Lunar New Year Celebration Brings Music, Food, and Art to the PAB

Though Jan. 25 was the official Lunar New Year, the Chinese House and the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) collaborated this past Friday, Jan. 31, to throw Reed students an event they will never forget. The celebration kicked off with a buffet offering a variety of dishes from fried rice to sweet red bean-filled sesame balls. Everything from Chinese rap to love ballads played as students dined with complimentary chopsticks in the red lantern-festooned PAB. Students could stop by the calligraphy table to give the ancient art a try or by the tea table to build a cup of boba tea to their taste. The night ended with a handful of performances on Chinese traditional instruments (including a surprise performance of “Baby Shark”) along with a raffle for various prize baskets assembled from products contributed by all of the ISAB.

The Quest sat down with a number of people associated with the event to learn more about what went into this unforgettable night.

Alisa Chen, Chinese House HA

“Growing up, my parents didn’t really celebrate Western holidays, so the Lunar New Year was the big one. I grew up in Michigan, and the holiday usually fell when the snow was heaviest. So the timing was just magical. I took a gap year in Taiwan, and sharing the New Year’s celebrations with my host family was such a special moment for me.

“My goals for this event are to give students space to perform, and raise awareness of the New Year for those from different cultural backgrounds (and also get people interested in the Chinese House!) Reed can sometimes feel really isolating, so it’s nice to see everyone come together like this.”

Chris Stasse, calligraphy teacher and Reed class of fall ‘18

LunarNewYear_Courtesy of International Student Services.jpg

“Calligraphy’s a hobby of mine. I picked it up while studying abroad in China and they offered a calligraphy elective. That was about four or five years ago now. I’ve always been fascinated by the aesthetic of the written word, and I find Chinese people care more than Westerners — not just about the content of the writing, but what the aesthetics of your writing says about your character. 

“There’s a Navajo poem that states one should walk with beauty wherever one goes. I believe in writing with beauty whatever one writes. Speaking of sayings, I’m sure everyone is aware of the Chinese saying ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. I don’t think Chinese calligraphy is like that. It’s more like a journey of one step that you take a thousand times. What’s the fastest way to take this journey? Not by learning how to run faster, but by learning how to walk slower. 

“A tip I have for calligraphy beginners is not to think of as active production, but passive observation. You’re trying to observe what the brush and the ink and the body and the mind are saying to each other.” 

Diana Wang, performer

I’ve played both flute and a traditional Chinese woodwind called ‘xiao’ since high school. I first got into it because I wanted to play a traditional instrument, and I liked the sound. It’s very spiritual.”

David Gehlke, ISAB program coordinator 

“Normally, ISAB puts on a big international party at the end of the calendar year. Since Dana, the Head of International Services, is stepping down, we decided to push it off to spring and join up with the Chinese house, partially so it was easier on us and partially because 31 of the 51 new international students this year are Chinese, so we wanted to acknowledge that. We figured a high-spirited event would be a nice welcome back to the Reed students and remind them there’s more to Reed than just studying and working in the library. 

“In terms of the holiday’s meaning to me, I’ve always celebrated it to some extent because my high school had a pretty high population of Chinese kids. Even though I’m not well versed in the cultural significance, I can appreciate the fun, the socializing, and of course the culture.”

ZiQi Xie, performer

I’ve played the guzheng since age seven, but had I had to stop for about three or four years. So I’m very happy to have this instrument here at Reed unexpectedly. In my elementary school it [was] not part of the curriculum, but you could learn. So I attended a class and just kept with the interest.”

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