Last Sunday, the Mandela Room was decked out with red and gold decorations for the Spring Festival: “Empresses in the Palace.”
Set on the first day of the lunar calendar, this event was a collaboration between Binghamton University’s Chinese Scholar and Students Association (CSSA) and Chinascope. The event created a space for students of Chinese descent to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
Erika Ji, publicity chair of CSSA and a junior majoring in psychology, wrote about the long and difficult journey behind the event’s organization, which started during the fall 2022 semester.
“It’s hard to organize the meeting time for winter break, especially since some of our E-Board members travel to foreign countries with different time zones,” Ji said. “Due to the effect of [COVID-19] … most of our members have never experienced this event.”
This lack of direction led the CSSA E-Board to revolutionize the event, eventually landing on the theme “Empresses in the Palace,” which was based on an internationally famous TV series set in the Qing Dynasty with the same title. The theme was expressed through the traditional Qing Dynasty clothing worn by CSSA staff, and guests were encouraged to wear their own garments from any time period.
Apart from the typical catered food, activity stations for cultural experience were set up around the room, such as paper-cutting for window decoration, couplet writing and fortune telling, where attendees flocked to try their luck for the year of the Rabbit.
The opening performance was a jihong dance performed by Xutong Shi, a junior majoring in theatre. In her flowy pastel outfit, Shi captured the audience’s attention immediately with just a short number. She then performed an intricate and graceful solo dance named “Remembering Old Friends.”
BU’s Kung Fu Club was the next performer, bringing their crowd pleaser, the lion dance, amid the energetic beats of drums and cymbals that projected throughout the whole hall. The two black-and-white beasts interacted with the audience like real animals, letting people pet their heads and getting down like dogs. With their moving eyelids, floppy ears and moving mouths, it is as if they were actual animals despite the obvious people puppeteering them.
Intersecting with the performances were participation games. Anything from Kahoot quizzes about Spring Festival to “Drawing Guessing” — similar to charades — guessing the songs and a raffle to tie up the night. The prizes were red envelopes with money inside, typically given to children by older relatives to wish them to grow up smart and strong. Although lacking the same cultural value, the raffle prizes were won in monetary value with a 4K Samsung TV so big it had to be shipped to the winner.
Other performances included a solo song of “The Wind Keeps Blowing,” originally sung by the late and great Leslie Cheung, carried out by performer Lianghui Huang, a Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature. A slow, emotional and chill performance, it is a perfect homage to anyone who grew up with it. Following this was a flute and piano duet by performers Naomi Pan, a junior majoring in business administration, and Huanmu Xu, a junior double-majoring in psychology and sociology.
The most anticipated performances were perhaps the Traditional Chinese Clothes Show and the traditional Beijing Opera. The clothing show was similar to a fashion catwalk, with each model presenting different silhouettes, accessories and props. Linghui Tu, professor and Chinese director of the Confucius Institute Chinese Opera at BU, brought the final performance. She performed an excerpt named “The Drunken Beauty,” which included both sophisticated choreography and powerful singing, in full opera gear and make-up. It was a great send-off for the night.
Zuer Wu, president of Chinascope and a junior majoring in biochemistry, shared her thoughts after the event.
“It has been more than four years since we had our last Spring Festival Gala,” Wu said. “It not only helps Chinese international students to alleviate the nostalgic feeling but also introduces Chinese New Year to local students.”