Cross-Cultural Livin’: 2014 Chinese New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year! LUIP (London Universities International Partnership) graciously sponsored tickets for us bloggin’ ambassadors to attend the Chinese New Year Gala at the Institute of Education (IOE) in central London. So this week, my flatmate Mohammed and I set off to central London to join in on the festivities! Here are some of the highlights from the event (with big thanks to Mohammed for documenting this with his super fancy camera!)

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Seeing the Chinese Ambassador to the U.K. speak!
Unfortunately, neither Mohammed nor I spoke even the slightest bit of Mandarin, so really all we were able to observe were Liu Xiaoming’s sharp presentation skills and flawless haircut. Still, his presence alone indicates the profile of this event; with some of the most prestigious universities represented on stage (Oxford, Cambridge, Royal Academy of Music), this event was one of the most highly attended events of the Lunar New Year.

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Watching kids beat each other up!
Okay, that’s a wild underestimation of the talent, skill, practice and incredible amount of effort that went into this performance. This Xianji Dance Team put on a spectacular performance of traditional Chinese martial arts (not sure the specific type and definitely didn’t understand it if they announced it). Mohammad and I were pretty taken aback by the show put on by these little guys- these young students are more talented than I will ever be at kicking @$$! Kids were flipping over the heads of adults, roundhouse kicking them to the face, and at one point wooden sticks were broken over the back and against the stomach of two performers. Epic!

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Chinese Cross-Talk Comedy!
This form of Chinese comedy comes from the Qin Dynasty. I can’t tell you much about what happened, but despite the lack of verbal understanding, these guys’ animation had me cracking up on it’s own! At one point, I’m pretty sure that the performer with the high ponytail and white face powder was actively imitating and mouthing the words of a Geisha (don’t quote me on this because 99.9999% of the jokes got lost in translation) and while the performer standing behind him was actually speaking the lines. Their mannerisms and inflections alone were enough to elicit some chuckles.

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Musical performance that make your jaw drop!
Though there were several musical performances throughout the evening, some of which included traditional dance, these two performances were by far my favourite. The instrumental pianist and cellist performed a snazzy jazz piece that was extremely well-composed, and watching her fingers fly across the keys in a fury was pretty incredible. The second performer, however, was in my opinion one of the most incredible live compositions I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing; Yunbian Zu of the Royal Academy of Music had arranged and composed his own set which he performed with the Erhu, a two-stringed Chinese string instrument. His skill was incredible, and it was an impressive combination of more traditional use of the Erhu mashed with some more experimental, modernized creativity.

Despite the lack of translation, overall this was still an amazing artistic display of Chinese culture and an incredible opportunity to share and celebrate the Lunar New Year. Especially if you bring company that either doesn’t mind giggling uncomfortably during the half-hour indiscernible speeches with you, or can translate at least the funny parts for you. 

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