By Michael Anthony | 09/16/16 This article by Michael Anthony was originally published in MINNPOST and is being reprinted with their permission
Photo by Cory Weaver - San Francisco Opera's production of "Dream of the Red Chamber."
“Who would have thought that this little group from Minnesota would have generated a major world premiere? It’s unbelievable.”
Kevin Smith, president of the Minnesota Orchestra, was speaking to 119 guests at a banquet last Friday, Sept. 9, in the suburban town of Millbrae just south of San Francisco. The banquet, during which an army of waiters delivered a seemingly limitless round of Chinese delicacies – deep-fried milk, sea cucumber, bird’s nest soup, Peking duck – was a prelude to the main event the next evening, the premiere of “The Dream of the Red Chamber,” an operatic treatment by the San Francisco Opera of one of the landmarks of Chinese literature with music by Bright Sheng and libretto by playwright David Henry Hwang.
The seed money for this ambitious $3 million production, which will travel to Hong Kong in March, was raised by the Minnesota-based Chinese Heritage Foundation in an effort to introduce Western audiences to Chinese culture and in the process to promote mutual understanding.
“The great novels of Chinese literature are virtually unknown in the United States, outside of small communities of academics and Chinese speakers,” said Hwang, a Chinese-American best known in the U.S. for his play and subsequent film “M Butterfly,” which received the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play.
“I, too, as a native-born American, had never read ‘Dream of the Red Chamber,’ even though my plays and musicals are often set in China. Particularly because the evolution of the U.S.-China relationship is likely to determine much of the 21st century, this opera presents a valuable opportunity to expose audiences to a work that expresses the essence of China’s history and national character.”
The project arose out of a conversation between two friends, Pearl Bergad and Linda Hoeschler, in Minneapolis in 2001. Born in Vietnam of Chinese parents, Bergad, a retired molecular biologist, is executive director of the Chinese Heritage Foundation. Hoeschler, a long-time arts patron, is the former executive director of the American Composers Forum.
By Linda Mealey-Lohmann, Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society
The site dedication ceremony for the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden took place on July 9, during the opening ceremony of the Dragon Festival at Phalen Park.
A parade of lion dancers from Hui’s Lucky Lion Dance Team led a procession along Lake Phalen from the dragon boat docks to the future China Garden site. Once at the site, Carole Hyder, international feng shui expert and China Garden advisor, performed a feng shui site dedication ritual at the future site of the Changsha Aiwan Pavilion replica, which involved ringing a special bell and scattering seeds and other ingredients with symbolic meanings. Hmong Elder Uncle Charles Vu gave a Hmong blessing at the site of the future Hmong Cultural Plaza nearby. A sign announcing the China Friendship Garden was placed in the ground.Add a comment
By Greg Hugh | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chinese Heritage Foundation (CHF) recently honored Bill and Mary Ferrell, owners of Royal Foods, headquartered in Hopkins, Minn., for being long-time supporters of CHF’s event “A Passage to China” that had been held annually at Mall of America since 2006.
Yin Simpson, CHF board member, and I met with the Ferrells at their office and presented them with a framed painting along with a letter of appreciation from CHF Executive Director Pearl Bergad.
I “recruited” the Ferrells to provide storage space for the ever-accumulating props for the event since 2005, which included two life-size terra cotta warriors that must weigh thousands of pounds! At that time, I was committee chair of “A Passage to China” and I was able to solicit the Ferrells’ support because they were great neighbors of mine. Not only did the Ferrells provide CHF with the much needed storage space, they also were kind enough to provide transportation of all this material to and from their warehouse in Hopkins to Mall of America each year.
Disclosure: Greg Hugh, publisher of China Insight, which partnered with CHF to create “A Passage to China,” served as CHF’s Board chair from 2005 to 2014. China Insight has chronicled the event over the years and you can read these articles at www.chinainsight.info, check the May issues under the “Past issues” tabAdd a comment
By Pat Welsh, contributor
In my previous offering I discussed major events after the death of Yuan Shikai (袁世凱) in 1916 and Cai Yuanpei’s (蔡元培) changes in the make-up of the student and faculty and their activities at the Beijing National University. I hope the reader will get a feel for the situation in Beijing leading up to the May Fourth Movement in 1919.
China’s failure at the Paris Peace Conference to prevent Japan from gaining Germany’s place in Shandong Province was the event that sparked the May 4 Incident. The news of this failure, coupled with memories of Japan’s 21 Demands made in 1915, motivated student organizations to hold a meeting on May 1 and 3 wherein they resolved to hold mass demonstrations against the Beijing government on May 7, the fourth anniversary of Japan’s ultimatum in her 21 Demands.
By Judy Hohmann, Dragon Festival
Nearly 14,000 visitors to the 14th annual Dragon Festival at Lake Phalen and Phalen Park on a sunny weekend in July celebrated the competitive spirit of the dragon-boat races and Minnesota's diverse Asian cultures and traditions. Included were Asian-American performers, martial arts demonstrations, children activities and, of course, ethnic foods. Phalen Park also houses the “Meditation” sculpture by Changsha artist Lei Yixin, created and dedicated in July 2006.
The opening of the Dragon Festival was commemorated with a traditional "lion dance" and performed by pan-Asian artists: the Green Dragon Kung Fu Club, Hui Lucky Dragon Dance’s group and Hmong Qeej Musicians. Hmong Elder Uncle Charles Vu led a special Hmong blessing. Add a comment
By He Xiaping, trip coordinator
On July 19, 40 students, two teachers and two school administrators from Loudi No. 1 Middle School, Hunan Province, along with their vice principal, director and two other English teachers were greeted by their host families at Fourth Baptist Church School in Plymouth. Thus began their nine-day visit to Minnesota, a trip they have been vying for with hundreds of other students from Loudi during the past year.
This group of students (equivalent of U.S. high school freshmen) were selected from the school’s international study classes. Their participation is voluntary and their families paid all their trip expenses.
The name Chang Wang should be familiar to China Insight readers. Wang was the recipient of the Council of Asian-Pacific Minnesotans’ Asian Pacific Leadership Award, the University of Minnesota “China 100” Distinguished Chinese Alumni Award, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Diversity in Business Award in 2015.
He also has been a regular and consistent contributor to this publication since 2013. His articles – “Dancing with the Dragon” (November 2015-January 2016), “Doing Business with China and the Chinese People” (January-June 2015), “Last Lecture” (January and October 2014), “Living within Parallel Universes” (February and March 2016), “Luckiest Generations” (April-September 2016) to name a few – offer depth and insight into the Chinese psyche and social norms.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) will launch an unprecedented long-term initiative to create innovative public programs, special exhibitions and new scholarship dedicated to Asian art. A $6 million bequest from Alfred P. Gale, the Gale Asian Art Initiative at Mia will allow for robust programming designed to foster broader understanding and appreciation of Asian art and culture. Mia’s collection of Asian art is comprised of some 16,800 objects ranging from ancient pottery and bronzes to works by contemporary artists, with nearly every Asian culture represented. Areas with particular depth include the arts of China, Japan and Korea.
Each year, Mia will focus on a particular area of its collection with in-depth programming and events, and will begin with the art of China. Its Chinese collection includes ancient Chinese bronze that is generally considered one of the nation’s top collections of its kind. Important examples include a famous vessel in the form of an owl, superb silver inlaid works, and many other outstanding vessels from the Shang and Zhou dynasties (c. 18th–3rd century BCE).