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Club marks Chinese New Year

MEGAN DOYLE | Friday, February 19, 2010

The Notre Dame community will experience a taste of true Chinese culture Sunday as the Notre Dame Chinese Friendship Association (NDCFA) puts on its annual Spring Festival Celebration in honor of the Chinese New Year.

“Chinese New Year is the best opportunity for students to see our cultural presence on campus,” NDCFA vice president Yi Fang said. “It is hard for international students to always explain home to American students, and this celebration can be a way to show what China really is.”

The Notre Dame Chinese Friendship Association began in 1991 to promote cultural interaction and deeper friendships between Chinese students and people from other countries, according to the club’s Web site.

NDCFA president Ke Chen described the “united, active, and creative” group as one that works to provide a stage for Chinese students and their friends to show their talents. Chen, a graduate student from Shen Zhen, organized more than 15 unique performances for this year’s Spring Festival Celebration.

“The Chinese community is my first community where I feel at home,” Fang said. “I have a responsibility to act as a bridge between different cultures particularly because Notre Dame does not enjoy as much diversity as some other schools.”

Fang emphasized the benefits of the Spring Festival Celebration for both Chinese and American students. Chinese students can open up and show pride for their heritage while American students can learn from an exposure to a different part of the world, she said.

The majority of students at Notre Dame are not always well connected to the minorities on campus, though the University hopes to expand its Asian demographic in the future, Fang said.

Fang, the only student from China enrolled in the University’s law school, described the Chinese students as a “true minority” on campus. As Notre Dame begins to expand its influence in China and recruit more international students, she was proud to find that a greater number of undergraduates among the nearly 50 performers in this year’s show.

“My American friends cannot get these Chinese sounds and real cultural experience from other places like TV,” sophomore Richard Zhao said. “We just try to make people more and more familiar with Chinese culture.”

Fang and Chen both mentioned the Kung Fu skit as their favorite part of the performance.
“It is the Fighting Irish spirit from China,” Chen said.

Another favorite performance centers on the “Hong Bao,” or “Red Envelope.” Children in China traditionally receive a red envelope of money from their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents upon wishing them a respectful “Happy New Year.” The Spring Festival Celebration is intended to highlight this tradition and others that are important to the country’s culture.

“Chinese students here are sometimes shy to express their culture,” Fang said. “This can show that we are a confident, vibrant group, proud to contribute to the Notre Dame community.”

Along with various small performances, the Spring Festival Celebration will feature a stage drama in Chinese and various traditional folk dances. The show will also feature remarks from University President Fr. John Jenkins.

“We are very proud and grateful to have Fr. Jenkins at our celebration,” Fang said.

Dinner from a Chinese restaurant in South Bend will precede the performance in the LaFortune Ballroom at 5:30 p.m., and the show will begin at 7 p.m. in Washington Hall. Admission for both the dinner and the performance is free.