Wesleyan College invites the public to celebrate Chinese culture and art with a free International Confucius Institute Day on campus Saturday.
“If you want a family-friendly introduction to Chinese culture and entertainment that will engage kids and leave a lasting impression, this festival is it,” said Nicholas Steneck, co-director of the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan.
The institute will offer entertainment such as dancing, games, music, face painting and calligraphy. Visitors can dress in brightly-colored period costumes for pictures, and traditional moon cake will be served to celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival that takes place the following day.
“It is so much fun for me to be able to celebrate part of my culture in the United States,” said Wesleyan sophomore Qiyue Chen, an economics and business administration major.
Chen will be performing with the Chinese Dance Troupe during the festival. She said dances like the lion dance are a way to tell stories from China’s 5,000-year history.
“Everything in the dance is very important,” Chen said, “but I want you to feel the emotions that are part of our culture.”
The Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College (CWIC) is one of 450 Confucius Institutes around the world and 100 in the U.S. celebrating International Confucius Institute Day, which marks the 11th anniversary of the institutes worldwide. CIWC was founded in 2012 with funding from Hanban, the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing. Later that year, the U.S. Department of State awarded Wesleyan College a grant to develop an American Cultural Center at Guangzhou University in China.
“We want people to experience Chinese culture themselves,” said Xiaoping Jiang, co-director of CIWC and professor of Chinese culture. “I hope to demystify China and remove some of the stereotypes about Chinese people.”
Last year, more than 500 people attended the festival at Wesleyan.
Located in the Lucy Lester Willet Memorial Library, CIWC’s gallery contains silk tapestries, ornate rosewood tables, porcelain objects and two life-size replicas of the terra cotta soldiers that date back 2,000 years.
“This statue is made from the exact same clay as the originals,” Jiang said.
Many of the artifacts were gifts from the Soong sisters. The three sisters attended Wesleyan College in the early 20th century before going on to become three of the most wealthy and powerful women in China. The eldest daughter, Ai-ling, was the first Chinese woman to attend college in the US in 1904.
The institute also offers Chinese culture and language classes to the public.
“More people recognize that China is very important to learn about today,” said Steneck, who also teaches history at the college. “The festival is another way to meet your neighbors who are Chinese and Chinese American.”
Chen said the festival is important to her and other Chinese students.
“I get homesick sometimes,” Chen said, “but the Confucius Institute and the festival brings China to me here.”
Confucius Institute Day
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 26.
Where: Wesleyan College’s Quad (Candler Alumnae Center if it rains)
Information: 478-757-3960, www.wesleyancollege.edu