Celebrate Chinese New Year 2024 at Ricefield Arts in February

Hello, my name is Jingwei, I joined Ricefield Arts in October 2023 as a placement, and I have been involved in and supported many activities with the promotion of traditional Chinese culture.

On the 10th of February, we had a wonderful Chinese New Year celebration at Flemington House in partnership with the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow and Interfaith Scotland. This was the first time I had been part of an event of this size and was tasked with managing the playback of the music equipment.

Performers for February 10th

During the celebration, we were treated to many traditional Chinese arts, including Sichuan Opera Face Changing, Long Silk Dance, Peking Opera and Yangqin performance, which enabled the audience not only to enjoy these wonderful performances but also to appreciate the unique charm of traditional Chinese culture.

Group Photo for February 10th

On the 11th of February, we travelled to the Chinese New Year celebration supported by Ricefield Arts in Perth. At 9.30 am, members of the organization and six volunteers met downstairs at the office to begin the much-anticipated journey.

Volunteers Group Photo for February 11th

Upon arrival in Perth, we set up the exhibition hall as planned. One of the volunteers and I were responsible for making Year of the Dragon bookmarks and preparing red cardboard, Chinese toasts and dragon stickers. During the making process, we introduced the participants to the verbal expressions and meanings of the Chinese style wishes. Children and parents actively participated in learning the meanings of each word, which was warmly welcomed.

Jingwei and a participant

At the Calligraphy booth, volunteers taught participants how to hold a pen and write the Chinese character for FU “福”.

Three of Our Volunteers at the Calligraphy Booth

At the Chopsticks Challenge booth, three shapes of objects were designed and the challengers had to pick them up with chopsticks and put them back on the tray. Those who completed the challenge were awarded fortune biscuits.

Volunteers are handing out fortune cookies to a successful participant

We also ran a merchandise stall selling traditional Chinese crafts such as Chinese knots, face paint and kites. Everyone was curious about these items and bought them or gave them as gifts to their friends.

Our volunteers are explaining the meaning of products to customers

On February 17th, our Chinese New Year Welcome Event took place at Kelvin Hall. Given its magnitude, we enlisted the support of over 10 volunteers. We convened in the meeting room to introduce ourselves.

Volunteers Lunch for 17th February

At the entrance of the hall, we built a wishing tree and invited participants to share their hopes and wishes for the coming year. In the Chinese costume exhibition area, children took photos of traditional Chinese costumes against a themed backdrop.

Our Volunteers at the Wishing Tree Booth

During the tea ceremony, our knowledgeable volunteers led a tea-tasting session, introducing Chinese tea culture while everyone enjoyed their tea.

Volunteers at the Tea-tasting Booth

My task was to design a handheld pendant for the Year of the Dragon. Since this is the Year of the Dragon, it was crucial to capture the mysterious and intricate characteristics of the mythical creature, the dragon. In addition, we incorporated other typical Chinese elements such as pandas, temples and fortune cats. To cater for both children and adults, I chose stencil carving to provide them with a diverse selection of artefacts. With creative colouring and tassel decoration, the pendants are lifelike and charming.

Participating children make their dragon crafts
One of the samples

In addition, we set up three sticker punch points at the Chopsticks Challenge, Shuttlecock Game and Library. Participants could earn stickers by completing tasks at each station and collect rewards by completing sticker collection at the end of the library.

Volunteers at the three sticker collection points

The day ended with a sense of achievement and joy shared by all participants!

Group Photo for Kelvin Hall

On February 18th, Ricefield Arts’ culminating Chinese New Year celebration commenced at the Burrell Collection, featuring an array of engaging events scattered throughout the museum, with dedicated volunteers guiding attendees through various activities.

Our dance teachers orchestrated two mesmerising Chinese dance performances showcasing carefully choreographed steps and a vibrant satin dance class which attracted a large number of students.

Dance Performance

Participants of the Dance Workshop

In addition, we organised two engaging storytelling sessions that delved into the symbolism of the Chinese Zodiac and the New Year animal “年兽”.

Our storyteller telling the story of the Zodiac
Our storyteller telling the story of the New Year animal “年兽”

During this event, I also acted as a calligraphy instructor, teaching calligraphy skills and guiding participants in handwriting simple numbers and Chinese names. It was very moving to see the participants, including those well-versed in Chinese culture, seriously tackling the challenge of mastering traditional characters.

Our Calligraphy Booth for the day at the Burrell Collection

In February 2024, I had the privilege of interning at four Ricefield Arts locations for their Chinese New Year celebrations. From making connections with new volunteers to engaging with participants from different cultural backgrounds, I have fond memories of each experience. These opportunities not only sharpened my communication skills but also taught me the importance of effectively executing tasks and maintaining high standards in large-scale event management – a challenge I had never encountered before. Reflecting on these experiences, I am eagerly looking forward to making meaningful contributions to promoting Chinese culture at the Ricefield Arts in the future.

Chinese New Year Celebration at Merchant Square

The Yuan Xiao Festival (元宵节) falls on February 5 in 2023, and it signifies the last day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. Ricefield Arts celebrated this special day with a fun afternoon of Chinese arts and cultural activities at Merchant Square on 5 February 2023.

Our placement student Boxuan Ma wrote a blog to share her experience helping out at the event:

I am delighted to be a part of this event, which is a traditional Chinese Lantern Festival held at Merchant Square in Glasgow.

We delivered a variety of Chinese culture-related activities at the event. These include Chinese calligraphy, calligraphy tattoo, chopsticks challenge, Chinese Hanfu costume booth, lantern making, and demonstration of traditional Chinese instrument – Guzheng.

This event not only attracted the Chinese community in Glasgow, but also the diverse communities in Glasgow who are interested to know more about Chinese culture. Many parents also brought their children here to try different activities and had a fun time.

Merchant Square, in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City, is the location. Visitors were impressed by the festive decorations with rows of red lanterns on arrival.

We encouraged visitors to try ancient Chinese Hanfu at our costume booth . There are different styles of Hanfu for men and women that visitors can choose from. I also put it on Hanfu myself. It looks fantastic and reminded me to ancient times in an instant.

One of the fun activities we offered was Chopstick challenge, where visitors can learn how to use Chinese chopstick. Visitors can practise by using chopsticks to pick up items from large to small. Those completed the challenges were awarded fortune cookies.

Calligraphy was another activity we offered. Chinese calligraphy is the writing of Chinese in art form, and we are also keen to share the beauty of Chinese art of writing to all visitors. The volunteers patiently taught the participants how to write calligraphy correctly, from technique to hold the brush to the order to write a Chinese character.

The majority of the children were drawn to our craft activity table. I had a busy time together with other volunteers to demonstrate our young visitors how to make paper lanterns. The children were overjoyed making their own lanterns.

At the scene, there was also a demonstration of traditional Chinese musical instruments, Guzheng. The performer in beautiful qipao performing on the spot made us immersed in calming atmosphere.

Finally, we had a craft stall selling Chinese arts and crafts, and also traditional toys children. Paper cutting packs, Chinese knots, zodiac necklaces, and the must-have bunny lanterns for the Lantern Festival can all be found at the stall.

I hope all our visitors and the kids had a wonderful and fulfilling day. We had pleasure sharing our culture with the local communities.

This event is a joint celebration between Ricefield Arts and Cultural Centre, Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow, and Merchant Square.

Chinese New Year Celebration at Kelvin Hall

Our placement volunteer Betty Zhang wrote a blog to share her experience helping out at our Chinese New Year celebration at Kelvin Hall on 28 January 2023:

On January 28th, the Ricefield Arts and the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow hosted a celebration of the Chinese New Year at Kelvin Hall. As a volunteer with Ricefield Arts, I had a fantastic time.

Nearly 35 volunteers, including myself, arrived at Kelvin Hall at 11 am to begin setting up. We hung lanterns and decorated the space with red and yellow tablecloths. By 12pm, everything was ready to go.

Upon entering the reception, visitors were encouraged to write their wishes on cards and hang them from a “wishing tree”, a popular New Year tradition.

The first activity was a traditional Chinese dance workshop, which I helped organise and encouraged visitors to join. The dance steps were easy to follow, and with the help of workshop leader Annie, many visitors enjoyed the fun of the Chinese dance.

In the sports hall, there were plenty of interactive activities, including the shuttlecock game, a popular sport in China for over 1000 years. Participants of all ages happily took part in trying to keep the shuttlecock off the ground for as long as they could.

Many visitors also took this opportunity to try table tennis, and made their own Chinese New Year hanging decoration at the event.

Another activity was blowing ink painting, a special form of Chinese art. Participants simply added black ink to the paper and started blowing, using brighter ink and other materials to decorate. The results were fascinating.

Based on the pronunciation of English names, our volunteers taught visitors write their English names in Chinese on cards.

Overall, volunteering with Ricefield Arts was a wonderful experience. I reconnected with many friends and am already looking forward to the next event.

This event is a joint celebration between Ricefield Arts and Cultural Centre, Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow, and Kelvin Hall.

Ricefield Arts Appreciation Event

On Monday 24th October 2022,  Ricefield Arts hosted an appreciation event to thank everyone who worked along with us to support our online community wellbeing programme during unprecedented times since May 2020, and also to those who helped out at in-person workshops throughout our post-lockdown recovery stage in 2022.

Our volunteer Betty Zhang shared this blog post about her experience supporting at the event.

We were delighted to host the Ricefield Arts Appreciation Event at the Windsor Community Centre, Glasgow. The event was attended by our workshop leaders, staff, board members, volunteers, interns, event partners, and performers from previous events.  Many people only had met each other via Zoom in last two years, so it was a good opportunity for everyone to catch up with each other.

Participants enjoyed traditional Chinese food such as egg fried rice, chow mein, and spring rolls as light dinner. We had a delicious dessert of carrot cake, macarons, and doughnuts.

Firstly, Else Kek, as the Chairperson of Ricefield Arts, expressed her genuine appreciation to everyone who worked with us to support the Online Community Wellbeing Programme during the pandemic.
Some of our workshop leaders and performers shared their experiences. Many of them had never tried delivering online workshops or performing online before, thus they were grateful to Ricefield for providing the opportunity to let more people know about traditional Chinese art through an online platform.

 

Then we moved onto the group activities. We played the Human bingo game as an icebreaker. Everyone had around 10 minutes to mingle until they find people that match the facts listed on a bingo-style sheet. All of the attendees who completed the game received a unique gift from us, such as a Scottish-China tartan scarf or a hand-painted Christmas bauble. The icebreaker was a great way for everyone to get to know each other and have fun!

The last part of the event was the drumming workshop delivered by workshop leader Jane. Everyone was given a hand drum or a shaker and musician Eddie joined in using his bamboo flute. Workshop leader and singer Fong also sang along during the drumming session. It was wonderful to play instruments together!

Finally, we took a big group photo to capture the evening. Thank you to all of our of workshop leaders, staff, volunteers and everyone who has supported Ricefield over the past few years!

 

 

Virtual Wishing Tree

A highlight of Ricefield Arts’ Chinese New Year celebrations each year is displaying our own wishing tree in Kelvin Hall, Glasgow. Visitors to our annual activity day write their wishes and tie them to the tree, before enjoying an afternoon of fun games, sports and crafts.

With many restrictions in place over the Spring Festival period, this year we invited you to make your wishes for the Year of the Ox online. We were touched by the warm and thoughtful messages we received, with many wishes asking for good health for family, friends and the wider community. It’s clear that the Covid-19 crisis has altered our priorities, and given us a new appreciation for smaller joys and quality time with loved ones.

Take a look at our virtual wishing tree – the words hanging from it appeared in many of the wishes and represent our collective vision for the year ahead. Below we’ve highlighted some inspiring wishes from members of our community, received between 4th February and 1st March 2021. We sincerely each one comes true, and that we’ll be reunited together in person soon.

Wishes

‘My wish for this year is that we are all able to gather together once again as a whole community and to be able to celebrate the good times ahead.’
Aswad Choudhry, Glasgow

‘Wish all my families good health and happiness in 2021! Hope the pandemic will be over soon!!! 希望作为医护工作者的妈妈可以不用继续那么辛苦,希望爸爸不用凌晨送妈妈去上班,家人健康平安幸福。希望可以早日回国和亲人相聚!’
Rita Chen, Austria

‘Wishing everybody good health, happiness and prosperity! 万事如意! 步步高升!’
Andy L, Glasgow

‘That people will be able to hug friends and family soon’
Ruth F, Glasgow

‘I wish for all my friends & family to overcome any hardships and sadness the past year has brought and for 2021 to be a year where they begin to feel joy again.’
Grace Silvestro, Glasgow

‘May this year have opened our eyes to less craving and attachment, and more understanding of how all of us are linked together.’
Darla Lammers, Arizona

‘For a long life to walk alongside my beautiful daughter.’
Anonymous

 ‘My wish would be for a swift end to Covid and getting to spend time with my mum again.’
Jade Graham, Glasgow

‘I wish to give thank for the many blessings in my life. To wish everyone health, perseverance and a good outcome during the pandemic and beyond. Wishing many more happy times volunteering with my friends at Ricefield. Finally, to get my new teeth in June!’
Kathryn Munro, Glasgow

‘I wish for love & respect for all and people connectivity for next year!!’
Anonymous, Edinburgh

‘Wishing that the year of ox fully loaded with happiness, love, good health and great success.’
Angie S, Glasgow

‘Health for the entire world.’
Juliana Brandes, Los Angeles

‘My wish for this new year is the health & happiness of my family and a special wish for my daughter with her choice of High school. Happy New Year.’
Jill Robertson, Belfast

‘Wishing everyone I know good health and happiness.’
Lily, Glasgow

‘Wishing covid is over soon and everyone has jobs. Wishing my daughter will be healthy minded and my son is able to figure what programs to study for next year. Wishing good health to all my family members.’
Huynh, Ontario

‘Wishing all a great year blessed with abundant happiness, good health, wealth, luck and fortune. 牛年行大运!’
Eilidh Hong, Glasgow

Chinese New Year Celebration 2021

On Friday 26th February 2021, Ricefield Arts hosted our very first online Chinese New Year Celebration. We celebrated Lantern Festival and the arrival of the Year of the Ox with friends from around the world, while our talented performers showcased the breadth of Chinese culture. The hour-long programme featured live performances of classical dance, martial arts, traditional instruments and lots more.

Watch some of our highlights here:

Philippa Barclay attended the event, and has kindly shared this blog post about her experience.

Ricefield Arts and Cultural Centre and the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS) hosted a special Chinese New Year online event to mark the last day of Spring Festival, known as the Lantern Festival. I joined in on the online celebrations from the comfort of my home and am excited to share my experiences of the evening’s festivities.

The online celebration was held over Zoom and attracted over 360 guests joining from across the globe to watch the performances which showcased Chinese culture in a variety of formats including dance, musical instruments, martial arts, song, and poetry.

The event opened with speeches from Else Kek, Chair of Ricefield Arts & Cultural Centre and Fhiona Mackay, Director of CISS. We were then entertained by Shengnan Qiu playing some lively music on the erhu, a Chinese national orchestral instrument, with a vibrant performance of “Onwards and Upwards”.

Next on the programme was an opportunity to experience a powerful martial art display of a complex Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu fighting form called Small Plum Blossom Fist. The form is popular for public events, and Pui Lee’s impressive and complex performance took place outdoors.

We then moved on to some gentle singing by Fong Liu of three melodies which are popular for the Spring Festival period: “Congratulations”, “Sweet Honey” and “Winter Jasmine”. The recital was performed in traditional dress with beautiful lanterns in the background adding to the visual experience. Poetry recitals came next from Xiaochun Shen, with subtitles describing joyful scenes on New Year’s Day and the author’s positive expectations for the year ahead.

An interesting part of the evening was an introduction to a traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony showcasing the art of Chinese tea with beautiful Chinese art and music in the background and traditional tea sets. Being an avid tea drinker myself I enjoyed watching Shanshan Jiang’s detailed preparation and the intricate steps involved in presenting and serving the tea.

Lawrence Dunn performed two lively Dai folk songs on the sheng: “Mangshi Dam Tune” and “Wedding Banquet Song”. The sheng is one of the oldest musical instruments in China dating back to 1100 BCE. This was followed by another remarkable Chinese martial arts performance by Hing Fung Teh, this time in the form of a more soothing display of extracts from both the 24 and 42 Steps Tai Chi forms, with guests remarking on “music so peaceful it touches your soul”.

Annie Au gave a wonderful performance of the “Butterfly Lovers” fan dance which is a rendition of a folk tale of two lovers unable to be together who were reunited as butterflies, and lastly the event finished with a lively and upbeat performance from Eddie McGuire. He ended the show with “Purple Bamboo Melody” played on the dizi bamboo flute, accompanied by some chimes.

All in all, it was a lovely opportunity to connect with people from all around the world and experience a really enjoyable evening, getting the chance to experience some of the history of this important annual Chinese festival and the unique and beautiful traditions which accompany it.

We were delighted to partner with the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools for this event, which allowed us to reach new audiences who are engaged in language learning across Scotland.

Our Chinese New Year Celebration was supported by Foundation Scotland and Glasgow City Council‘s Glasgow Communities Fund, as part of our Community Recovery & Wellbeing project.

An Introduction to Wishing Trees

For our latest blog post, work placement student Xiaochun Shen writes about the origin of wishing trees, a traditional custom during Chinese New Year celebrations.

There is a beautiful tale about the origins of the Wishing Tree.

At the end of the Qing Dynasty, in a small village, there lived a young man, named A Jun and a young woman, named Feng Er. They loved each other. When A Jun was 18, he wanted to participate in a naval battle. The two were reluctant to be separated and spent their last moments together under a tree in the village, before A Jun left. Alone, Feng Er went to the tree every day and wrapped a strip of yellow cloth on a branch, wishing that A Jun would return soon.

However, five years passed and A Jun did not come back to the village. The girl still waited for him. Finally, her parents forced her to marry another man. Feng Er tried to refuse the marriage but failed. The night before the wedding, Feng Er put on her wedding dress and went to the tree alone. On the day of the wedding, the whole village gathered to celebrate. However, they found Feng Er dressed in a bright wedding dress, lying quietly under the tree, with her eyes closed gently and a smile on her face. She slept forever.

While people witnessed this scene in surprise, the yellow cloth strips on the tree suddenly flew into the sky. At this time, the villagers watched as the yellow strips flying in the wind turned into an image of Feng Er and A Jun. They held hands and flew into the sky. From that day on, the legend states that if people hang a yellow cloth with their wishes on the tree and pray religiously, their wishes will come true. Over time, this has become a custom.

Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree in Hong Kong, 2019

This year, we’re inviting our community to make your wishes online on our virtual wishing tree. What are your dreams for the Year of the Ox? Submit your wishes here.

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.

Background

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.

Customs

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.

Lantern

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.

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