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Chinese performers add color to Spring Festival in New Zealand

Updated: 2013-02-22 10:21
By Lin Shujuan in Auckland, New Zealand ( China Daily)

It is nearly 11 pm, yet 3-year-old Xinxin is still bouncing around the cashier counter in her parents' restaurant in Auckland city.

Clad in a sleeveless white polka-dotted red dress with her hair in braids, she looks like she is in the mood to party.

She is waiting for her new idols - several Chinese performing artists featured on the poster displayed on the glass wall of the restaurant over the past two months - to come.

Chinese performers add color to Spring Festival in New Zealand

The artists, including household-name singers Dong Wenhua, Yan Weiwen and Cai Guoqing, as well as Peking Opera masters Yu Kuizhi and Li Shengsu, are in the city for a two-night performance on Feb 20 and 21.

The performances, titled Cultures of China, Festival of Spring, are part of a global performance tour organized by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of China's State Council to entertain overseas Chinese during the Lunar New Year season.

Auckland, home to about 150,000 Chinese, has been included in the annual global performance tour since the event's launch in 2009.

"She has been hearing us - including our customers, mostly Chinese - talk about the performance," says Lin Lin, Xinxin's mother who was born and raised in Heilongjiang's provincial capital Harbin.

Lin and her husband moved to New Zealand in 2008. They operate a self-service hotpot restaurant, where the performing artists have their late-night meal after Wednesday night's sold-out performance at the city's 1,200-seat Bruce Mason Center.

The artists featured in the poster are big stars from the early 1990s. Lin says recently, the artists' names have been mentioned frequently in the restaurant's conversations, arousing her daughter's curiosity.

"That's probably how she got interested. She's been asking who's who," explains the mother, who belongs to the so-called new generation of Chinese immigrants in New Zealand.

Chinese immigration to New Zealand started in 1866 with mostly Cantonese-speaking gold miners and businessmen, followed by the new Mandarin-speaking immigrants from northern parts of China, according to Arthur Loo, chairman of Auckland Chinese Community Center. The 75-year-old center is the city's oldest establishment of its kind with a 4,000 to 5,000 family membership.

Loo says over the past five years, the annual gala performance from China has received increasing recognition and popularity among overseas Chinese, both from the early and the new generations.

For Lily Wei, a housewife from Henan's provincial capital Zhengzhou, who followed her husband to New Zealand in 2004, the performance has added a festive feel to the Chinese New Year.

The Spring Festival is rarely celebrated except by the Chinese community, which remains a minority in New Zealand, she says.

With her parents-in-law visiting during the Lunar New Year, Wei says she was initially worried that they might get bored as the festive atmosphere in Auckland was not as strong as China.

But she says she felt relieved to see the excitement on the face of her 80-year-old mother-in-law during the performance.

"She said it was like attending the live performance of CCTV's Spring Festival Gala," Wei says.

Chinese performers add color to Spring Festival in New Zealand

Lantern Festival losing its luster

Chinese performers add color to Spring Festival in New Zealand


A glimpse of Auckland

For Chairman of Auckland Chinese Community Center Arthur Loo and many like him who were born and bred in New Zealand, the performance adds more than festive spirit to the Lunar New Year.

It offers a chance for them to "stay in touch with their own culture roots", he opines.

He Yafei, deputy director of Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council, says: "It is our hope to extend New Year blessings to Chinese communities in Auckland through songs and dance performances from our homeland. We're glad that we did."

Even little Xinxin is resolved to stay up late so that she can join in the fun.

It is almost midnight before her idols finally make their way out of the theater, pushing and shoving past zealous audience members who are reluctant to leave after the show.

But Xinxin misses her No 1 idol Dong Wenhua, who skipped the late-night supper to rest.

But she recognizes the other artists like Yu Kuizhi and Cai Guoqing, whom she happily requests to have photographs taken with.

She had promised her parents that she would go to bed after she got her photographs taken.

"But, I think it will take a while before she eventually falls asleep," the mother says. "We are as excited as her."


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