Ringing in the New Year Chinese style

Updated: 2014-01-01 11:09

By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA)

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Chinese visitors and locals partaking in New York's New Year's festivities were in for a surprise when Sun Guoxiang, consul general of China in New York, and US Congresswoman Grace Meng led a stage actor playing Confucius through the streets of Times Square.

The stage actor was headed towards a culture show held for thousands waiting in Times Square to watch the ball drop, put together by the Sino-American Friendship Association with the Shandong Provincial Tourism Administration to promote tourism to Shandong, hometown of Confucius.

The festivities featured a kungfu presentation with a Chinese dance show. Red scarves — "symbolizing the friendship between the US and China," according to a statement — were passed out to those in attendance.

"The US is the biggest tourism market in the world and is at the same time a major tourist source in the Americas for Shandong province," Wang Rongguo, an official with Shandong Provincial Tourism Administration, told China Daily. "By organizing promotional activities in New York City, we aim to make a big impact and we value that influence; expanded influence will help us attract US visitors to Shandong."

"By the end of 2012, Shandong received 5.4 million overseas visitors with 110,000 from the US," Wang said. "We hope to double US visitors to Shandong within five years."

To promote the event in Times Square and encourage customers to visit Shandong, the tourism board used social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to gain a following. "We have entered a new media era, we attach great importance to new media," said Wang.

"Social media like Twitter and Facebook are very influential in the US, especially among the young generation, so we started to work with new media two weeks ago. A great amount of discussions, comments and feedback have already been made," he added.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose last day as New York mayor was New Year's Eve, and US Senator Charles Schumera sent their congratulations and wished the event every success. US Congresswoman Grace Meng was in attendance and Peter Zhang, president of the Sino-American Friendship Association, said in a statement the celebration in Times Square is "truly Eastern culture meets a New York tradition".

In California, local Chinese-American families and travelers from China visited the Westin Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco to see the largest sugar castle display, which was constructed by executive pastry chef Jean-Francois Houdré and his team.

Zhou Ming, the vice president of the Shanghai Association of North California of America, told China Daily that she brought her Chinese friends to visit the castle display as well, which was originally created in 2005 and is available for viewing yearly from Thanksgiving until right after the New Year.

Elsewhere in San Francisco, visitors and locals alike rang in the New Year with midnight fireworks by the waterfront. "My parents flew from China to visit me for the New Year holiday and I will bring them to watch the fireworks show tonight," said Jerry Tang, a Chinese IT engineer who works in Silicon Valley.

Wan Li in New York and Chen Jia in San Francisco contributed to the story.