Children wearing Shanghai opera masks, dancers brandishing silk fans and the gentle twang of Chinese instruments filtered through Uptown Park the evening of Sept. 28, heralding the Confucius Institute’s fifth annual Chinese Festival in Oxford.
Sponsored by Miami Global Initiatives, the event was a celebration of Chinese culture, with traditional music, dances, food, games, raffles, language lessons and crafts.
Cheryl Young is Miami’s assistant provost for Global Initiatives and a Confucius Institute Board member. She told the crowd that she hopes “everyone from the campus and community gains an understanding of China’s rich culture and language.”
“We have 2,600 Chinese students on our campuses and many people who call China home,” said Young. “The Chinese Festival promotes diversity and inclusion in our community by bringing people together of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone eats, everyone enjoys a great performance and everyone can find something in culture that draws them in.”
There were plenty of sights to draw attendees in, with cultural performances from the Bing Yang Chinese Performing Arts Center and the Confucius Institute’s Folk Dance Club, Lion Dance Club, Tai Qi Club, Chinese Classical Music Ensemble and Han Costume Club.
Hailei Lan, 21, is a senior studying economics at Miami University and a performer in the Folk Dance Club.
“The biggest difference is that the folk dances are based on minorities in China and classical dances focus on traditional dances from the Han people,” Lan explained. “The dance we do takes place in a palace and we’re girls dancing for the emperor.”
Festival attendees included students from local schools, Oxford residents and Miami University students.
Sophia Arcusa, 16, and Hanna Lapointe, 17, are both juniors at Kettering Fairmont High School who have attended the Chinese Festival for the past three years thanks to their school’s annual field trip.
“I personally really like the games we were just doing,” Arcusa said, referring to the stand where she and Lapointe taught children how to use chopsticks through a timed bean collecting competition. “I thought using chopsticks was common knowledge, but it was interesting to see how many people we had to show.
Arcusa added, “I also think it’s pretty cool that it’s not just exclusive to schools and that it’s open to children and old people too. It’s really inclusive.”
Their teacher, Cheng Cheng Dane, volunteers her class to run booths every year and the students take turns running the stands so everyone has time to play other games.
“I love the performances that they do,” Lapointe added. “There’s always little kids running around in the front and it’s so cute! I didn’t realize how many people speak Chinese and there’s so many people here who do, even people who aren’t Chinese.”
As the festival ended well after dark, 150 staff and volunteer workers began to tear down red paper decorations and clean up leftover Chinese takeout boxes. Young said that because of the large group of volunteers, they’ve made it “bigger and better each year” to ensure the Chinese Festival remains a meaningful part of the Oxford community.
“Events like these build awareness, celebrate achievements and help us gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which we are all a part of a global community,” Young said. “In understanding diverse cultures, the world becomes a better place for all of us to live and thrive.”