Harvard Chinese New Year Gala Attracts 1,100

The chopstick rested stiffly on his nose as he placed an egg on top of it. Slowly, the Happy Chef added another egg as the audience waited silently in anticipation. The crowd burst into applause as he added yet a third egg to his balancing act before circling the stage.

Happy Chef—a Chinese acrobat who is known as Xiaodi Yang off-stage and has practiced his art for 60 years since age six—was one of many performers at the 2012 Ivy League Spring Festival Gala at John Hancock Hall this past Saturday.

Organized by the Harvard Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the event featured performances by students from all eight Ivy League schools, an elementary school choir from the Hubei Province in China, and professional artists from around the world.

Roughly 1,100 spectators attended the event, which celebrated the Chinese New Year that took place on Jan. 23.

“I don’t think Americans realize how big Chinese New Year is in China and what a big production [it is],” said Lydia M. Chen, associate director of Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. “You have to go to a big, gigantic performance with lots of singing, juggling, and cross-talk. All those events are typical of new year festivities.”

The four-hour event also included performances by Harvard students from the College, the School of Public Health, the Kennedy School, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

“It’s really great to see students showing their talents in other ways than their academic pursuits,” said Chen, who attended the event with her family.

The HCSSA has hosted Spring Festival celebrations for many years, but only included other schools last year. Leizhi Sun, president of HCSSA and a doctoral candidate in applied physics, said that he believed it was important to create a community for Chinese students studying abroad.

The show fostered a sense of community beyond the student performers, evoking memories of home for some audience members as well.

“It made me feel like I was back in Beijing,” said Chen.

Lydia Ding ’15, who like Chen grew up in China and attended the event, was reminded of her Chinese New Year celebrations with her family.

“I spent Chinese New Year with my family this year, but it’s so special to me that I wanted to celebrate it with my friends as well,” Ding said. Ding hosted students from Princeton who traveled to Boston to attend the event.

“This was a fantastic event,” said Sun. “I’m very happy with the turnout.”

In a letter addressed to the Gala attendees, University President Drew G. Faust wrote that the event was a “wonderful opportunity to meet new people, reconnect with old friends, and celebrate the vibrant culture of China as we enter the year of the dragon.”

The Gala organizers also received congratulatory letters from Massachusetts Senator Scott P. Brown and Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick.

“Massachusetts is proud to have to have a robust Chinese community that adds so much to the cultural vitality and diversity of the Commonwealth,” Patrick wrote. “This year’s gala is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the diversity and strength of your heritage.”

—Staff writer Cynthia W. Shih can be reached at cshih@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Brian C. Zhang can be reached at brianzhang@college.harvard.edu.

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