China / Life

New Zealand gets new taste of Chinese culture with tai chi, more

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-04-05 06:43

WELLINGTON - Han Xuanting spins in a skirt typical of the style of China's Uygur ethnic group, with a dozen New Zealand girls in school dresses imitating her steps around her.

The midday dance class is given in Samuel Marsden Collegiate School on the outskirts of Wellington, capital of New Zealand.

For Han, a Chinese dance teacher, this has been her routine.

"Children learn very quickly, and they can easily master the skill of moving their necks while dancing," says Han, referring to a key feature of the Uygur dance from western China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

For Zhang Jianyong, it is busy time every Wednesday evening.

As a tai chi teacher in Wellington, Zhang teaches his students the moves of this traditional Chinese exercise once a week.

"Many Kiwis chose to take tai chi as their daily sport after learning that it benefits their health," Zhang says, adding that this exercise has become a good way of spreading Chinese culture.

Both Han's and Zhang's classes are part of the programs run by the New Zealand Chinese Cultural Center, which has been working to introduce Chinese cultural elements to the local public.

Recently, the center signed a memorandum with Wellington's Whitireia New Zealand to open an optional course of Chinese dance in the government-funded tertiary institute of technology.

The college is also Han's alma mater, where she once performed a traditional Chinese dance for teachers and students before her graduation.

Enthusiasm for Chinese dance has been rising in New Zealand, and Chinese dance is going to be taught along with Western modern dance in this college for the first time.

Guo Zongguang, who is the director of the Chinese cultural center, says that since the center was established more than a year ago, various cooperation forms have been explored, including jointly hosting cultural events and supporting local cultural organizations and Chinese cultural groups.

These events have enriched the cultural lives of New Zealanders and contributed to the local multicultural atmosphere, Guo says.

At the opening ceremony of the Chinese Cultural Week 2016, more than 100 local performers, including Wellington's then mayor, staged a grand show of tai chi in the municipal square in the capital.

During the multicultural festival in the New Zealand's national museum, a performance staged by the Chinese Cultural Center was joined by shows of more than 10 ethnic groups in New Zealand, reflecting the multicultural nature of the country.

At the 2017 Wellington Capital Cup, a friendly soccer match between teams from Wellington and Beijing, cultural performances staged by the Chinese Cultural Center were brought to the soccer field.

According to Guo, intangible cultural heritage was also brought from China as part of the celebration of China's Spring Festival in New Zealand, which was also applauded by New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English.

"Such interactions and exchanges have become a window for promoting Chinese culture," Guo says.

Last year marked the 400th anniversary of the birth of both William Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu, a Chinese playwright of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) known as the Chinese Shakespeare.

In a global event to commemorate the theater masters, Megan Evans, a lecturer from the Victoria University of Wellington, said that Shakespeare's well-known line in Hamlet - "to be, or not to be" - was reflected in Tang's Peony Pavilion, a play featuring the pursuit of love.

"Such exchanges of viewpoints are of great significance to cross-cultural communication," Guo says.

Various Chinese cultural events have been introduced to New Zealand to promote Chinese culture and strengthen the bilateral friendship, Guo adds.

Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Lutong says both the governments and the public have been very active in cultural exchanges.

Zhang Jianyong has been keen to go beyond his tai chi classes. He says that he would promote traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese tea art in New Zealand, so as to enable the people of the Oceanian country to know more about the Chinese culture.



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