Celebrate Chinese New Year at SVC
Planners of the Jan. 26 Chinese New Year celebration at St. Vincent College will benefit from the input of Xiaoyan Yang, who arrived in August from Wuhan, China.
Yang is serving as a master teacher with the University of Pittsburgh's Confucius Institute, with which St. Vincent is affiliated.
The Confucius Institute is a nonprofit public educational organization of China's Ministry of Education that supports local Chinese language education and facilitates cultural exchange at colleges and universities worldwide.
For the celebration, Yang says, “I need to help my students with their performance, for example, choosing the poem they will read, the song they will sing and the dance they will perform, and practice with them. I will join with other Chinese volunteer teachers to sing a song. What's more, I will be responsible for one ‘Cultural Corner' — playing (ping pong).”
The evening will help with what Yang sees as part of her mission in coming to the United States.
“What I want to accomplish most is to inspire more students to be interested in learning the Chinese language and the Chinese culture,” she says. “Sino-America relations are of greater importance as we become more interdependent. We should know more about each other.”
That's exactly what the celebration ushering in the Year of the Rooster is designed to do, says event organizer Tina Phillips Johnson, an associate professor of history and director of Chinese studies at St. Vincent. Also in on the planning is Doreen Blandino, professor of modern and classical languages.
Hosted by the college's James and Margaret Tseng Loe China Studies Center, the evening will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Robert S. Carey Performing Arts Center with music, dance, poetry readings, stories and more from students from elementary school through college.
Participants include students from St. Vincent and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, along with Valley School of Ligonier, Cardinal Maida Academy in Vandergrift and Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown.
“Our Chinese teachers have put so much effort in preparing the students, and it really shows,” says Allie Arendas, head of the lower school (grades K-4) at the Valley School. “They're very enthusiastic about the idea of performing.”
The girls will do kung fu, and the boys will do a song and dance, Arendas says.
Following the show, visitors can head downstairs to the student lounge for a catered buffet of Chinese foods, ping pong, paper-cutting, chopsticks competition, calligraphy, Peking opera mask-making, a tea ceremony and more.
Johnson says St. Vincent College has historical ties with China, where the new year celebration kicks off Jan. 28.
“In 1925, the Benedictines of St. Vincent established the Catholic University of China in Peking, now called Beijing, on the grounds of the old imperial palace,” Johnson says. “That's a pretty remarkable history.”
The Chinese government re-appropriated the property in 1949 and the university moved to Taiwan under the name Fu Jen Catholic University.
“It's still going, although St. Vincent is no longer involved with it,” Johnson says.
On the Unity campus, Johnson says, there is a Chinese language and culture minor and an international studies minor in Chinese geared toward business majors. Through the school's affiliation with the Confucius Institute, Chinese teachers are placed in area schools to teach the language to elementary, middle and high school students.
The campus Chinese community is small, Johnson says, with “probably a half-dozen students from China at a time, mostly exchange students coming for a year, and mostly in the business school. There are some Chinese seminarians in the archabbey and, I think, four Chinese professors.”
Still, interest in the annual Chinese New Year celebration is growing.
“We started out small about 10 years ago,” Johnson says. “It was just St. Vincent students and Confucius Institute teachers from the local schools, maybe 50 or 75 people. We made our own food.
“It's morphed into something that just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” she says, with the public coming from Westmoreland County, Johnstown and points beyond.
Yang sees the event as a good outreach opportunity.
“I want to show how average people live and think in the modern China,” she says. “I'd like to show the differences in terms of education, transportation, health care, housing, eating habits and social values between the two countries.
“I want to show even though we are different in a lot of aspects, yet there are more in common. We are both hard-working, warm-hearted, enterprising, enjoying the abundance of material life while at the same time pursuing the true happiness.”
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 .