updated: 2015-02-13 11:46

By Hua Shengdun in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Cultural exchange to ring in New Year in capital

Congresswoman Grace Meng (left), a Democrat representing the 6th District in Queens, New York, appreciates the art of puppetry at the 2015 Happy Spring Festival celebration at the Meridian International Center in Washington on Thursday evening. The celebration party was organized by the Meridian International Center. Wu Xi (center), minister of the Chinese Embassy, looks on. [Photo by LIU CHANG / CHINA DAILY]

Chinese shadow plays, ink and wash paintings, and candied dim sum. It is not a corner of a traditional Beijing kermis or a fragrance-scented bazaar in New York's Chinatown, but rather a landmark cultural hub in Washington.

Traditional arts and snacks from China were center stage Thursday evening at the Meridian International Center, housed in a Louis XVI-type of architecture, to commemorate the upcoming lunar Year of the Ram.

"Hosted in the US capital city, this is the main opportunity to show US-China relations in a cultural way," said Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of Meridian, at its fifth annual Chinese New Year celebration. The event was co-hosted by the center's American-Chinese Cultural Initiative and the Chinese Embassy.

Wu Xi, Chinese Embassy minister, spotlighted the exchange between the people, which she said is "really remarkable", and could be a boon for China-US relations.

Housing more than 200 diplomatic, corporate and cultural leaders, the celebration took the form of a dynamic cultural evening, featuring three performances from northwestern China: The Little Bear and Flower, The Lantern Festival and The Mouse Thief of Oil.

The Shaanxi art troupes staged Chinese shadow plays and puppet shows at the center, revitalizing the ancient arts from more than 2,000 years ago.

Flat cut-out figures with multicolored details were propped up between a source of light and a translucent screen in shadow plays, a listed artistry in the first round of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage designations.

"When we landed in the US few day ago, I said, hello USA, long time-no see," said Wang Xiuling, an artist from the troupe, noting that the first time the troupe's members came to the US was in 2005, when they performed at the Kennedy Center 10 years ago.

The three shows they played were specifically chosen for the celebration, Wang said.

"The figures are so beautiful; I can't imagine how long it would take to carve and design such delicate works," said Mary Rosenbaum, who went with her friends to the event, presenting the gift of an impromptu ink painting.

The celebration is also part of the Happy Spring Festival series initiated by the Chinese Ministry of Culture. Many celebratory events will be staged in American cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and around the world on Feb 19, the first day of the Chinese New Year.

About 570 celebratory events were held in more than 320 cities in more than 100 countries last year, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.

Meridian's recent cultural highlights include an exhibition to open in Beijing on the history of China-US relations before the normalization of relations in 1973, and leadership exchange programs for Chinese leaders and scholars in different fields with the US.

Holliday told China Daily that it is important to "have strong cultural exchange and strong communication", and culture in return is a bridge "that needs to be maintained throughout ups and downs in the traditional foreign policy".

"We believe in long-term engagement," said Holliday, who in 2011 launched the American-Chinese Cultural Initiative with the China International Culture Association, a public-private partnership of mutual businesses, nonprofit organizations and government entities.

The Shaanxi art troupe made its American debut at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington on Wednesday.

It will continue to perform at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Tysons Corner in Virginia, the Avalon Theater in Maryland, and the University of Montana in Missoula later this month.

Sheng Yang in Washington contributed to this story.

(China Daily USA 02/13/2015 page2)