Top Chinese artists featured on Mall

Updated: 2014-06-23 11:53

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA)

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Some 120 Chinese artists and artisans are descending on Washington for the 48thannual Smithsonian Folklife Festival that will open on the National Mall in Washington on Wednesday.

The artists and artisans are among the best in the nation. They hail from different parts of China and represent many different ethnic groups, according to Qin Wenhuan, vice president of the China Performing Arts Agency, the Chinese partner for the festival.

It would be a rare treat even for people in China to see these top artists and artisans because they usually don't assemble in one place in their home country.

Qin, whose agency has handled Chinese art and cultural shows at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington every year, said this one is different.

"The public performance allows cultural exchanges on a much larger scale. It makes it possible for more people to get to know Chinese culture and to see a multi-dimensional China," she said.

The annual festival, which will be held from June 25 to 29 and July 2 to July 6, usually draws about a million visitors each year. China and the African nation of Kenya will be the two countries featured in this year's programs.

China: Tradition and the Art of Living, is the theme of the Chinese program this year. It will focus on reunion and balance to highlight the importance of seasonal festival traditions.

Visitors will watch craftspeople make paper cuts, New Year's prints, clay figurines, kites, embroidery, batiks, porcelain and sachets that are used during annual celebrations. Many of those items will be for sale in the festival's Marketplace.

Top Chinese paper cut artist, Gao Fenglian, will be joined by her daughter Liu Jieqiong and granddaughter Fan Rongrong. Gao, described by Yang Lizhou, former curator of National Art Museum of China, as China's Picasso, is revered for being able to create intricate paper- cutting patterns with no prior sketching.

Their work has been exhibited in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Israel and New Zealand. At the festival, some 100 of their paper cuts will be on display while the three demonstrate for the public.

Qingyang sachet from northwest China's Gansu province will be another highlight. A small and exquisite embroidery product containing different spices such as cinnabar, calamus, wormwood and chrysanthemum, it is used as air fresheners, insect repellent and protection against evil spirits. The tradition can trace its origin to a thousand year ago. In the city of Qingyang today, more than 150,000 people are engaged in the industry with its products being sold all over the world.

Meanwhile, four main embroidery styles will be in the spotlight at the festival. While the Suzhou embroidery is often known as the national embroidery, the Bohai Mohe embroidery will display a unique Manchu feature found in northeast China's Heilongjiang province, while the Miao embroidery and Qiang embroidery, from southwest China's Guizhou province and Sichuan province respectively, reflect the wisdom and diversity of the 56 ethnic groups in China.

Visitors to the festival will also experience the exuberance of public life in China when they visit the "People's Park" area of the program. Chinese artists and artisans will demonstrate and teach the flower drum lantern dance, tai chi and water calligraphy, giving people a sense of the energy found in Chinese public parks.

There will also be a Chinese food demonstration with chefs from Yangzhou of east China's Jiangsu province. Visitors, however tempted by the food, won't be able to sample the food due to licensing restrictions. But Chinese food, outsourced from restaurants in the US, will be served in nearby tents.

Five Chinese folklife, sociological and anthropological experts have been invited to make presentations and answer questions while the Smithsonian has also invited a team of experts in the US to help people better understand the Chinese culture, art and tradition.

Qin, of China Performing Arts Agency, said folklife, museum, social and cultural experts in China selected the programs from hundreds of candidates.

Li Hong, minister counselor for culture at the Chinese embassy in Washington, said the festival will allow the American public to learn how Chinese folklife and culture has been preserved and enhanced.

"I am very confident that the program is watchable," she said.

The festival is free to the public and opens from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with special evening events beginning at 6 p.m. The Smithsonian website has a detailed schedule and introduction to the entire program (

 Top Chinese artists featured on Mall

Suzhou embroidery artist Cai Meiying is one of the Chinese artists participating the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington. Chen Weihua / China Daily

(China Daily USA 06/23/2014 page3)