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January, 31, 2014

Confucius Institute to ring in New Year

‘China Welcomes Spring’ gala will bring Chinese culture to Cleveland

By Emily Scharf

Courtest Confucius InstituteAccording to the Chinese calendar, 2014 welcomes the year of the horse — specifically, the wooden horse. In China, a person’s astrological sign can determine their many personality traits. People born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002 and now 2014 carry the sign of the horse, which is characterized by confidence and independence.

The Confucius Institute at Cleveland State University will be ringing in the Chinese New Year with the Northeast Normal University Art Troupe on Feb. 8 at the Cleveland Masonic and Performing Arts Center.

The Confucius Institute is a partnership between CSU, Beijing’s Capital University of Economics and Business, and the Office of Chinese Language Council International Council (Hanban) which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization in China that sponsors the institute.

Since its establishment in 2008, Confucius Institute has made it their mission to enhance understanding of Chinese language, culture and business, as well as promote the learning of the Chinese language for business and trading purposes.

The event, “China Welcomes Spring,” is a New Year gala that will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will incorporate many aspects of Chinese culture and aesthetics. The two-hour performance will include several pieces that will introduce Clevelanders to Chinese traditions.

The Chinese New Year is much different than the New Year celebrated in the United States. The Chinese New Year falls on Jan. 31 this year and the holiday is celebrated throughout the duration of two weeks, which the Chinese refer to as the Spring Festival.
Haigang Zhou, director of Confucius Institute said it is impossible to capture the 15-day celebration into a one night event, but he is hopeful that the community will get a sneak peek into the culture.

“It’s impossible. But hopefully this group will help bring some of the flavors [to Cleveland] so we can have a taste of the diverse culture of China, which is another important element of this performance,” Zhou explained.

Zhou added the pieces are really diverse and represent the different ethnic groups in China.

“[It’s] probably not well known to the audience in the states or the Western audience, but China has many groups [that are] very diverse, so this performance will present several of the ethnic groups in China,” Zhou added.

Zhou explained that the art troupe is comprised of students with several areas of expertise.

“They are all college students majoring in different areas of the performing arts — dancing, music, singing, [playing] instruments — so [they are] highly acclaimed skilled group,” Zhou said.

One of the pieces of performance includes painting, in which performers will paint on stage in front of the audience.

“It’s impressive — it’s amazing,” Zhou said of the performance, which he has not seen in person but has seen a video. “[It is] combining the performing part with the Chinese calligraphy.”

This is the first year the Confucius Institute is hosting a Chinese New Year gala, but Zhou is hopeful that it will become an annual event.

“Different parts of China and different ethnic groups celebrate the Chinese New Year in a different way, but I hope this performance will give the local audience a chance, without flying to China, to have a taste of the Chinese New Year celebration,” Zhou concluded.
Not to mention a flight to China at this time of the year would not only be extremely expensive, but also extremely rare. Zhou said that these weeks are part of the busiest transportation season in China.

“Just like Christmas here or Thanksgiving, people want to travel far away back home to have their family gatherings,” Zhou said. “The Chinese new year is the single most important holiday for everyone in China.”

Tickets for the event are $20 and can be purchased on CSU’s website.