January 26, 2009
The Smithsonian American Art Museum wished everyone a Happy Chinese New Year on Saturday with a neighborhood-wide celebration in the heart of the District’s Chinatown. To bring in the year 4707, performances by the Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe and a lion dance by the Wong Chinese Boxing Association, (see above), were just some of the festivities that lit up the streets.
Chinese New Year celebrations are steeped in tradition. According to Chinese legend, in ancient times, Buddha called all the animals to meet him on the New Year. Only twelve came—the ox, rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, dog, boar and rooster—and Buddha named a year after each one. This tradition holds true today making 2009 the Year of the Ox. People born under this sign have a strong work ethic, leading to a tendency to be a workaholic. (As an Ox myself—1985—I’ve already filed two stories today and it’s only 11 a.m.) Ox people are usually strong and robust and should live long lives.
Many New Year’s traditions are aimed at driving away bad luck. People wear red—the color of fire, and light fireworks to frighten away evil spirits. The lion dance shown above also has origins in Chinese legend. In ancient times, on the first day of the lunar year, a dragon would descend to destroy villages and crops. The people came up with a plan to scare the dragon away with an even fiercer creature and thus the lion dance was born.
The Wong Chinese Boxing Association lion dance incorporates ancient Chinese kung-fu techniques, which gives the performance strength. According to the Association, It is not just the appearance of the lion that brings good luck, but the power of the ritual.
The American Art Museum is blogging too – Check out Eye Level for an exploration of how America’s art reflects its history and culture.
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