University of Miami celebrates Chinese culture, Lunar New Year

It is the year of the monkey in the Chinese calendar, and to celebrate it, tales of the Monkey King, a classical Chinese story, were told through a series of events at the fifth annual Lunar New Year Celebration on the UC Lakeside patio Monday night.

Organized by Asian American Students Association (AASA), Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) and Hong Kong Student Association (HKSA), the event highlighted the Chinese New Year with traditional Chinese dances, musical performances, tents showcasing different cultural activities, dragon and lion dances, and acrobats moving playfully and invitingly in vibrantly colored outfits.

Joy Lin, the president of CSSA, said that the celebration received over $10,000 in funds to showcase the cultural event not only to the campus community but also to many Chinese people living in the county. Toyota and ISG International Realty were some of the sponsors of the event.

“Many people, not just from UM but also those from the Miami neighborhood, are here tonight,” Lin said. “Every tent has been full of people from the start and they especially love the food.”

Over the past four years, the event has welcomed around 600 people each year, according to AASA President, John Le. Their fifth celebrations was no different, with more than 800 people visiting the tents and watching the performances, according to Le.

“This fabulous event highlights Chinese culture and Asian culture for all our students,” Thomas LeBlanc, executive vice president and provost of the University of Miami, said. “It opens a window to the world for the whole community.”

Decorated with red lanterns and red and gold lighting, cultural activities in tents were interactive and educated visitors about the Chinese culture and how the Chinese celebrate Lunar New Year festivities. Participants could learn about Chinese tea, get their names written in Chinese calligraphy, or make a Zodiac animal out of dough, among other activities.

“It was great to see all of the things I miss back home in one place,” said Steven Liu, a Chinese student from Florida International University. “When I heard about this event, I knew I must come and I don’t regret it. This is just like home.”

Many members of the crowd were enticed by the cultural foods served such as rice, noodles and dumplings. Sushi Maki also had their own tent to serve sushi. The Malaysian and Singaporean dessert Ais Kacang — shaved ice with many toppings — was a popular dish.

There were a slew of performances for students to take in, or take part in. Fushu Daiko, a Japanese Taiko drum troupe, did a traditional Japanese percussion performance mixed with jazz and blues. The Hybrid Martial Arts Academy showcased martial arts and self-defense techniques. UM students played cultural instruments and performed water sleeve dances; dancers wore long-sleeved gowns during the traditional dance. To the amazement of many, two balancing acts were also featured, with one member balancing a porcelain vase on his head and another performing a handstand on four stacked chairs.

“That person doing the balancing act with the vase was my favorite. It’s amazing what he did,” Ana Deandreis, an alumna, said. “The vase just kept getting larger and heavier. For him to throw it around and balance it was nothing short of incredible.”

In attendance was the past president of AASA, Marian Li, who graduated last year and organized the last Lunar New Year event at UM.

“The performances had traditional and modern aspects. Everything incorporated the theme very well. It was definitely a very successful event,” Li said.

Feature image courtesy Pixabay user geric10.