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Chinese culture explored

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Chinese lanterns with yellow tassels hung from the windows.

The aroma of green tea filled the room.

Mystical music seemed to slow the passage of time at rTrail Collective Edge in Valparaiso as visitors from China demonstrated various Chinese New Year’s activities.

The recent event was co-sponsored by the Confucius Institute of Valparaiso University, the VU Chinese and Japanese studies program, and the VU Chinese Student and Scholar Association.

Chen Yang of China held a thin rubber-tipped bamboo stick in each hand. She created music that barely echoed when she gently tapped on the yangqin, an ancient Chinese instrument made from rosewood and containing more than 100 metal strings.

“This trip to America has had great influence on me and opened my eyes,” Chen said. “I learned how people love this music. I hope I will be able to visit foreign countries to show this to people and teach them to play it.”

Liu Jiangang is a professor and associate director of the Confucius Institute at VU. He and Chen visited various schools and public locations as part of the Chinese music and language outreach program.

“A lot of musicians play the yangqin, and they like it a lot,” Liu said. “This is in almost every traditional Chinese band. It’s mostly sitting in the center, surrounded by (other Chinese instruments).

“When it first came to China from Persia more than 600 years ago, it was very simple. It has been innovated, so now it is regarded as one of the traditional Chinese instruments.”

Frank Haughee of Valparaiso attended the event, and Chen taught him how to play a few notes on the yangqin.

“The sound embodies what you think of when you think of the Chinese culture,” Haughee said. “The sounds are very exotic. Trying your hand at their instruments and making the same sounds that they make is fun. It sort of lets you experience the culture in a different way.”

Ming Liang and Zhang Rong, teachers at the Confucius Institute, taught paper-cutting, an art form more than 2,000 years old. They showed people how to fold tissue paper, draw patterns on it and carefully cut along the lines. The papers were then opened to reveal unique snowflake patterns.

“Art can sometimes bridge the gap between a difficult concept and a way to explain opinions about that concept,” said Brenda Magnetti Erickson, founder and owner of rTrail Collective Edge. “I am outwardly expressing my appreciation of the Chinese culture. That’s important to me; there’s value there. Forget the divide and build a common experience.”

Next month, award-winning artist Doug Remschneider will teach people how to melt glass and blow it into various shapes.



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