Feeling the Hit of Chinese Culture in Chinese Folk Handicraft
Art Exchange VOL.01/2014|By Meng Xiangning Li Gang

   

 With Strong Interest in Chinese Shadow Play, American Children Tried in Full Enthusiasm 

     Chinese Folk Artists Showcased Colorful Chinese Folk Arts to Local Audience so as to Bring them to Feel the Traditional Folklore at Chinese Spring Festival

The Artist Lin Hongkui Improvised on the Spot

    Lv Jun Deputy Secretary General of China Folk Literatureand Art Association (Left) Conducted Close Exchangewith Deng Lifeng (Center), Executive President of ChineseFederation of Culture and Arts (CFCA) and Liu Gongsi(Right), Marketing Supervisor of CFCA at the Event Venue

From February 9 till March 1, a 22-member Folk Handicraft Delegation of Chinese Folk Literature and Art Association (CFLAA) went to the United States to participate in the “North America’s First Chinese Traditional Folk Culture Festival - Happy New Year Culture Week”. During the activity, the CFLAA Delegation traveled more than 4000 kilometers and performed in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The folk artists, from nearly 20 kinds of Chinese folk handicraft such as dough modeling, painted face clay sculpture of Beijing Opera, clay portrait, inner painting, shadow puppet, sugar painting, microscopic carvings, root carving and tearing calligraphy art, brought their exquisite performance of Chinese folk handicraft making right in front of the American audience, which received a warm welcome by the local people and made the Americans feel the charm of Chinese traditional folk custom of Spring Festival with their first-hand experience.   

Feel the Charm of Chinese Folk Art in Their Home Countries  

Being one part of the series of activities of “Happy Chinese New Year” by Consulate General of The People’s Republic of China in San Francisco, the “North America’s First Chinese Traditional Folk Culture Festival - Happy New Year Culture Week” is jointly sponsored by Chinese Folk Literature and Art Association, Chinese Federation of Culture and Arts, California State Senate and Sacramento Municipal Government. On February 10, the opening ceremony of the “North America’s First Chinese Traditional Folk Culture Festival - Happy New Year Culture Week” was held on the California State Capitol Plaza in Sacramento. Deputy secretary general of CFLAA Lv Jun, California Legislature Assembly member Travis Allen and Culture Counselor of Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China Xiao Xiayong delivered their speeches respectively and awarded “Letter of Thanks” to CFLAA and other co-organizers. By the interval of the meetings, the president of the California State Senate Kevin de León arranged a special meeting with the representatives of the Delegation and received his clay sculpture portrait made by the folk artist.  

The executive chairman of Chinese Federation of Culture and Arts Deng Lifeng told the journalist that he started to plan the Culture Week activity from the beginning of the year 2013, the Californian Government and its functional departments had done a lot of cooperation work such as issuing invitation letters for the folk artists, assigning people to coordinate the visa issue with American Embassy, providing venue for the activity and providing safety protection services. For the success of the Culture Week, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in San  Francisco also provided great support, including helping to arrange exhibition venues for the folk artists.   

Situated in the middle of California State, Sacramento is the location of the State Government, with a small population of hundreds of thousands and beautiful scenes. The opening ceremony of the Culture Week was simple but solemn, enthusiastic but not noisy. After the opening ceremony, the Chinese folk artists started their demonstration calmly without deliberate arrangements. At beginning, only some office workers passed by occasionally with a curious glimpse. But after a while, the passionate Americans were gathered by the charm of Chinese traditional handicrafts. They curiously watched the demonstrations and whispered their questions to the folk artists, many of whom even wanted to take a brave try of making the painted face clay sculpture of Beijing Opera, shadow puppet and sugar paintings. Mr. Deng Lifeng said they had organized various culture exchange activities and always felt that there was too much good stuff of Chinese culture waiting them to introduce to the American audience, which may help Americans to understand the real Chinese culture.   

The American people’s enthusiasm for Chinese traditional art went beyond our expectation. A man came to the activity specially with his two daughters and asked the interpreter to introduce the folk art to his daughters one by one. Ms. Tong Xiufen, famous folk artist of painted face clay sculpture of Beijing Opera, gave the children two small gifts of her works for their love of Chinese traditional culture and taught them drawing face masks hand by hand. Although they had language barrier, art went far beyond the barrier. After a while, the American children had finished their first Chinese folk art works in their lives. Their father was very excited and sang high praise for Chinese artists. Seeing that Chinese traditional folk art was so well received by the Americans at spot, I deeply feel that the culture week provides the Americans a great chance to understand the real Chinese traditional culture, to experience the charm of Chinese folk art and to feel the shock power of Chinese culture in Chinese folk handicrafts in their home country.   

Supporting Chinese Spring Festival to Apply for Legal Holiday in U.S.  

The Culture Week takes “Promote Civilization, Respect for Tradition, Close to Nature, Building Harmony” as a concept. It is dedicated to promote Chinese culture to American Multi-ethnic culture and make necessary propaganda and preparations for applying Chinese Spring Festival to be a Legal Holiday to American government. For this reason, the Folk Handicraft Delegation of CFLAA held several performing activities in the Stockton Boulevard Partnership, San Jose International Art Center Plaza and Enlighten Chinese School. The shadow puppet artist Yang Mingzhong also performed an opening show in the 2014 Spring Festival Concert of Colorful Planet Children Art Troupe. Folk artists took the interval of the activities to perform in schools and held several instructional interaction activities.  

The Chinese School in United States belongs to after class education. Usually students go to class on weekends. Their main courses include Chinese and various art courses. Deng Lifeng told the journalist that normally when compiling the teaching materials, most of the schools would arrange some contents to help students understand Chinese culture according to their teaching advantages. The Folk Handicraft Delegation of CFLAA brought so many authentically Chinese cultural arts into the school, which has a practical significance of icebreaking journey. In a simple sentence: The Culture Week provide the American kids a chance to see, to know and to personally experience the Chinese folk art and culture which they can only see on the TV and hear in the class at ordinary times.  

The on-the-spot teaching of shadow puppet by Mr. Yang Mingzhong received great effects. No more than 30 minutes, the American students finished performing a small piece of shadow puppet play compiled by themselves. Other folk artists as Yang Zhigang, Wang Lianwen, Zhang Baolin, Lin Song, Lin Hongkui, Luan Yanan, Guo Wei, Kang Guoqing, Wang Yanru, Yu Letu, Yang Qipeng, Jiang Jinhua, Jin Chaohui, Li Guanghui, Liu Jianghua and Fu Yupeng also taught their folk art interaction teaching lesson in schools. In the limited time of the folk art lesson, the American students studied conscientiously with energetic practice, which has received very good teaching effect.  

Chinese Federation of Culture and Arts has done great efforts on promoting Chinese Spring Festival to be a Legal Holiday in United States. Deng Lifeng indicated that although this move was easy to say and sounded hard, actually it was only a big project operated by determination and great efforts. It was not impossible as imagined. The only thing it needed was a person who operated the project with full concentration and specific responsibility. In the past few years, Deng Lifeng had been working on organizing large-scale performing activities. He invited state governors and senators to participate in the activity, which helped them to understand Chinese culture in various aspects. “North America’s First Chinese Traditional Folk Culture Festival - Happy New Year Culture Week” working together with  CFLAA started up the process of applying Chinese Spring Festival to be a Legal Holiday in United States, which needs a lot of work to coordinate. One of the most important thing to do is to organize at least three large-scale comprehensive performing activities of Chinese folk culture with more than 10,000 audience. Deng Lifeng has already negotiated with Consulate General of The People’s Republic of China and planned to unite several organizations in California State to fulfill the goal.   

Promoting Chinese Culture into American Multi-ethnics  

Deng Lifeng and his colleagues have paid great efforts on organizing the “North America’s First Chinese Traditional Folk Culture Festival - Happy New Year Culture Week”. When the folk artists praised him for his great contribution to Sino-US cultural exchanges, he smiled with great happiness. He said sincerely: “I think every people and organization should do all he could do to promote Chinese culture to the world! This is the responsibility for every Chinese!”  

The marketing director of Chinese Federation of Culture and Arts Felix Lu is a Vietnam born 53Chinese. He worked many years in United Stated with his wife who is a Cantonese. The couple provided great support to the Culture Week activity from reserving venue to organize audience. They even prepared hearty Chinese meals for the delegation, which made us feel at home in the far away United States. Felix Lu said that the Culture Week was a deep cross-cultural communication. Chinese Folk Handicraft is a very significant component of Chinese culture. This pure nongovernmental cultural exchange will contribute to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship of the people. Moreover, he is looking forward to helping Chinese Spring Festival to become a Legal Holiday in United States.  

Deng Lifeng has been living and working in United States for several tens of years. For promoting Chinese culture, he has his own understandings. For him, to invite several famous singers or dancers to visit and perform in some cities abroad can not be called promote Chinese culture. It is not an easy thing for promoting Chinese culture. It can be only called performance of condolence to bring some Chinese performance to the overseas Chinese. If we want the Chinese culture to go into the real American Multi-ethnics and to be acknowledged, to be received and to be loved, the art form we bring should be unique to Chinese without language barrier, which is one fundamental characteristic.  

For promoting Sino-US cultural exchange, Deng Lifeng has set out an intensive working plan. On the contents of promoting Chinese folk culture and folk handicrafts, he is planning to organize a folk art group to participate in the International Festival in Texas State in late April and Californian Cultural Festival in July. During the summer vacation, he will organize a series of cultural exchange activities and art competitions between Chinese and American   

teenagers. During mid-autumn festival, he is planning to organize a Chinese Folk Art Culture Festival. At the end of the year, he will organize a folk art performing group for a tour in eastern America right from Thanksgiving Day and Christmas to the next Spring Festival and Lantern Festival. 

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