On Feb. 17, the Confucius Institute of Western Michigan University hosted their eighth annual Chinese New Year Gala in the North Ballroom of the Bernhard Center from 3-6 p.m.

To celebrate the Year of the Dog, the free and open to the public event featured recitation performances from elementary students of the Gagie School, yo-yo performers from the Kalamazoo Chinese Academy and individual and solo musical and dance performances from students of WMU and Loy Norrix High School. Also featured were awards for a traditional Chinese painting contest, a raffle and traditional Chinese snacks.

One of the solo acts at the gal was performed by Cai Lichun, a second-year WMU international master’s student.

“I have performed in my hometown, in the public park,” Lichun said. “I am from the eastern part of a small city near Shanghai, about the distance from New Jersey to New York.”

For the public on Saturday, he performed a piece on the Chinese flute.

“Traditionally it’s made of bamboo but this one is made of plastic, so there is a different sound,” said Lichun.

The director of the Confucius Institute, Ying Zeng, says that the program has quite an impact on those who attend.

“Global engagement is one of the three pillars of WMU,” Zeng said in an email. “The Chinese New Year’s Gala and other events that introduce cultures from around the world provide an excellent opportunity for students and community members to discover more about the world around them. The Gala provides an opportunity for learning about Chinese culture in its many varieties. It showcases the achievement of the students in Confucius Institute’s programs.”

In terms of community engagement, Zeng says the festival also serves to introduce students and community members to many opportunities to learn more about Chinese culture abroad and in Michigan in Kalamazoo.

Past festivals thrown by the Confucius Institute were hosted at the Wesley Foundation, but the Bernhard Center has proven to be more inclusive.

“In the past, we rented Wesley Foundation's facility,” Zeng said. “Because of the space limitation, besides the invited guests, only a few people could participate through online registration. This year is the first time we hosted it at a bigger space and (opened it) to the public. We plan to do it this way again next year.”


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