Smithsonian hosts a day for families

Updated: 2015-02-16 23:16

By HUA SHENGDUN in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Smithsonian hosts a day for families

Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai paints the eye of a lion to unveil the Chinese New Year Family Festival held on Feb 14 by the Smithsonian American Art Museum at its Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard. [Photo by ZHANG WEIRAN / for CHINA DAILY]

Authentic Chinese folk arts brought holiday joy to warm a shivery season in Washington.

The second Chinese New Year Family Festival kicked off at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery on Feb 14 in honor of the upcoming Chinese Year of the Ram in an event jointly hosted with the Chinese embassy.

“We love hosting this event,” said Elizabeth Broun, director of the museum. More than 3,000 people attended. “Having a moment like this when everyone is encouraged is always a good thing, and more would be better.”

Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US, said the event helped strengthen China-US relations through more people-to-people cultural exchanges. “I see Chinese artists here today and also many Americans, especially children, come to see the celebration,” he said.

Cui and Broun painted the eyes of a lion costume with red paint —ceremonially “bringing the lion to life” — to initiate the lion dance, which kicked off the celebration.

It’s a traditional Chinese ritual to revitalize the lion as well as bring good luck in the New Year, the color red representing prosperity in the Chinese tradition.

Smithsonian hosts a day for families

In celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year, visiting families make red paper lanterns at the Chinese New Year Family Festival held on Feb 14 by the Smithsonian American Art Museum at its Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard. [Photo by LIU CHANG / CHINA DAILY]

The celebration started at 11:30 am and lasted for more than three and half hours.

Included were the lion parade and dance by Yong Han Lion Dance Troupe from Johns Hopkins University, wooden puppet and shadow puppet performances by Shaanxi Folk Arts Group of China and a fan dance by the Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe.

A variety of demonstrations and activities throughout the day were on display, including traditional paper-cutting, shadow puppet construction and Chinese painting from the Shaanxi art troupe, knot-tying and masks with the Confucius Institute of George Mason University, calligraphy by local Chinese artists, stories with the DC Public Library, and red paper lantern-making, coloring sheets and scratch pads.

Kira Omans, a student from George Mason, trained in the fan dance for weeks with Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe and has performed twice around DC’s Chinatown.

“I’m so excited to share happiness with everyone at the Smithsonian,” said Omans, who was born in China and adopted by an American family at a young age.

Zhao Hong, an artist from the Shaanxi Folk Arts Group in China, staged with her teammates 10 Chinese shadow plays and puppet shows, traditional northwestern Chinese art forms dating back 2,000 years.

Highlighted were the stories of Mouse Steals Oil, Changing Masks and Little Bear and Flower, “for the tastes of Americans, especially the children”, said Zhao.

For Zhao and her troupe, this is their second time presenting the ancient Chinese folk art in the US, the first being at the Kennedy Center, where they performed in a Chinese festival in 2005.

Sydney Needles, 3, came with her family to the Chinese spring festival celebration in search of her beloved Chinese mascots — panda and dragon. “Now where is my dragon,” she said, after taking a photo with a panda doll in the Kogod Coutyard at the center of the museum.

James and Kristen Sagar came with their two children all the way from Georgia for the Chinese New Year celebration, a long trip but they said it had been “worth it”.

The celebration is part of the “Happy Chinese New Year” series initiated by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and appearing in more than 320 cities in more than 100 countries.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum held its first Chinese New Year Family Festival last January, drawing an estimated 2,500.

Sheng Yang in Washington contributed to this story.