By Shilyn Chang, Staff Writer
The Chinese Heritage Foundation (CHF) held its eighth annual open house last month.
Its abundant guest list and numerous honorees reflected just how much the foundation
and its members have flourished and contributed to the Chinese community in Minnesota
since its start in 2004. The gathering was a tribute to CHF’s dedication to encouraging the
growth of Chinese education and culture. Several speakers from institutions around the
metro area highlighted the contributions of the foundation, and how those contributions
had facilitated various Chinese events in the Twin Cities.
The Minnesota Chinese Dance Theatre celebrated its 20th anniversary this year with
the support of a grant from the CHF. It was able to invite four master artists of Chinese
dance who led workshops open to the public in the genres of classical, folk, modern and
fusion dance. For the anniversary concert in early June of this year, the four masters
choreographed special dances for the theater members and attendees of the workshops.
The performance also included the participation of two famous Chinese singers. Overall,
the concert was a great success with an impressive turnout and wonderful reviews.
The Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins received a grant from the CHF towards the
world premiere of an adaptation of “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” a Newbery
Honor book by author Grace Lin. The tale blends fantasy and Chinese folklore to
create a story that is reminiscent of the classic “The Wizard of Oz,” reflecting the blend
of Chinese and Western cultures. The performance featured the young and talented
performer Andrew Moy, who has participated in productions at the Guthrie Theater,
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, Mixed Blood Theatre and has even performed as a
magician in the popular “A Passage to China” cultural event. With the grant provided by
the foundation, the company was able to meet production expenses and reach out to the
community with this culturally enlightening and enchanting performance.
Chinese visual arts were also recognized with a grant award from CHF this year. From
Oct. 28, 2012, - Jan. 20, 2013, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will host the “China’s
Terracotta Warriors” exhibit of rare artifacts from the Xian excavation. The well-known
terra-cotta army of 7,000 statues sculpted to protect the first emperor of China in his tomb
in 221 BCE and were discovered in 1974. These warriors are some of the most important
and well-known artifacts of Chinese history. In addition to the warriors and objects found
in this famous tomb, the exhibit also will provide a broader historical context for China
during that time by exploring several other fascinating relics hand-selected by Chinese
curator Liu Yang.
Professor Ann Waltner of the History Department at the University of Minnesota
and Joan Brzezinski of the China Center both spoke on behalf of the educational
contributions of the foundation over the past eight years. In 2006, the CHF created a
graduate fellowship in the study of WWII in China, to encourage a deeper understanding
of Chinese history. The grant awarded to the China Center facilitated the appearance of
distinguished Law Professor Amy Chua of Yale University at the Annual Griffin Lecture
Series, where she spoke about her book in the lecture “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:
Increasing Mutual Understanding Between U.S. and China.”
CHF board member Margaret Wong introduced this year’s Chinese Minnesotan of Note:
Patricia Puffer. Puffer has been avidly involved in Chinese-U.S. relations since her
first visit to China in 1977 — an era when China was politically unstable, and relations
with the U.S. were still lukewarm. Since then, she has been an indispensable figure in
establishing harmonious relations between Chinese and American people—especially
with the younger generations of university students. In the 1970s Chinese scholars began
arriving at the University of Minnesota. The students’ numbers were few throughout
the ‘70s and ‘80s, and they had few opportunities and resources to help them become
involved in the University of Minnesota’s American community.
After she returned from China, Puffer and her husband noticed that the new wave of
visiting Chinese students was having difficulty becoming integrated into American
society. To remedy this, they offered ways to improve both the students’ understanding
of Western culture as well as opportunities to improve their English. They organized
tours for Chinese students to better comprehend various aspects of American culture.
These tours included visits to schools, museums, businesses, zoos and any other
American institutions that a student showed an individual interest in. Puffer also
organized more personal events such as dinners and home visits — encouraging
friendships between Chinese and American students.
All of these opportunities not only helped Chinese students understand U.S. culture; they
established an exchange of ideas and cultures with their American counterparts, who
learned about China in return. For her efforts, the CHF founder and President Ming L.
Tchou presented Puffer the Chinese Minnesotan of Note Award before the foundation
and Puffer’s children, several of whom are also involved in the Chinese community in
The foundation also presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Stephen Mao and Rev.
Stephen Tsui, both of whom are active members of CHF’s calligraphy team.
Stephen Mao has visited schools and events around the Twin Cities, sharing his talents
in both translation and calligraphy. He has given presentations on a variety of topics,
from the origins and development of Chinese calligraphy to surviving WWII in China.
CHF’s executive director and fellow Calligraphy Committee member Pearl Bergard
says of Mao’s contributions to the committee, “[H]e is often a one-man team, serving as
both translator and calligrapher at the same time. He never takes the easy way out of this
important task. Stephen always arises to the needs of the moment.”
Volunteer of the Year Rev. Stephen Tsui is accredited with giving the foundation its
Chinese name (chuan long ji jin 傳龍基金) as well as the Chinese name for the “A
Passage to China” event (man you zhong guo 漫游中国). Tsui described 漫游 as the
leisurely and meandering way a goldfish swims in a pond. He thought that Passage
visitors should be absorbing the sights and sounds of the event in much the same way—
at an individual, leisurely pace. He is also recognized as the mastermind behind CHF’s
series of activities entitled “The Art of Eating Well.” “Steve’s love of Chinese food is
legendary,” says Pearl Bergard. “Ever optimistic about the state of Chinese restaurants in
the Twin Cities, he is often the first to visit a new restaurant.”
The last speaker of the open house, China Insight publisher and chair of the CHF Board
of Directors, Greg Hugh, closed the event with a final reflection on the achievements of
the past eight years and plans for numerous future Chinese events. In late October, the
foundation welcomed author Cathy Bao Bean to talk about her book “The Chopsticks-
For Principle, A Memoir and Manual”. The novel is an insightful look into trying to live
with the differences of Chinese and Western culture, and Bao Bean discusses the issues
of a bicultural family. The foundation also encourages visiting the terra -cotta warriors at
the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and will be hosting tours to the exhibition. In addition,
because of the success of “A Passage to China” in spring, thanks to more than 12,000
visitors and 45-plus China-related organizations, a date has already been set for next
year’s Passage. Mark your calendars for the sixth annual event on the weekend of April