With hearts stricken by the devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province in the immediate days preceding this event, the Chinese community also made use of this occasion to illuminate the geography of that region. CHF provided a handout that listed charitable organizations that have set up special relief funds for this tragedy. Heading the list was the CAAM China Earthquake School Reconstruction Fund at The Minneapolis Foundation.*
Responding to enticing advance notices designed by volunteer graphic designer Will Ahern, families arrived at Southdale early and found the Center Court transformed into a section of the Great Wall in China, complete with a tower and colorful flags. Designed and executed by a team of enthusiastic volunteers headed by Hong Lin, Joy Shi and Charles Lee, this scenery provided a wonderful backdrop for the bustle of activities that began as soon as the event opened.
Heralded by an eruption of mock firecrackers (popping balloons) and a dragon dance that circled the mall on two floors, the event took off in a whirlwind of activities. Eye-catching activities such as paper folding, making red lanterns, opera masks and harmonicas, or using chopsticks soon had many children thoroughly engrossed. Games in Chinese trivia, puzzles or riddles, moved the energy level into high gear. The "passports" of these children were soon filled with stamps that were given at the completion of each activity. After securing a requisite age-appropriate number of stamps, these children rushed to the CHF table to claim their individual prize: a hong bao containing an "ancient" Chinese coin on a string necklace. Soon there were scores of these necklaces sparkling everywhere.
For the adult attendees there were CIAC Travel to answer questions regarding travel to China, and TeaSource to provide samples of premiere teas. Name translation and advice of fortune dispensed by Carnac the Wise added a dollop of humor to the festive occasion.
And no Chinese event would be complete without the showcasing of regional cuisine: Black Bamboo Restaurant and Tea House Restaurant were there to satisfy every palette with their authentic specialties.
Throughout the day there were continuous cultural performances under the tower of the Great Wall: singing, storytelling, dances, and fashion shows kept a diverse audience enchanted. Away from the tower and playing on the ancient Chinese musical instrument, guzheng, were Lisa Veronneau and Jarrelle Barton, two engaging performers who attracted a steady stream of listeners with their artistry and easygoing banter.
Permanently etched in the mind of the visitor is the scene of the dragon, danced by a group of students from Breck School, being chased by a stream of excited and giggling children.
These performances, together with the numerous interactive games and authentic cuisines, succeeded in transporting visitors on A Passage to China within the familiar surroundings of a shopping mall. Promoting cross-cultural understanding and harmony is a primary focus of both the Chinese Heritage Foundation and China Insight. With the overwhelming support of so many volunteers and organizations, a significant step in that direction has been taken.
A complete list of participating organizations, volunteers and performance schedule can be viewed at the CHF Web site: www.chineseheritagefoundation.org.
*Chinese Heritage Foundation is a fund of the Minneapolis Foundation