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Fostering understanding: Saint Vincent hosts annual Chinese New Year Party

Saint Vincent has a long tradition of engagement with Chinese culture, which will continue this year with the annual Chinese New Year Party on Feb. 13. Tina Johnson, associate professor of history and director of China studies, explained the importance of the event.

“Benedictines from SVC founded Fu Jen University in Beijing in 1925. The campus was taken over and integrated into Beijing Normal University when the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949. Fu Jen was reestablished in Taiwan, in around 1960, I believe. . . .We still have ties with Beijing Normal and Fu Jen,” she said.

Junior management major, Kate Torisky, has continued that tradition through her own studies and on-campus engagement with the New Year celebration.

“As a sophomore last year, my classmate from Intermediate Chinese and I recited a short, traditional Chinese story together (in Chinese) on the stage. I won't be able to attend the celebration at SVC this year because I will be busy packing my bags to go to Shanghai for a semester abroad,” she said.

Torisky feels that the kind of mutual cultural appreciation fostered by the New Year celebration is vital to fostering a proper understanding of such an important neighbor on the world stage. Many students, she suggests, are rarely exposed to the nuances of a people so influential yet so far removed from their daily experience.

“I certainly feel that many American students and Americans in general don't understand China very well,” she said. “My main concern is that many people will judge China based on the country's political behavior on the world stage, rather than on the Chinese people and their culture.”

She did her part to foster that personal knowledge by hosting a Chinese exchange student from Shanghai University of Finance and Economics last semester.

“I got to know my roommate, Judy, as an individual and learned about her personal interests and found that I could relate to her despite us being from two different halves of the globe,” she said.

Saint Vincent offers the resources for others to do the same, she explained.

“SVC offers classes about China's history and language, an amazing annual mission trip to China and Taiwan, an international student exchange program between our McKenna School and S.U.F.E in Shanghai, and, of course, the Chinese New Year celebration,” Torisky said.

In the Chinese lunar calendar, the year of the dog begins Feb. 16. The New Year celebration is a major event at Saint Vincent which Johnson has helped to organize since 2005.

“It’s large because we have the James and Margaret Tseng Loe China Studies Center and the University of Pittsburgh Confucius Classroom at Saint Vincent College. The Confucius Classroom manages eight Chinese language and culture teachers that instruct over 1000 K-16 students in the region. The Loe China Studies Center supports Chinese culture learning in the region,” she said.

The China Studies Center and Confucius Classroom are sponsoring the event. Many of the students in local schools impacted by the center will be participating in the festivities. The event will open with a performance from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Carey center, in which those students (and their teachers) will present a wide variety of Chinese songs, dances and poetry.

A Chinese Buffet will follow from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. in the Carey Center lounge, and Chinese crafts and cultural activities, available in the same lounge from 6:30 until 8:00, will cap off the evening.

The New Year Celebration is free and open to the public.

Photo: SVC Flickr

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