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Chinese craftsmen enchant US visitors with immersive cultural experience in Philadelphia

Xinhua| Updated: February 20, 2024 L M S


The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) hosted a day-long immersive Lunar New Year Festival full of hands-on activities exploring Chinese culture on Sunday.

Artisans from Zhejiang Province of China took over the Great Stair Hall of the museum with a variety of demonstrations, including tea-whisking, sugar painting, rice sculptures, poetry couplets, and puppetry.

Guests also got an opportunity to create their own woodblock prints, learn about the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, and received a lucky red envelope.

It was estimated that at least 1,000 parents and their kids had joined the five-hour celebration on Sunday, according to Hiromi Kinoshita, curator of Chinese Art at the PMA.

"I think having the craftsmen to come all the way from China and perform things that you don't usually get to see is very attractive. And the event was very popular," she said.

Kinoshita, who's been working with the PMA for 12 years, believed the event could help facilitate better understanding between the American and Chinese peoples, especially at a time when information that people get usually comes from the internet or the news, which could lead to a restricted view.

"I think people and arts are very important to transmit ideas, and I can't think of any better way than having craftsmen or artisans who can show their arts personally," said Kinoshita.

"I think having this type of personal connection is important," she said.

Kinoshita also expressed her appreciation for the help and support from the Chinese consulate general in New York for making the event a reality.

"We should have this more often. We need to know other cultures. I would come back every year if you have it," said Coco Idani, a visitor who was excited to get the rice sculpture of her Zodiac sign of tiger made by a young Chinese craftsman.

"Chinese culture is old and extremely rich," said Idani. "We should learn from such a culture that has survived many years."

"I always think that through the arts and culture, we can make bridges. So I'm very happy to participate," said Paul, who works in information technology and is married to a Chinese lady from Zhengzhou, China.

"The event is wonderful. We like to share Chinese culture. It's great that the artisans from China come here to show puppetry and their handicrafts," said Paul, holding in arms their two-year-old daughter Zina wearing a Chinese Spring Festival Zodiac head kit.

Cathy and Joe Jacobsen were planning to go to Chinatown in Philadelphia to see the Lunar New Year parade, but they got lost and ended up in the PMA event.

Yet they really loved the event as it was inclusive, joyful, and welcoming to everybody. "It's a good occasion to celebrate our reunion," said Joe, adding that they have known each other since the 1970s but only reunited after 40 years in 2016.

PMA's event was the last leg of the Chinese artisans' 10-day visit to the United States to join the Lunar New Year celebrations in New York and neighboring areas. They had earlier performed at the Metropolitan Museum, Lincoln Center, and China Institute.

"It's a great surprise for us that local people were so enthusiastic about Chinese culture. We often had to extend our scheduled performance hours to accommodate a much larger-than-expected crowd of visitors," Ruan Jing, leader of the delegation and director of Zhejiang Provincial Cultural Center, told Xinhua. 

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