Beckoning Chinese New Year

CNC report from Toronto
Added On February 5, 2013

One of the most prominent museums in the Canadian city of Toronto was transformed into a galore of Chinese artistry presenting a live snake display, an ethnic costume display and a diverse array of Chinese-themed performances.
With the Chinese Lunary New Year just around the corner, the Royal Museum of Ontario (ROM) partnered with the Chinese community to usher in the Year of the Snake with their first annual Chinese Cultural Heritage Day.

LIFESTYLES takes you to there.

Museum-goers experienced the Chinese culture and history first hand at one of the most prominent museums in Toronto on Saturday.

The Chinese Consul General Fang Li, along with a number of government officials gathered at the opening ceremony to kick off the festivities.

Hundreds of Canadians were treated to a number of special performances like the traditional Chinese lion dance, a Tai Chi demonstration and musical performances.

ROM's CEO Janet Carding says the eventful day was not only meant to give families a day of fun through hands-on activities, but also for them to gain an appreciation of the Chinese culture through experiencing various aspects of their heritage.

"It's also an opportunity for the museum to be a meeting place where members of the Chinese community are hosting programs, events, there are films showing, there are all kinds of things happening, so that people coming into Toronto to visit the museum for the day can understand about the Chinese contributions to Ontario.”

Some of the things on display included a Chinese Ethnic Costume exhibit that showcased dozens of vibrant traditional clothing.

People also got to sample some Chinese tea and learn all about China's national treasure through a collection of photos at Xinhua News Agency's panda photo gallery.

The more adventurous and hands-on guests had the opportunity to pet some live snakes that were brought in as a symbol of the Year of the Snake.

They could touch and feel the snake and Komodo dragon skins on display, or otherwise engage in some paper cutting and other crafts with their children.

STANDUP: PHOEBE HO, CNC correspondent
"Visitors got to sample some Chinese tea, watch some Chinese artists at work and engage in a whole bunch of Chinese-themed events. The purpose of today's event isn't just for Chinese people to celebrate the New Year, but it's also an invitation for Canadians to come out, mingle, and learn more about the Chinese culture."

Besides all the things to see and do, museum-goers also got to talk to Chinese artists who were showcasing their work at the event.
Ken Chui, a Chinese calligrapher, said it's a perfect opportunity for him to spread the craft and get more people interested in the Chinese culture.

SOUNDBITE: KEN CHUI, Chinese calligrapher
"We want to show foreigners our culture. Calligraphy is an integral part of our culture. I hope they can learn more about our culture this way. Calligraphy is a very healthy form of art. When we write, our body is relaxed, it's very comfortable."

Besides having a variety of exhibits and performances, Carding believes the best way to pique people's interest is by encouraging discussion and conversation.

"The ROM is all about people, our collections are wonderful in their own right, they're wonderful and delightful to look at, but they really come to life when people can tell their story, and so what we're seeing in The ROM today  are families coming in, looking at our Chinese collections, taking part in the programmes, the dance, the ceremony, and it's giving them a whole different perspective on what it is to perhaps have a Chinese heritage."
A number of government officials were also present to support the museum and the Chinese community's hard work.

SOUNDBITE: LOIS BROWN, Member of Parliament
"It is a wonderful opportunity for people to come and experience Chinese heritage, Chinese culture, and for people who are of Chinese heritage to have the opportunity to reconnect with the dance, and music, and food, crafts. There's everything here for people to come and enjoy, so it's been my delight to be here today."

While there were many Chinese guests in attendance, the event also attracted a number of Canadians who had stumbled into the event coincidentally.

Jeff Cutler initially brought his family to the ROM to see the dinosaur exhibit, but was drawn in by all the performances onstage.

"It's very interesting to see something new, and I know they have a Chinese portion of the museum, and that we find really interesting. So for us, it was just all new, we're just taking it in as it goes."

And for others, it was a chance for them to instill some Chinese culture in the younger generation.

To help his two half-Chinese children understand their culture, Jesse Elve brought his kids to watch some Kung-fu movies and see the live snake display to pique their interests and get them excited about their heritage.

"They're half Chinese, so we're always trying to teach them about being Chinese, so I thought it would be fun."

The ROM usually holds its own Chinese New Year celebration every year, but this year they've renamed it the Chinese Cultural Heritage Day to widen the scope and engage people in a bigger and deeper conversation about the Chinese culture.