Chinese Choir 2016

Welcoming the Year of the Monkey

Marie Visca - February 8, 2016

Students perform at Friday's Chinese Spring Festival Gala. (Provided photos)

Students perform at Friday's Chinese Spring Festival Gala. (Provided photos)

In keeping with custom, the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium was alight with the sounds and sights of culture this past Friday to ring in the Chinese New Year. Hosted by the Dalhousie Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the Chinese Spring Festival Gala brought together both native speakers and those learning Mandarin for traditional food, song and dance.

The Chinese New Year, which officially takes place on Monday, February 8, is also known as the Spring Festival in China and marks the first day of the New Year in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, kicking off a 15-day-long celebration. Since family gatherings are one of the most important parts of the festivities, Dalhousie’s gala is meant to celebrate Chinese culture but also give international students a taste of home while they’re here.

Dalhousie hosts more students from China than from any country other than Canada.

“Our diversity is what makes Dal such a great place,” says Dalhousie President Dr. Richard Florizone. “Events like this allow us to recognize and preserve cultural diversity on campus, and share the experience with our entire community.”

“It’s really inspiring,” says Shannon Brownlee, assistant professor in Film Studies at Dal, student in the Chinese Studies program and member of the Chinese Choir. “For one thing, it’s inspiring to see students not just going to their class and learning material, but actually integrating what they learn into their lives.”

Marking an anniversary

For Dr. Shao-Pin Luo, the Year of the Monkey also marks the celebration of something else: the 10-year anniversary of Dalhousie’s Chinese Studies Program. As assistant professor and coordinator of the program, she has been delighted to watch its growth from one class with 32 students in 2005 to the introduction of a Chinese Studies Minor in 2013.

“We do all these extra curricular activities, and it’s small but its like a family,” Dr. Luo says about the program. “Events like the gala create an interest and it gives them the opportunity to meet Chinese students but also for them to immerse in Chinese culture.”

Among those students was Jacob Hubner, a second-year Biology student with a minor in Chinese studies, and one of the MCs from Friday’s event. Having traveled to China prior to coming to Dal, he was eager to continue his learning with the China Studies Program, both in and outside of the classroom.

“As important as it is for international students to come here and get an experience in Canadian culture, it’s just as important that we in turn get a taste in theirs,” he says.  “What I really love about the program is Dr. Luo. Since the program is so small, she’s able to make it a lot more than just a class. We go to events, we have lectures, we’ve got a Chinese choir, and we’re having a big dumpling making party coming up. It’s really amazing that she’s able to make it more than just a language class, but a culture experience.”

Students in the Chinese Studies program also marked the Year of the Monkey with a dumpling party Saturday evening.

For more on Chinese Studies at Dal, visit the program’s website.