Lunar New Year celebration emphasizes art and storytelling

The celebration included performances by the Korean Classical Music and Dance Company and the Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Association. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan)

Paper lanterns, lion dances, festive music and cultural dances rang out during Lunar New Year – the Year of the Tiger – at the USC Pacific Asia Museum’s Lunar New Year Festival. The museum hosted the virtual festival on Saturday, featuring various performances of music, dance, martial arts demonstrations and storytelling.

“This is the year of the tiger, where there is ferocity, bravery, strength and courage associated with this year…Let’s go strong in the year without being paralyzed by anything negative to hold you back,” Bobo Chang, an actor, fitness content creator and festival host, said in an interview with The Daily Trojan.

The Korean classical music and dance company kicked off the event with the hwa kwan moo, or flower crown dance. Led by company director Don Kim, the dance is usually performed for the royal family. The dancers also performed the chang-go chum, or hourglass drum dance, an acrobatic folk dance, as well as the gayageum, a 12-stringed instrument and the buchae-chum – fan dance – a dance intended to enhance the joy of living and joy.

Kim also gave a short Korean lesson on how to say the greeting, annyeonghaseyo, which could mean hello, good evening, good afternoon, or good morning. Participants also learned how to say gamsahamnida, which means thank you, and saehae bok mani badeusipsio to wish others a happy new year.

After the dance and language lesson, USC Kazan Taiko, a Japanese percussion ensemble, performed. The set takes its name from the Japanese word for volcano, which Chang says is an “explosive force that inspires them and characterizes their playing style.”

“Kazan’s goal is to provide a place for its members to express themselves through rhythm and movement, while learning and participating in the tradition of Japanese taiko drumming,” Chang said.

Kazan Taiko performed two songs: “Matsuri,” which means festival in Japanese, and “Rising Dragon Fist,” which was written by former ensemble members. Artistic director Zoe Beyler, a junior percussion performance student, said the band had a “strong songwriting culture. [their] own pieces.

“I was really excited and happy with how the performance turned out,” Beyler said. “I was really excited for all the new members to be able to perform for the first time, and I really enjoyed being able to play [at the museum] because it was really pretty and it’s an interesting place.”

After their performance, Chang shared anecdotes about his favorite Lunar New Year traditions, such as eating tteokguk, a rice cake soup. In Korea, eating soup means adding a year to your age, and as a child, Chang said he liked to eat multiple bowls and call himself “50 years old at eight.”

The following performance was given by the Northern Shaolin Kung Fu Association, whose mission is to promote and preserve Chinese culture and heritage. The group specializes in Chinese lion and dragon dance and also puts on dynamic martial arts demonstrations.

Barbara Wong, who served as resident storyteller for the Honolulu Zoo and developed food and walking tours of Honolulu’s Chinatown, shared legends from various Asian cultures. She started with the story of Songtsan Gambo and Princess Wenchang, told the story of the cowherd and the weaver, and concluded with the Vietnamese legend of how the moon became ivory.

To close the festival, Clazzical Notes artists Yihan Chen on pipa — the Chinese lute — and Haowei Cheng on gu zheng — the Chinese harp — gave a musical performance.

“Overall it was beautiful and [there were] a lot of very talented artists,” Chang said. “You could really feel the art and the emotion and the celebration of the New Year… Being able to be up close like that is more intimate, and you can have an even deeper connection to the art.”

James C. Tibbs