Author: Laura Matheson (page 1 of 4)

Chinese Ghost Stories: October 2020

On 29 October 2020 we had a lot of fun hosting Chinese Ghost Stories, an evening of storytelling and music. Over Zoom, our talented performers shared spooky tales from both China and Scotland, and we learned more about Chinese traditions and festivals.

The programme included a performance of Pu Songling’s The Painted Skin, alongside The Legend of the White Snake, A Ghost’s Promise, Solomon Ghost of the Panopticon and a very special guqin musical interlude.

Check out the video below for some of our highlights:

We would like to thank our performers: Yan Shi, Annie Au, Pui Lee, Judith Bowers, Andrew Glass, Xiaochun Shen, Menghan Sun, Mike Nelson and Lawrence Dunn.

The event was delivered in partnership with Britannia Panopticon, the world’s oldest surviving music hall. It was part of our Community Wellbeing and Recovery project, supported by Foundation Scotland and the Glasgow Communities Fund.


An Introduction to Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节

This year Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on Thursday 1st October 2020. It celebrates what is said to be the fullest moon of the year – families typically come together to share the autumn harvest, eat mooncakes and light lanterns. The festival has a long history, with its origins in the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BCE).

Below is a short introduction to the history and customs of the festival, written by Ricefield volunteer Xiaochun Shen.


The Mid-Autumn Festival has a long lineage back to ancient celestial phenomenon worship, the custom of respecting the moon. In the autumn equinox (秋分) season of the 24 solar terms, it is the ancient Moon Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival comes from the traditional Moon Festival. The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with a full moon at night, corresponding to mid-September to early October in the Gregorian calendar.

The Mid-Autumn Festival became an officially recognised national holiday, probably in the Tang Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty, the customs of the Mid-Autumn Festival became popular, and the custom of admiring the moon was combined with myths and stories such as Chang’e Flying to the Moon and Yang Guifei Turning into the Moon God.

The Mid-Autumn Festival brings together families for a yearly reunion. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, all families will appreciate the moon and eat moon cakes.


Worshipping the moon

Worshipping the moon is an old Chinese custom, which can be traced to the ancients worshipping the the Moon God. Since ancient times, in some areas of Guangdong, people have worshipped the moon god on the night of Mid-Autumn Festival. The whole family will worship the moon in turn, praying for blessings.


On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, there is a custom of lighting up lanterns to complement the moonlit scene. Every family uses bamboo sticks to make lanterns more than ten days before the festival. Various lanterns are made to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Moon cakes

Moon cakes were offered in ancient times as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival worship. Moon cakes symbolise family reunion and in present day have become a festive food of Mid-Autumn Festival.

Dragon Boat Festival Music Concert: June 2020

Ricefield Arts was delighted to host a very special Dragon Boat Festival celebration on 25th June 2020. We brought together talented performers from across Scotland for an evening of traditional Chinese music on Zoom.  This video is a selection of highlights, including performances of guzheng, guqin, pipa, bamboo flute, erhu and Peking Opera.

Watch our performers Dr Quan Gu, Yinuo Liu, Jingliang Chen, Xuanming Liang, Lawrence Dunn, Yan Shi and Haoyan Zhang.

Would you like to find out more about these unique instruments? Find out more on this blog post by Ricefield Arts volunteer Menghan.

This event was part of our wellbeing project, which aimed to inspire, entertain and bring together our community during lockdown. It was a joint celebration with our event partners Confucius Institute for Scotland and Scotland-China Association, and was supported by Scottish Government Wellbeing Fund, Corra Foundation and SCVO.

An Introduction to Traditional Chinese Instruments

We’re looking forward to our Dragon Boat Festival music concert, to be held on Thursday 25th June. To help you prepare, Ricefield Arts volunteer Menghan has written an excellent blog highlighting the long history of some of the instruments you’ll hear at the concert.

Guzheng | 古筝

The guzheng, also known as a Chinese zither, is a Chinese plucked string instrument with a more than 2,500-year history. It was the most popular instrument in China. The modern guzheng commonly has 21, 25 or 26 strings, is 64 inches (1.6 m) long, while the oldest specimen yet discovered held 13 strings and was dated to around 500 BC, possibly during the Warring States period (475–221 BC).

Guzheng players often wear fingerpicks made from materials such as plastic, resin, tortoiseshell, or ivory on one or both hands. Many people are confused with the guzheng and guqin which is actually a Chinese zither with 7 strings played without moveable bridges.


Pipa | 琵琶

The pipa is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments. Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a unique pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12 to 26. The pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost two thousand years in China.

In China, many music and stories are related to this instrument. The most prevalent one is about a beauty called Wang Zhaojun (王昭君). It is said that Wang Zhaojun began a journey northward to marry a nomad ruler. She left her hometown on horseback on a bright autumn morning and along the way, the horse neighed, making Zhaojun extremely sad and unable to control her emotions. As she sat on the saddle, she began to play sorrowful melodies on a stringed instrument. A flock of geese flying southward heard the music, saw the beautiful young woman riding the horse, immediately forgot to flap their wings, and fell to the ground. From then on, Zhaojun acquired the nickname “fells geese” or “drops birds.” Later, the melody she played on the saddle was regarded as Zhaojun’s Lament (昭君怨) and the stringed instrument was commonly depicted as a pipa.

A poem called Pipa xing (琵琶行) is also well known in China. It was written by a famous poet called Bai Juyi and it depicted a pipa performance during a chance encounter with a female pipa player on the Yangtze River. The most widely known sentences of this poem are describing the sound of pipa – the bold strings rattled like splatters of sudden rain, the fine strings hummed like lovers’ whispers, chattering and pattering, pattering and chattering, as pearls, large and small, on a jade plate fall (大弦嘈嘈如急雨,小弦切切如私语,嘈嘈切切错杂弹,大珠小珠落玉盘).


Erhu | 二胡

The erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a Southern Fiddle. It is sometimes known in the Western world as the Chinese violin or a Chinese two-stringed fiddle.

The most widely known piece of erhu music in China is Two Springs Reflect the Moon (二泉映月), composed by the Wuxi folk artist Ah Bing (阿炳), whose original name was Hua Yanjun, a blind street musician. Two Springs Reflect the Moon expresses the composer’s suppressed grief at having tasted to the full the bitterness of life in the old society and it has become an exquisite example of Chinese instrumental folk music stemming from the heart of a small-town folk artist.


Guqin | 古琴

The guqin is a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It can also be called qixian-qin or seven-stringed zither (七弦琴). Similar to the guzheng above, it also has been played since ancient times, and has traditionally been favoured by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as well as being associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. It is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music” or ‘the instrument of the sages’.

Guqin is commonly associated with a Chinese musician Bo Ya (伯牙) and his story of  ideal Chinese friendship. It is said that Bo Ya was good at playing the qin and Zhong Ziqi was good at listening to the qin. When Bo Ya played the guqin pieces Gao Shan 《高山》(meaning ‘high mountains’) and Liu Shui 《流水》(meaning ‘flowing  water’), Zhong Ziqi could see the real mountains and feel the rivers and oceans. When Ziqi died, Bo Ya broke the strings of his qin and vowed never to play the qin again. Thus, the term Zhiyin (知音, literally ‘to know the tone’) has come to describe a close and sympathetic friend and the melody of High Mountains Flowing Water has also come to be well-known.


Dizi  | 笛子

The dizi is a Chinese transverse flute. It is also sometimes known as the di (笛) or héngdi (横笛), and has varieties including the qǔdi (曲笛) and bāngdi (梆笛). It is a major Chinese musical instrument that is widely used in many genres of Chinese folk music, Chinese opera, as well as the modern Chinese orchestra. The dizi is also a popular instrument among the Chinese people as it is simple to make and easy to carry.

Most dizi are made of bamboo, while it is also possible to find dizi made from other kinds of wood, or even from stone, for example, Jade dizi (or 玉笛; yùdi) are popular among both collectors interested in their beauty, and among professional players who seek an instrument with looks to match the quality of their renditions.

Dizi (Bamboo Flute)

Hulusi | 葫芦丝

The hulusi is a Chinese free reed wind instrument. Unlike the bamboo instrument above, it is held vertically and has three bamboo pipes that pass through a gourd wind chest; the centre pipe has finger holes and the outer two are typically drone pipes.

The hulusi has a very pure, very mellow clarinet-like sound. It was originally used primarily in Yunnan province by a number of ethnic minority groups, and has gained nationwide popularity throughout China.


An Introduction to Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwujie) is a traditional festival typically celebrated in June, on the 5th day of the 5th month of the lunar year. This year the the festival falls on Thursday 25th June 2020.

We’re delighted to share a short introduction to this very special cultural celebration, written by Ricefield Arts volunteer Sherry.

Dragon Boat Festival is one of the four traditional Chinese festivals. According to the earliest historical materials, the original purpose of the Dragon Boat Festival was to ward off the evil spirits of the fifth lunar month, which is considered an unlucky month, always bringing natural disasters and illnesses. In addition, five poisonous creatures (green snakes, centipedes, scorpions, geckos and toads), together with dead people’s ghosts, are most likely to appear on the 5th of May. To get rid of bad luck, people hang Chung Kuei’s portraits on the door, drink Hsiung Huang Wine, bath in Moxa and wear fragrant sachets. People believe this grand celebration can protect them from evil and disease for the rest of the year.

Dragon Boat Racing at Glasgow Canal Festival in 2018

Another most popular origin story of the Dragon Boat Festival is centred around a respected government official named Chu Yuan, who threw himself into the Mi Lo River because of being tricked and becoming disfavoured by the emperor. The local people admired and respected him so much that they rushed into their boats to search for his body and they threw rice into the water so that fish and river dragons would not tear his body. Today, in memory of Chu Yuan, people take part in dragon boat racing and eat rice dumplings. Making and sharing rice dumplings is still the main family activity. Sticky rice triangular dumplings are loaded with jujube paste, bean paste, pork, ham, abalone, egg yolk, all wrapped in a large leaf and tied with string. Ancient poet Su Tungpo wrote a line for his favourite waxberry-stuffed rice dumplings, which is a flavour that cannot be found anymore (不独盘中见卢橘,时于粽里得杨梅). It is hard to imagine how it tastes; but it seems like in terms of eating, people in Song dynasty were much smarter than us.

Making zongzi rice parcels at Wing Hong Elderly Centre in 2019

Online Workshops: What to Expect

Some of our Community Workshop Leaders

Before the Workshop

After registering for one of our workshops you will receive a confirmation email, with a link to the Zoom meeting and the password you will be required to enter. Please keep this safe!

You can access Zoom meetings through the Zoom app – available for download here or from wherever you download apps on your tablet/smartphone. Please download the application in advance of the workshop, as it may take a few minutes. You don’t need to have an account to access our workshops, but you may set up one for free.

Joining the Workshop

When it’s time for the workshop, click on the link in your confirmation. Please ‘arrive’ on time. You may be prompted to enter your name and/or password, then you will be taken to the waiting room. The Workshop Host will then admit you to the meeting.

During the Workshop

During the meeting we ask you to mute your mic (we can help with this!), unless you are asking a question or we are having a group discussion. Video is required for some of workshops to allow the Workshop Leader to check on participant’s progress and offer assistance – if this is the case, it will be noted on the EventBrite listing.

The Workshop Host will introduce the workshop before handing over to the Workshop Leader. Questions during the workshop are encouraged! You can use the Zoom Chat function, and the Workshop Host will pass these on to the Workshop Leader. Or, you can wave/raise your hand and ask your question using your mic. Other key information will be shared in the Chat so keep an eye on it.


Don’t worry if you are new to Zoom (we are too!). The Workshop Host will help you if needed. If you have any questions before the workshop, contact laura [at] You can also read this handy guide for more information.

Volunteer Celebration – Spring 2019

We were delighted to host our annual Volunteer Celebration on Friday 5 April. The evening celebrated the hard work, dedication and contributions of our lovely volunteer team who gave their time & energy to support our Christmas & Chinese New Year activities, as well as marketing and our growing Chinese Community Library. Ricefield’s year-round programme of events would not be possible without them!

We shared a tasty meal in The Cafe Hub, before a round of human bingo and paper tower building.

It was then time for the evening’s main event, our certification presentation and Outstanding Volunteer awards. Check out the award winners below!

Volunteer Blog: Chinese New Year at Kelvin Hall 2019

Ricefield Arts hosted our annual Chinese New Year celebrations on Sunday 17 February, this time visiting both Kelvin Hall and the Riverside Museum. We were delighted by the crowds at both venues, and the opportunity to spread awareness of Chinese culture and traditions through crafts, games and sports.

This busy programme of activity wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our hard-working volunteer team. Here, new volunteer Becca McCall shares her experience of the day, along with some great photos by Debbie.

Gong Hei Fat Choy – Happy Chinese New Year, it’s the year of the pig.

I had the wonderful experience of helping Ricefield Arts with their Chinese New Year Family Day at the Kelvin Hall on Sunday 17 February. This was my first time volunteering at one of their events and it won’t be the last. The aim of the event was to teach visitors about, and allow them to participate in, a range of popular activities and games. In order to do this effectively over 35 volunteers were recruited to help throughout the event. We all gathered in the Activity Room at 10am and were assigned to our groups, and I got the opportunity to help with the colouring competition stall with some amazing people.

The activities chosen were suitable for the whole family and proved popular with the volunteers and the visitors. As members of the general public entered the reception area of the Kelvin Hall they were encouraged to write a wish on a piece of card which was then hung from a ‘wishing tree’ set up next to our Information Desk. This is a popular New Year tradition. We hope all the wishes come true, even the one with the unicorn.

There was the shuttlecock game, which is known as jianzi and has been a popular sport in China for over 1000 years; the aim of the game is for players to keep the shuttlecock off the ground for as long as they can. All ages were more than happy to take part. We played this while setting up before the event, despite its difficulty it was very addictive to play, especially with the volunteers. We all had so much fun playing this game – I’ll definitely be investing in one of these shuttlecocks!

There were plenty of other activities for everyone; there was calligraphy demonstrations, which of course proved to be such a popular stall with plenty of people crowding around the table wanting temporary tattoos of animals and their names in Chinese. I got a purple cat with my name next to it. There was the Chopstick Challenge, Cat’s Cradle, Catch the Seven Pieces, a photo corner with lots of detailed costumes and fun props for adults and children to play with, a green corner hosted by Ricefield’s When Red, Go Green project to encourage visitors to upcycle, Chinese Zodiac, a colouring competition, stamp making and some table tennis at the back.

This was the busiest this event has ever been so far – over 900 people attended this year, a lot more than last time, which was 600. Perhaps next year it will reach over 1000! Throughout this event I got to meet extraordinary people with lots of skills and talents, some have been volunteering with Ricefield for a while and others were newcomers like me.  There was a lot of positivity surrounding the event, and I, among many other volunteers, new and old, are looking forward to the next. See you soon.

Thanks Becca! Check out more photos on our Facebook page.

Year of the Pig Colouring Competition Winners

We were delighted to return to Kelvin Hall and the Riverside Museum on Sunday 17 February 2019 to host our annual Chinese New Year Family Day celebrations. Our busy activity programme ranged from Chinese hanfu clothing and calligraphy, to games, sports and crafts – alongside a very special colouring competition!

Our team of Ricefield artists reviewed all the colourful entries, and we are now happy to announce our lucky winners. A big congratulations to all three of them – each will receive a Chinese gift set with sweets, treats and crafts.

First place – Stella

Second place: Lucy/Douglas

Third place: Lara

2018: Our Year in Review

This January we’re taking a moment to reflect on the past year – our growing team, our successes and our increasing development. 2018 was a busy year for Ricefield Arts! Here’s a round-up of some of our highlights.

Glasgow Kite Festival

The volunteer team at Glasgow Kite Festival

We were delighted to receive funding from Our Place Fund  to deliver the inaugural Glasgow Kite Festival in Bellahouston Park on 22 July 2018. Part of the European Championships Festival 2018, the event highlighted the long history of kites – invented in China over 2000 years ago. Visitors were able to make their own kite using bamboo and following traditional methods. There were also free craft workshops, the chance to try traditional Chinese clothing, a treasure hunt and an exhibition – and of course, kite flying with demonstrations by the Kite Club of Scotland! We were also happy to visit local areas in Glasgow during July for a series of community kite making workshops with Gilded Lily, Interfaith Glasgow, Chinese Community Development Partnership, Glasgow Mela and Kelvin Hall. A big thanks to our team of over 30 volunteers who made the festival possible, as well as to our additional partners Glasgow Life and Glasgow Sport.

When Red, Go Green

Cycling workshop participants in Kelvingrove Park

Being awarded funding from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund for our two-year climate change project When Red, Go Green was a significant step for Ricefield Arts in 2018. The project aims to increase climate change awareness and encourage sustainable living in our Glasgow community, and is compromised of three main sub-projects: Grow & Cook, Pace & Pedal, and Reuse & Reduce. The funding supported four new staff members: Lindsey, Clarinda, Rita and Kam Fung, and a busy programme of activity including free cookery, cycling and mending workshops, climate change conversations, swap shops and the development of our Chinese Community Library (more on that below!). The team have since launched a brand new project website and Twitter, which is full of information and hints & tips for reducing your carbon footprint.

Chinese Community Library

Some of the library collection on display

We launched our Chinese Community Library in October 2018, a sub-project of our When Red, Go Green activity. Based in Baltic Chambers, the library aims to be a cultural hub, as well as encouraging a circular economy through the sharing of resources. Since then the Library has been the venue for many of our events and workshops, and is additionally available for hire. The book collection it houses has been developed entirely through donations, and covers a wide range of topics including Chinese art, language, history, philosophy and medicine. It is open for book borrowing and research each Wednesday. If you’re interested to join for a free as a member, head to the When Red Go Green website.

CEMVO Awards

We were absolutely delighted to be awarded the CEMVO Ethnic Minority Impact in Arts and Entertainment Award for the second year running at their ceremony in November 2018. MSP Humza Yousaf presented us with the award, following a thoughtful nomination by Jade Graham of Glasgow Life. The team had a great evening, inspired by the hard work of the other nominees and award winners.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year workshops at Kelvin Hall

We were delighted to celebrate the Year of the Dog in February 2018, with activity throughout Scotland. In Kelvin Hall, we hosted our second year of celebrations with a games & sports theme. Following our Zodiac Animal Activity Trail, visitors tested their chopsticks skills, learned Chinese calligraphy, tried Chinese chequers, Tangram and the Game of Go, made Year of the Dog crafts, tried traditional clothing and played with shuttlecocks. There was also a very lively Lion Dance by our friends at Hung-Ga, as well as a chance to compare Scottish and Chinese New Year traditions and learn about stamps from the Scottish Philatelic Society.

We also visited Perth Light Nights for their weekend of Chinese New Year celebrations, hosting Chinese craft workshops on the river side and taking part in the colourful New Year procession.


Artist Lin leads a workshop at Wing Hong Chinese Elderly Centre

We continued work with a broad range of partners in 2018, aiming to reach new audiences throughout the city. A highlight was our year-long project with Wing Hong Chinese Elderly Centre, supported by VAF funding.  We’ve delivered craft workshops including felting, card making and collaging – all with the aim of increasing wellbeing and decreasing isolation within Glasgow’s elderly Chinese community. We were also delighted to take part in festival celebrations within the Centre, including a lively Mid-Autumn Festival event and creating a boat for Dragon Boat Festival.

A performance of The Painted Skin at Britannia Panopticon

This year we also developed a new relationship with Britannia Panopticon, the world’s oldest surviving music hall in Glasgow’s Trongate. As part of their Halloween celebrations, Ricefield volunteers took part in two performances of the famous Chinese ghost story by Pu Songling: The Painted Skin. Ghost Stories from Around the World also featured tales from Russia and some more local characters from Glasgow’s gruesome history.

Larry at our Book Week Scotland Tea Ceremony in 2017

2018 also saw the culmination of the My Time project, led by Voluntary Arts Scotland. We hosted poet Larry Butler, who immersed himself in our work and community. He then produced a creative poem, Poaceae & Chameleon, inspired by how volunteers and board members described Ricefield. The finished poem now has a home on our website, and has been read by Larry at the Scottish Poetry Library – it will feature in an exhibition travelling to Glasgow this year!

Festivals & Events

The volunteer team at Glasgow Canal Festival

We love getting out in the summer weather, so we were very happy to take part in two of our favourite festivals in 2018: Glasgow Mela and Glasgow Canal Festival! At Glasgow Mela in June we held the first of our Community Kite-Making workshops, as well as other craft activities and a pop-up Chinese Craft Fair. At Spiers Wharf in August we led origami boat making, a second Chinese Craft Fair and a guided cycle-tour of the canal route.

Some of our volunteers at the Hidden Gardens

We also took part in events hosted by our friends at Kelvin Hall, pondered Chinese vocabulary as part of Book Week Scotland, celebrated the Hidden Gardens at their summer party, made Chinese-inspired headdresses at Leap Sport‘s Pride House and led family craft workshops at Kelvingrove Bandstand – to mention a few highlights!


Book making for Book Week Scotland 2018

Our team of workshop artists grew this year, as we made new connections through our When Red, Go Green project and sought to further develop our support of artists of Chinese descent. Artists visited schools and universities, travelling as far afield as Middlesborough to share Chinese cultural traditions. Our wellbeing project with Wing Hong Chinese Elderly Centre provided an opportunity for cross-generational dialogue, while funding from Book Week Scotland allowed artist Clarinda to develop a new workshop exploring the formation of Chinese characters and vocabulary. We’re looking forward to working with this team to further investigate both traditional and contemporary Chinese culture in 2019.

Our Volunteers

Volunteers at Glasgow Mela

We expanded our incredible volunteer team this year, with new library and marketing roles through our When Red, Go Green project. Volunteers also had the opportunity to take part in the event planning and delivery of Glasgow Kite Festival, as well as being responsible for photography and some very entertaining blog posts. We celebrated the varied contributions of the team at our annual Volunteer Party, held in September at Project Cafe, with tasty food, games and awards. Interested in volunteering? Sign up for updates here.

Thank you for a great 2018!

We’d like to take a final opportunity to thank everyone who made all this possible – including our dedicated board, our amazing team of volunteers, our hardworking staff, our funders and our partners across Scotland. Most importantly, we’d like to thank our diverse community of supporters. If you’ve attended a Ricefield Arts event this year, visited our community library,  joined an art workshop, purchased crafts our at one of our stalls or engaged with us online – you’re helping us move one step closer to our aim of promoting the full spectrum of Chinese culture in Scotland.

We’d love to hear from you about your favourite memories with Ricefield in 2018, or if you’re interested in working together in the future. Lots of 2019 news and announcements coming very soon!

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