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Events will welcome Chinese New Year across UK

Updated: Feb 1, 2024 By Zheng Wanyin and Wang Linyan in London Print
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Zhao Fei (fourth from left), minister of China's Embassy in the UK, and Li Liyan (first from left), minister counselor for cultural affairs at China's Embassy in the UK, take a group photo with guests at a news conference held at the Cultural Section of China's Embassy in the UK introducing Chinese New Year celebration events in London on Tuesday. [Photo by Zheng Wanyin / China Daily]

As Chinese New Year approaches, a wide range of events are unfolding across the United Kingdom to mark the special time of year in Chinese culture.

Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, has become a globally celebrated occasion, Zhao Fei, minister of China's Embassy in the UK, said at a news conference held in London on Tuesday by the Cultural Section of China's Embassy in the UK.

Zhao said that starting from 2024, the festival is a United Nations floating holiday in the organization's calendar of conferences and meetings, according to a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in December.

"I believe the diverse range of cultural activities taking place throughout the UK will further promote cultural exchanges and mutual learning between China and the UK, and contribute to the development of bilateral relations," he said.

Chinese New Year falls on Feb 10 this year, and more than 30 programs are taking place in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Jersey Island and more, said Li Liyan, minister counselor for cultural affairs at China's Embassy in the UK.

Highlights of the programs include an exhibition of zimingzhong, or striking clocks that were collected by Chinese emperors during the 1700s, which opened alongside Chinese New Year Lates at the Science Museum in London on Thursday.

In the display, more than 20 resplendent clocks, which were brought from the Palace Museum in Beijing, were unveiled in the UK for the first time. The exhibition also explores more than three centuries of trade and cultural exchanges between China and the UK.

On Feb 8, the London Eye, an iconic ferris wheel standing on the south bank of the River Thames, will glitter red and gold, two colors that symbolize joy and prosperity in Chinese culture, in a countdown to Chinese New Year.

On Feb 11, tens of thousands of people are expected to join in a carnival organized by the London Chinatown Chinese Association that will include a parade, stage performances, and food stalls surrounding Trafalgar Square. The celebration is said to be the largest Chinese New Year event outside Asia.

As 2024 is the Year of the Dragon based on the Chinese zodiac, a group of dancers performing the Chongqing Tongliang dragon dance will join the London Eye lighting ceremony and the Trafalgar Square celebration to send wishes of good fortune and auspiciousness to people in the UK.

The Tongliang dragon dance, as one of the cultural symbols of Southwest China's Chongqing municipality, was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2006.

Another national intangible cultural heritage – Puning Yingge dance – will also help build up the festival mood. The traditional folk dance originates from the Chaoshan region of South China's Guangdong province.

Puning Yingge dance, which merges opera, dance, and martial arts, is considered a symbol of promoting good, suppressing evil, and bringing peace. On Feb 10, 16 Yingge dancers from Chaoshan will perform at Burlington Arcade in London. They will also participate in the celebration at the Trafalgar Square.

In addition to the dancing, many heritage British brands at the arcade have also launched special collections for the Year of the Dragon to pay tribute to China's oldest and grandest traditional festival, said Mark Lord, from the Burlington Arcade.

Outside London, the celebration ambiance will be intense as well.

In Bristol, the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will provide visitors with a feast of Chinese culture from Feb 17 to Feb 18. The weekend will feature martial arts performances, crafts workshops, educational activities about Chinese heritage, and more.

In Scotland, Edinburgh will start its celebrations on Feb 3 with a wave of activities, including shows of hanfu (a traditional Chinese-style of clothing), Chinese calligraphy workshops, red envelope giveaway games, and more.

Since its inception in 2019, the Edinburgh Chinese New Year festival has become the largest celebration of its kind in Scotland, according to the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group's China Ready Initiative.

Zhao Fei, minister of China's embassy in the UK, and Paul Milbank, sector lead for culture, arts, heritage and sport with the government of Jersey, dot a dragon's eye on Tuesday, during a news conference at the Cultural Section of China's Embassy in the UK on upcoming Chinese New Year celebration events across the UK. [Photo by Zheng Wanyin / China Daily]

The island of Jersey will host a 15-day Lunar New Year festival from Feb 10, which will feature traditional dragon and lion dances, food markets with music and entertainment, and activity booklets enabling young people to learn about the Chinese language and culture.

Music, another form of art that brings people together, will be showcased in Birmingham, England, when Xiao Di, a Chinese piano professor at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, hosts her 12th annual Didi & Friends Chinese New Year Concert on Feb 8, where musicians from different genres will play a mix of traditional Chinese and Western pieces.

Daniele Rosina, director of orchestral studies at the University of Birmingham who will be a conductor for the concert, said he feels "honored" to take part in the celebrations.

"I love the Chinese New Year culture with all of its traditions, symbolism, and ancient customs," said Rosina, who has many Chinese friends and students both in the UK and in Beijing.

"I often go to Chinatown to see the festivities, the fantastic decorations, and to eat some incredible food. For me, the most wonderful thing about Chinese New Year is the strong emphasis on families coming together to share this happy time."

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