On February 5th, 2019, the William & Mary Confucius Institute (WMCI) held a Spring Festival Gala to celebrate the Lunar New Year, one of the most important holidays in China. The festival welcomed in the Year of the Pig with musical performances, demonstrations, and an authentic Chinese dinner. As the festival began, faculty, staff, students, and Williamsburg Community Members gathered to experience a little piece of China right here at home.
Steve Hanson, Vice Provost for International Affairs, introduced the Confucius Institute and spoke about the special role the Institute plays in facilitating international learning at William & Mary. Diou Dai, a student intern at WMCI, taught the audience how to wish loved ones a happy new year in Chinese: 新年快乐：xīn nián kuài lè！She continued to emcee for the rest of the night, and welcome all of the performers to the stage.
The night began with a mesmerizing performance of Taiji Fan by WMCI Student Intern Xiusen Pan, Christine Paque Born, and Elaine Emery. They moved in the controlled yet powerful movements essential to Taiji. As the music swelled, their fans opened with dramatic flair. Xiusen later returned for another martial arts performance and, accompanied by James Goode, wowed the audience with flying kicks, backflips, and other impressive feats of athleticism.
The festival continued with many traditional Chinese songs. The residents of the Chinese Language House at William & Mary performed “Beijing Welcomes You,” a song with a message of hospitality and welcoming from the Chinese people. A chorus from Christopher Newport University travelled to William & Mary to sing a beautiful rendition of “My Deskmate,” a song about young love between students. Accompanied by a guitar and flute, the upbeat melody lifted everyone’s spirits. Hearts were also warmed by a performance of “Happy New Year” by five children from the community. Autumn, Allison, Ava, Alicia, and Marcus’ song got the whole audience clapping along, and put a smile on every face. Finally, Diou Dai took a break from emceeing to sing a beautiful rendition of “Legend,” a famous Chinese love song. “I love that song,” she said after the performance, because “it combines traditional and modern elements of Chinese music.” The audience loved it too, and swayed along to the touching lyrics as she sang.
Jie Hou, the newest student intern at WMCI, debuted at William & Mary with an incredible Bamboo Flute Solo. The flute’s piercing melody was at once somber and playful, and its pure sound transfixed the audience. He went on to play a piece titled “Phoenix Tail Bamboo Under the Moonlight” on the Hulusi, a Chinese woodwind instrument which has its origins in Southwestern China. Everyone in the room was swept up by the melody, and Hou received a huge round of applause after his performance.
The night finished with a catered dinner from Peter Chang featuring Chinese favorites like dumplings and sesame balls. As they ate, audience members discussed the pieces they had just seen and mingled with the performers. The Gala was a thrilling opportunity to bring together a diverse group of people united by a desire to ring in the New Year with music, dancing, and cultural exchange.