News / Arts & Entertainment

Unique US Festival Showcases Wonders of Chinese Culture

  • The Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington. This year it focuses on China and Kenya. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • A workshop on fan dancing at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • A Chinese cooking demonstration at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • A Chinese puppeteer entertains the crowd with the antics of his monkey on a bicycle at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • Performers wait for their show at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • Performers pull strings for their show at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • Beijing artist Yang Guangxin patiently paints a visitor’s name in Chinese calligraphy at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • An artisan untangles thread and readies a needle in the Chinese textiles tent at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • Artisans look over each others' work at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
  • A young woman and a visitor talk in the market place of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, June 25, 2014. (Regina Catipon/VOA)
Images from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014
Ira MellmanRegina Catipon

A curious child waddles up to the man holding a brightly colored kite. She asks him a question but he can only sheepishly smile to show that he does not understand her language. She nonetheless smiles back broadly as he lets her hold the paper kite. Though they cannot speak with each other, they’ve just experienced what the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., is all about: cultural exchange.

Between the classic American landmarks, the Capitol building and the Washington Monument lay China and Kenya -- or, rather, a small taste of the culture and traditions that these countries have to offer. They're this year's featured countries for the annual festival, which opened last weekend on the National Mall and resumes July 2-6.

The festival attracts almost one million visitors each year, who come to see an array of performers and artisans.

Outreach to China

"We're bringing about 120 people from China - musicians, dancers, calligraphers, kite makers, embroiderers, batik dyers - to demonstrate and to share their traditions with our public," said Jim Deutsch, the Smithsonian's program curator.

Together, they provide a diverse picture of China's landscape.

Deutsch and his colleagues have been collaborating with the China Arts and Entertainment Group, the production arm of the Chinese Ministry of Culture. A performer from the Chinese production group, who gave his name as Zhao, said the Chinese artists have come from all over China.

"They are from 15 different provinces in China and they will present eight different kinds of performance programs and 16 handcraft programs," Zhao said. "Now, for example, you can see the New Year springs and the doll sculpture, and for the performance there are groups, companies from the Wu Opera and also the Inner Mongolian song."

Participants and performances are scattered throughout the festival for visitors to discover as they journey through the various tents. There are musical performances in the Moonrise Pavilion, cooking demonstrations in the Five Spice tent, and discussions in the Tea House Commons stage. There are also Chinese language lessons and martial arts demonstrations, all organized so visitors can interact and learn from the Chinese participants.

Hands-on experience

One hugely popular tent offers visitors the chance to see demonstrations of traditional Chinese calligraphy -- and to get samples of their names translated in caligraphy as free souvenirs. Visitors crowd the table and compete to peer closely at the scrolls.

One day last week, caligraphy artist Jong Wang sat calmly amid the clamor, churning out name after name. Originally from Taiwan but now living in metropolitan Washington, D.C., Wang said he came to the festival to demonstrate not only the artistic aspect but also the meditative qualities of calligraphy.

“If you can control the brush, then you are able to write," Wang said while taking a break between workshop shifts. "This practice is over a thousand years old. It takes a lot of control, just like our daily life. For example, when you move the brush backwards to the opposite position to where you want to go, it takes discipline.

"It is like how we must think of things in our mind first. Prepare and then stop,” she said.

Desiree Sisitka, making her second visit to the Folklife Festival, called the Chinese exhibits and demonstrations "lovely."

“We just walked around and looked at crafts over there and the textiles and the clay and it was beautiful," she said.

Cultural preservation

As its title suggests, "China: Tradition and the Art of Living," the festival also aims to demonstrate how the featured countries preserve traditions.

Curator Deutsch said cultural preservation has become a focus in the face of China's rapidly changing landscape.

He initially visited the country in 2006, then returned in 2012 and 2013.

"What impressed me the most was the transformation," Deutsch said. "China is transforming more rapidly than anyone had ever imagined. And that's one of the things we're incorporating into this program: How is China maintaining its cultural heritage and maintaining its traditions in the face of this massive transformation? China is a global phenomenon, the 21st century may be the century of China."

The festival, Deutsch said, intends to help people understand "the global phenomenon that is China."

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.

Blogs

African Music Treasures