Huaxia Chinese School Welcomes the Year of the Dog
By Annie Li
A dragon parade, Peking Opera, folk dances, and martial arts demonstrations highlighted the Huaxia Chinese School’s recent new year celebration at the Montgomery Upper Middle School.
Hundreds of Montgomery families celebrated the new year with traditional music, art and calligraphy demonstrations, and delicious longevity noodles, fried rice, bubble teas, tangyuan (a dessert made of chewy glutinous rice balls with a red bean paste filling), and other lucky foods.
Chinese New Year is celebrated for 16 days, from New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival. This period is also known as “Spring Festival.” Interesting to note: the new year date changes every year because it is decided by the Chinese lunar calendar. It has some predictability because it always falls between January 21 and February 20.
This year, Chinese families around the world celebrated Chinese New Year on February 16. And the Huaxia Chinese School at Montgomery hosted its gala on Saturday, January 27.
The celebration consisted of cultural activities as well as a gala. First, attendees participated in cultural games in the gym and browsed the exhibitions in the cafeteria. Huaxia students researched, created posters, and delivered presentations on a wide variety of topics, such as New Year traditions, food, paper cutting, instruments, China’s history, opera, Chinese chess, and more. Some also brought in homemade food to share.
Huaxia School Principal Vivian Wang, a Montgomery resident, noted that the school’s goal was to “share Chinese culture and traditions with the Montgomery community, and promote the awareness of Chinese culture and appreciation of cultural diversity.”
Jennifer Ren, a freshman at Princeton High School and ninth grade student at Huaxia Chinese School, made a poster about China’s geography and topography with her class. Completing the project helped her to learn more about the country’s regions.
“It was really clear that the people in west China live very differently from the people in the east, since there are more mountains and animals,” she commented.
East Brunswick resident and former Chinese calligraphy teacher, Lewei Shang, used ink and a brush to write Chinese names and characters with precision and focus. Shang said he learned calligraphy as a child, but stopped during the Cultural Revolution.
Shang’s style of calligraphy deviates from traditional styles. He said Chinese calligraphy is special because it combines the language with the visual characters. His art is called pictographic calligraphy, as he transforms characters and makes stylistic decisions for visual purposes.
“I am trying to let non-Chinese speakers understand and enjoy the Chinese calligraphy, so I try to make the characters just like a picture. Even though not many people know my art, I can explain to them and many understand. I hope more and more people can see my art and enjoy it,” he said.
Also in the exhibition, Montgomery students Bonnie and Christina Law played the guzheng, a traditional Chinese string instrument. And, a photo gallery of different locations and landmarks in China decorated the gym walls.
Dancers from Qing Yang Dance Studio in Franklin performed a Chinese Miao Dance called “A Splash of Red” and a folk dance called “A Dance with Straw Hats in Li Village.” Troupe members include Montgomery High School students Grace He, Lily Qiu, Stephanie Wang, and Katie Zhang.
Also, student vocalists performed “How Far I’ll Go” from the movie Moana and “We are the World.”
Montgomery High School senior Eddie Qian performed Wushu, or martial arts. He asserted that the Wushu performers “illustrated the diversity of Chinese martial arts with their various dynamic movements.”
Even though Qian had just completed physical therapy, he “performed with a whip chain form that coupled gymnastics and kicks.” Overall, he was content with the performance, but “more proud that the students were able to showcase what they had learned while having fun at the same time.”
A group of parents put on a Dragon Parade, which was a very memorable performance, since the performers practiced extensively beforehand.
The New Year Gala is an annual event hosted by the Huaxia Chinese School; however, this year is the first that they incorporated the exhibition aspect and welcomed all members of the community to attend.
“The event went well. We received positive feedback from students, parents, and guests. We hope we will be able to draw even more guests from the Montgomery community next year,” Principal Wang said.
The Huaxia Chinese School at Montgomery, established in 1996, is a non-profit organization promoting Chinese language education and interaction with Chinese culture. Students age four and up participate in classes of differing levels for heritage students and “Chinese as a Second Language” program. Classes are held at Montgomery Upper Middle School, Burnt Hill Road, Skillman on Saturday afternoons, 1:30 p.m. to 4:50 p.m., from September through early June.