Year of the Dragon Celebration packs St. Andrews

St. Andrew’s, adorned with vibrant red lanterns and auspicious poems, played host to Wayne State University's inaugural Lunar New Year celebration on Thursday, Feb. 15. Organized collaboratively by the Office of International Programs and the Association of Chinese Faculty and Staff (WSU-ACFS), the event was a resounding success, uniting faculty, staff, and students in a jubilant display of cultural unity.

Attendees were welcomed with traditional red envelopes containing Chinese New Year candies and complimentary raffle tickets before immersing themselves in the lively atmosphere of the "Miaohui" marketplace, reminiscent of the festive markets seen during Lunar New Year celebrations in China. Here, participants had the opportunity to engage with professional calligraphers, have auspicious words inscribed, try their hand at Chinese calligraphy, and craft lanterns.

The formal proceedings commenced with insightful remarks from university leadership including Dr. Ahmad Ezzeddine, Vice President for Academic Student Affairs and Global Engagement, Dr. Hengguang Li, President of the WSU-ACFS, and Dr. Donyale Padgett, Interim Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Padgett remarked on the historic nature of the gathering, noting it as the largest in Wayne State's recent memory.

The celebration reached its zenith with a mesmerizing 30-minute cultural presentation. Spectators were treated to captivating performances such as the renowned Sichuan Opera Face Mask Changing, eliciting enthusiastic applause from the audience. Additionally, a duet rendition of "The Drinking Song" from Verdi's opera "La Traviata," performed by Dr. Jinsheng Zhang and his wife Jie Wang, injected further energy into the festivities.

The program continued to dazzle with a showcase of diverse musical talents, including a world premiere flute performance by Tianshi Feng and a mesmerizing rendition of "Red Dust" on the Chinese zither by Xiao Dong Wei. A highlight of the evening was the introduction of Throat Singing, a rare Mongolian art form performed by Tamir, hailing from Inner Mongolia.

The evening crescendoed with a fashion show featuring blue-and-white porcelain-inspired designs, which garnered attention for their fusion of Chinese artistic elements and contemporary fashion trends. The inclusion of intricate paper cutting art and motifs such as the peony, China's national flower, added depth and cultural significance to the garments.

Dr. Huajing Maske, Assistant Vice President for International Partnerships, who masterminded and hosted the event, offered poignant reflections on its purpose, stating, “The Lunar New Year holds significance across diverse cultures in East Asia. We are delighted to seize this opportunity to unite the campus in celebrating the rich tapestry of cultures that defines Wayne State University.” Each cultural presentation showcased during the event was a rare gem, featuring talents from within the university as well as from Michigan and beyond. Many of these performances marked their debut in Michigan. Dr. Maske further emphasized, “Through the diverse array of performances, my aim is to honor the multifaceted culture of Wayne State. By curating musicians and performers from varied backgrounds, I sought to immerse participants in the depth and vibrancy of Chinese arts and culture, offering a profound experience to all.”

As the festivities drew to a close, special recognition was given to attendees born in the Year of the Dragon, with 14 individuals spanning from 2012 to 1954 honored and presented with commemorative gifts. The evening concluded with a final flourish as attendees eagerly participated in raffles, bringing the celebration to a fitting conclusion.

“The dragon, symbolizing power, strength, good luck, and wisdom, stands as a sign of hope and prosperity for the days ahead,” Li says. "This is a perfect moment to reflect on our journey, cherish cultural traditions, and forge new connections. We are extremely grateful to the WSU Office of International Programs, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, all our ACFS members, and our friends and colleagues for the generous support to what we do and to make today's celebration a reality.”

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