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Colorful culture, creative crafts at 6th annual Chinese Festival

On the warm evening of Friday, Sept. 27, the Miami University Confucius Institute (CIMU) hosted the 6th annual Chinese Festival to celebrate Chinese culture and language. The Oxford Uptown Park was alive with rich colors, beautiful music and fascinating traditions of Chinese culture.

The annual festival welcomes everyone to explore and enjoy the different aspects of the culture. According to the event’s organizers, the festival also promotes the celebration of diversity and intercultural connection among Miami faculty and students, as well as the Oxford community. 

“We love to help people get to know our culture,” senior kinesiology major Diwen Chen said. “We do our best to promote diversity.” 

Diwen has been a student volunteer at the Chinese Festival for the past two years, and this year he ran a booth where people were encouraged to try on traditional Chinese costumes and learn about their history and significance.

Many Miami students choose to participate in the event as both volunteers and performers to represent their culture. Some of the performances that took center-stage on Friday included an elaborate and elegant fan dance, musical melodies played on the Chinese zheng harp and a captivating performance by a martial arts master. 

The opening performance of the night was a traditional Chinese lion dance, a dance in which performers are dressed and masked in incredibly colorful lion costumes and mimic the movements of the lion to symbolize power, wisdom and superiority. The lion dance is meant to bring prosperity and luck, and is especially important during the Chinese New Year’s celebration. 

First-year data science and statistics major Rafid Pranto said the lion dance was his favorite part of the Chinese festival. 

“Chinese culture — it’s huge and colorful,” Pranto said. “Chinese culture plays a significant role in the overall diversity at Miami University.” 

Pranto is an international student from Dhaka, Bangladesh, a country in South Asia, and he talked about his experience as an international student at Miami. 

“I have never felt out of place or unwelcome here,” Pranto said. “However, [the university] should exert itself more to increase the diversity.” 

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One of the goals of the institute is to promote diversity by celebrating and sharing knowledge of Chinese culture.

Activities at the festival included language learning, panda mask making and Chinese paper-cutting, one of the most popular and important types of Chinese folk art. 

Chinese paper-cuts are usually done with red paper because red is associated with festivities and happiness. Paper-cuts are sometimes referred to as window paper-cuts because people will often glue them to windows so the light from inside will illuminate the negative space in the art.

Along with activities, the festival also had cultural booths where people could learn about different Chinese games, the beauty and history of the Beijing Opera and even how to properly use chopsticks to eat the free food that was offered at the festival. 

“The food was great, and using chopsticks was a new experience for me but I’m glad I tried it,” first-year university studies major Lisa Arcure said. She said she is looking forward to attending the Chinese festival again next September.

This year’s Chinese Festival also celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and China. A large photo exhibit displayed at the front of the festival depicted significant political moments and honored the diplomatic journey over the past decades between the two nations. 

Both Oxford Mayor Kate Rousmaniere, and Chen Zhao, the director of the Confucius Institute, spoke of the importance of the cultural and diplomatic connections between China and the United States before the beginning of the performances on Friday. 

The CIMU aims to enhance multicultural harmony in the Oxford and Miami communities, and is proud to be the first Confucius Institute in Ohio set up in conjunction with the Chinese Language Council International (Hanban).