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.

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.

Guzheng

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).

Pipa

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.

Erhu

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.

Guqin

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.

Hulusi

© 2024 Ricefield Arts

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑