Chinese New Year, as the most important traditional festival in China, not only marks the beginning of an auspicious new year but also carries in it the rich and profound Chinese culture. To share the culture and festivity with young students in Cambridge, we have held a one-day integrated event named “Chinese Culture Day” right on the Chinese New Year’s Day (Saturday 25th January), aiming to bring together cultural elements through demonstrations, lectures and workshops.
The event was held at the school hall of Harston & Newton Primary School. This school is located at the Harston village on the border of Cambridge city. Its headteacher Mrs. Rouse is quite supportive to culture exchange events and encouraged many students from the school to join this event. After the society representative Dr. Alex Loktionov addressed an inspiring opening talk, the event started with a Chinese musical performance “Guzheng” by Dr. Anran Cheng, a researcher from University of Oxford and traveled all the way to Cambridge to give this performance. Guzheng, also known as the Chinese zither, is a Chinese plucked string instrument with a more than 2,500-year history. With its striking and attractive melody, students had soon been brought into the atmosphere of Chinese culture and cannot wait for the next session to start.
To begin with, Ms. Yi Yao, a graduated student from Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge, gave students a lecture about Chinese language and characters. Through this talk, students got to know how the Chinese language had evolved and pronounced. Students also got to know interesting facts about Chinese Spring Festival and Chinese zodiac animals. After the talk, students were divided into small groups to finish a small task guided by Chinese students and volunteers from Cambridge University. Through the interaction with the volunteers, students and parents were informed of some more interesting facts and got more interested in the Chinese language and culture.
In the following session, students were divided into two groups according to their own preferences. One group of students were to learn the Chinese traditional painting and the session was led by two painting lovers based in Cambridge – Ms. Nora Hmucska and Mr. Jianfeng Liu. During the practice, students were given Chinese brushes and rice paper. By following the two demonstrators step by step, they managed to get the essential techniques of Chinese painting and could paint traditional subjects such as bamboo and orchid. In the Chinese calligraphy writing group, students followed Ms. Meijuan Li, a dedicated demonstrator and Mphil Student at University of Cambridge. Meijuan first explained the difference between writing with a pen and a Chinese brush, then demonstrated to the students how to hold the brush and write Chinese characters on rice paper. Then students were then given a pair of red paper called ‘Chunlian’ to write lucky Chinese verses on to celebrate the Spring Festival.
During the interval session, students and their parents tried some traditional Chinese Dim sum for lunch. There is also a tea demonstration session when they got to know different types of Chinese tea and how to make them. Many students used this good opportunity to have more conversations with the demonstrators. Anran and her Chinese Zither received more attention and some students also tried to play themselves. Of course they found it very difficult as the Zither has 16 strings to play with!
The afternoon session started with a demonstration on Chinese paper cutting. Mr. Wang, a visiting scholar from Cambridge University and his mother showed students the proper way to do a Chinese paper cutting using just scissors and a piece of red paper. Although looking easy when the demonstrator was doing it, students found it difficult to do paper cutting themselves, even the patterns were printed for them on the paper already! Although a quite challenging job for them, they found it very interesting as a little mouse has popped out from the paper under their scissors. After they completed their work, students were given a nice picture frame to bring back their paper cutting works home as a souvenir.
Throughout the activities, students not only learned Chinese characters, Chinese painting, calligraphy and Chinese paper cutting, but also found a way to be able to connect with the Chinese culture and develop an interest in them. It is vitally important to inspire students to embrace and love a foreign culture from a young age; this is why we have chosen the Harston & Newton Primary School for this year’s Chinese culture Day. We thank all the kind efforts from the events organisers, demonstrators and the school teachers for their help and the selfless contributing of their time and effort into this event. We hope to bring more culture activities to more schools in and around Cambridge in the future.