On February 14, 2014, Confucius Institute at the University of Central Arkansas (UCACI) hosted “Experience Chinese Culture—Lantern Festival Celebration” at Fuller Middle School and Cabot High school, and also co-organized the Lantern Festival Celebration at the Wildwood Park for the Art, Little Rock.
In the morning, UCACI staff led by Dr. Guo-ou Zhuang, Director of UCACI, hosted a Chinese culture experience activity for over 150 6th and 7th grade students at Fuller Middle School together with the Hanban Chinese teacher at this school. The first session is the interactive performance. Miss Wei Wei, UCACI teacher first introduced the customs of Lantern Festival, and then UCA exchange student from China gave a wonderful Taichi performance. After that, six students from Fuller Middle School came onto stage to display the Shadow Puppet Play. The shadow puppets on display were four figures from the Chinese classic novel The Journey to the West. They are Monk Tang and his three followers. With the instruction of UCACI teacher, the students successfully pulled the strings to demonstrate some vivid movements. Then all the Chinese learners at Fuller Middle School sang a Chinese song called Twelve Zodiac Animals. The last performance was the Chinese traditional dress show. Six American students showcased the dresses for Han Dynasty, the Tibetan, and the Uyghur. After the performances, four stations– the Chinese calligraphy, tea ceremony, paper-cutting, and culture exhibits– were set up for students to experience: at the calligraphy table, Dr. Zhuang wrote students’ Chinese name with brush on colorful paper; at the tea table, teachers explained Chinese tea culture and made tea for them to taste; at the paper-cutting table, students cut Chinese characters “春”and “囍” meaning “spring” and “double happiness”. Besides, students also kicked Jianzi, learned Taichi, appreciated Chinese cultural exhibits like Peking opera masks, traditional musical instruments, bamboo books, Chinese knots, etc. The one hour activity showcased Chinese culture in different ways.
In the afternoon, similar activity was held at Cabot High School for all the students in foreign languages programs. The principals and foreign language teachers at the school also came to observe the activity. Assistant Principal Mr. Michael Byrd said that such activity was not only good for students who were learning Chinese, but also beneficial for students in other foreign language programs in that it could broaden their horizon.
In the evening, UCACI set up an exhibition station in the Lantern Festival Celebration at the Wildwood Park to display Chinese culture. The annual Lantern Festival Celebration attracted 5,500 people this year with focus on multi-cultures from Asia, Europe, to Latin America. As the representative of Asian culture, UCACI’s station attracted many participants with various exhibits like Chinese knots, paper-cutting, traditional musical instruments, bamboo books, Peking Opera mask, lanterns, etc. People engaged in activities like paper-cutting and calligraphy writing. They also showed great interests in learning some simple Chinese and taking pictures with Peking Opera marks on or holding the Panda mascot. As this year’s Lantern Festival was on the same day with western Valentine’s Day, many couples and kids had their names written on a piece of heart-shaped paper, and said “I love you ” in Chinese to their loved ones. This activity was very popular and became a highlight of the night. Many participants expressed that this was the first time for them to come so close to Chinese culture in which they were very interested.