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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.