Welcoming the Year of the Dragon

Celebrations at the Chinese Spring Festival gala

- January 26, 2012

A traditional dance group performs at the Chinese Spring Festival gala, hosted by the Dalhousie Chinese Students and Scholars Association. (Katherine Wooler photo)
A traditional dance group performs at the Chinese Spring Festival gala, hosted by the Dalhousie Chinese Students and Scholars Association. (Katherine Wooler photo)

Dalhousie ushered in the Year of the Dragon with an evening of song, dance, comedy and spectacle on Monday, Jan. 23.

Native Chinese students, learners of the language and lovers of the culture gathered in the McInnis Room for the Dalhousie Chinese Students and Scholars Association’s Chinese Spring Festival gala.

Shao-Pin Luo, assistant professor, led a student choir of Dal’s Mandarin language students in performing two traditional Chinese folk songs, as well as “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from the Disney movie Mulan. The choir was decked out in head-to-toe costume, with the male students dressed as emperors and a few singers also taking up instruments.

See also: Photo Essay: "Ringing in Chinese New Year"

“It is exotic for native Chinese students to hear Canadians sing Chinese songs,” says Dr. Luo.

Dr. Luo describes the 15-day celebration of the Chinese lunar New Year as a time for eating and feasting and a time of homeward migration. “It is the time of year that everything stops and families get together.”

Looking to the East

This academic year marks the sixth year of Dalhousie’s Chinese program. Started by Dr. Luo, the program includes three levels of language classes, along with courses on Chinese culture and cinema. There are also cross-listed classes with the departments of religion and economics and Kings' Early Modern Studies program.

The program reflects not only China’s growing economic and political presence in the world, but increasing globalization and genuine student interest in Asian culture.

“It is a small program, but it is vibrant with students,” says Dr. Luo. "The students inspire me everyday and I am grateful for them everyday.”

Some of Dr. Luo’s students have taken their studies outside of the classroom and travelled to China, sending her postcards along the way. New classes are steadily being added to the program and Dr. Luo hopes to create Chinese literature classes taught in English translation, eventually leading to a minor program in Chinese studies.

Combining cultures

Serin Remedios is a heritage student in Dr. Luo’s third-year Mandarin class. Ms. Remedios’ family is Chinese, but she is learning the language for the first time alongside other Canadian students. An environmental sciences and economics student, she believes that “China is becoming more and more important on the global stage.”

As events coordinator of the Dalhousie Chinese Society, Ms. Remedios is trying to get Chinese language students speaking more Mandarin by organizing interactions with native Chinese students who are at Dalhousie learning English.  

While the Dalhousie Chinese Society focuses on students who are learning the Chinese language and culture, the Dalhousie Chinese Students and Scholars Association (DCSSA) aims to create a community in Halifax for native Chinese students. The Spring Festival gala—hosted in conjunction with Saint Mary’s and Mount Saint Vincent universities—was designed to help achieve this.

One big family

Ding Fan, DCSSA vice-president and management student, explains the association’s mandate to serve Chinese Haligonians: “According to our society database, there are around 300 new Chinese students who have come to Dal to study their degree. We are ‘home’ for these new students.”

In 2011, the DCSSA’s efforts included making a new Chinese student handbook for incoming Dalhousie Chinese students, hosting the Halifax Moon Festival gala and a Chinese basketball competition.

In the upcoming year, the association hopes to continue with activities that will help new Chinese students ease into life at Dal and in Canada. With the rise of Chinese student enrollment at Dal, Ms. Fan believes the DCSSA’s “roles become more and more important.”

She also stresses the importance of fostering communication between newly arrived and established native Chinese students. “In Halifax,” says Ms. Fan, “Chinese people are a big family.”


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