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Year of the Dragon

By Nisma Elias '12 on January 31, 2012 02:29 PM

ChineseNewYear.jpg

Reed ushered in the Year of the Dragon last week with dancing lions, dueling Tai Chi masters and delicious dim sum.

Soothing strains of the two-stringed erhu (that's the Chinese violin) drifted out from Kaul auditorium on Sunday, January 22nd, at a celebration organized by the Chinese House. The room was bathed with crimson light from the oval paper lanterns that hung from the ceiling. Couplets and calligraphy festooned the walls, conveying blessings and prosperity to the occasion.

Then came the lion dance.

In traditional Chinese culture, it is believed that the pounding of drums and the clash of cymbals, together with the aggressive dancing of the dragon or lion, will evict evil spirits. The performance featured two dragons who first played with each other and then pretended to fight over the cabbage offered to them, eventually hurling shreds of cabbage into the audience, who didn't mind at all because the cabbage symbolizes good fortune; you can never have too much good luck. The lion dance was performed by the Portland Lee's Association Dragon and Lion Dance Team.

Dim sum opened the evening's menu. It was accompanied with Chun Juan, vegetable spring rolls and followed by a buffet of steamed jasmine rice, sautéed mixed vegetables in ginger garlic sauce, and soya chow mein. Dessert consisted of Naihuang Bao, creamy custard buns with a pineapple filling. There were also steamed Cha Siu Bao: soft bread filled with roast pork. Dim sum doesn't feel complete without pork buns.

The lion dances were followed by a demonstration of Tai Chi Chuan of the Yang Family Long Form, a Tai Chi sword and saber performance, and a push hands display, performed by about 23 students of Dave Barrett '79, including Reed's very own chemistry professor Alan Shusterman.

The evening ended with another talented performance by Joan Wang '14, a math-economics major who played the guzheng, a plucked 21-string instrument of the zither family. "I became interested in the guzheng in third grade," Joan says. "The guzheng is a very individual instrument. We rarely use guzheng to accompany other instruments--it's usually performed solo so that the player can communicate better with the audience in terms of music, body movements and emotions."

Joan played with great refinement and skill; to an untrained ear like mine, it sounded like something out of a professional musical orchestra.

Food, dance, martial art, and music all rolled into one evening--it's a shame we have to wait until 2013 for the next Chinese New Year.