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Feature: Huntington Library and Garden host Chinese New Year
From:Xinhua  |  2020-02-05 10:29

by Julia Pierrepont III

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- A stream of happy guests wended their way through the historic Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in Los Angeles County on Saturday and Sunday, coming to the Asian Lunar New Year.

It was a perfect warm and sunny weekend without a cloud in the sky, so Angelenos flocked outside to a bit of the exotic.

And what better place to celebrate China's most important celebration than Huntington's legendary Chinese gardens, now featuring the additional new pagodas, expanded landscapes and facilities of the garden's expansion.

"So many of the plants we have in Southern California are of Chinese origin, so there is a deep connection here between Chinese culture and nature," Karen Lawrence, President of the Huntington, explained to Xinhua.

"The Chinese-American community has been incredibly supportive and helped us build all of this," she added appreciatively, as she gestured at the stunning, newly-expanded Chinese garden around her.

Brightly-colored Lion Dancers cavorted across the Huntington's sweeping green lawns, delighting the picnicking families and wide-eyed tots who had gathered to them under the traditional red and tasseled lanterns that swayed overhead in the trees.

In Chinese culture, lion dances are often performed at festivals and auspicious occasions to chase away evil spirits and bring good fortune. During the Chinese New Year celebrations in particular, they are believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the upcoming year.

"There's not tons of stuff for families to do together around here," said Brad K, a local resident and father of three. "So this is great for us. We like that it's a different cultural experience too."

The Guo Jie Tai Chi Academy demonstrated the adroit maneuvers of Tai Chi Wushu, including Sword, Spear, and Fan with Taiko Drums on the lawns, wearing elegant flowing tunics and pants that fluttered in the breezes as they performed their highly disciplined, slow-motioned movements as a group in unison.

Variations of Tai Chi have gained popularity in the West, where they are used as popular forms of group and stress relief.

Martial arts demonstrations of Kung Fu were also performed to enthusiastic audiences.

"The concentration, self-discipline and practice it takes to master Kung Fu is rare these days," Grandmaster Sin Kwang told Xinhua, "But it can be applied to many other aspects of our lives."

The Henan Culture and Art Group performed both traditional and modern dances, while the Pasadena City College Chinese Music ensemble performed musical selections using traditional Chinese instruments.

"The dances are quite beautiful and the music is so exotic sounding," Miranda C. from Riverside, told Xinhua. "I like that these are traditions from long ago."

Other traditional Chinese cultural elements were part of the festivities too, including tables of Chinese arts and crafts. One set of tables that drew a crowd featured "paint-your-own" traditional Chinese masks.

"I like the masks," enthused 6-year old Suzie M., "Look at my pretty red and blue one."

Other rows of tables accommodated the ancient, yet still popular artform of Chinese calligraphy, taught by Ms. Peifang Liang. Dozens of guests tested their art skills with delicate sable brushes as they traced Chinese characters in swaths of black ink on pristine rice paper.

"Calligraphy is an ancient artform that still resonates today," Phillip Bloom, June and Simon K.C. Li Curator of the Chinese Garden & Director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies, told Xinhua.

"I appreciate the elegance of the ink characters and the dexterity it takes to draw them right," said Long Beach resident, Pam Nelson. "It's much harder than it looks."

President Lawrence also pointed out to Xinhua that there are Chinese cultural connections all across the Huntington, from the gardens themselves, the Center for East Asian Garden Studies program with classes and lectures, acquisitions of rare Chinese books in the library, events and exhibits and more.

Many of those are all display year-round, while the Huntington will be hosting a Grand Opening of Phase Two of the Chinese Garden in May of 2020.