By Greg Hugh
As in years past, the seventh annual Passage to China organized by the Chinese Heritage Foundation Friends (CHFF) and China Insight newspaper drew huge crowds at Mall of America . . .
over the April 5-6 weekend. In addition to the Rotunda and Sears Court, the event was expanded into the Southeast Court this year.
Visitors to Mall of America on April 5-6 immediately noticed something special was taking place as they approached the Rotunda, which was festively decorated with large red lanterns and bamboo floral panels suspended from the soaring ceiling. Framing the entrance to the Rotunda, guests passed through twin gates that were inscribed with the terms “mutual understanding” and “mutual courtesy” written in Chinese and English, setting the tone of the event’s mission: to promote mutual understanding and mutual courtesy between the Chinese community and the greater Twin Cities community.
More than 45 participating organizations held interactive activities to promote Chinese culture. Children earned a prize by having their (activity) passports stamped for completing the number of age-appropriate activities. At the Rotunda, younger children made paper dragons, lanterns, porcelain necklaces, water paintings and paper cuts. Older children took on the challenge to learn Chinese, spoken and written, or to learn how to use the abacus, or to master the seemingly inexhaustible variations of tangrams or Chinese chess. Since the Chinese invented printing, a new printing activity was added that allowed individuals to experience the printing process by inking a block and then printing it on paper. Depending on skill level, participants were able to produce a simple reproduction or more elaborate piece to take home. There also were cooking demonstrations as well as traditional food and tea for purchase.
Sears Court featured continuous entertainment throughout both days that included many types of performances by musical and dance groups, lion dances and martial arts. Many of the participating organizations were local schools that look forward to showcasing their students at this annual event. This year also included the Carleton College Singers and Carleton College Music Ensemble led by world-renowned Chinese pipa performer/instructor, Gao Hong.
The Southeast Court featured a special China 100 Exhibit by the University of Minnesota and a display of ethic Chinese clothing arranged by Yin Simpson, chair of the Passage Decorating Committee. An occasional mahjong game/lesson were also presented.
Aided by strong mainstream advance media and print coverage, attendees at this year’s event started lining up more than an hour before the Passage gates were opened. Performances in Sears Court literally filled the space to the rafters as audiences lined the upstairs balconies at least two deep. This was also the case in the Rotunda where the jumbotron was utilized to visually project videos of various activities along with slides about Chinese culture, history and geography.
According to the organizers, A Passage to China would not be possible without the support and cooperation of the entire Chinese community. “This is an event that brings the community together and put aside any differences they may have about their origins or other loyalties so all could celebrate their Chinese heritage together,” said Pearl Bergad, CHFF executive director.
It was further noted that Passage would not be possible without the support of Mall of America and the unbelievable support of the many volunteers from all of the organizations and those who assisted the organizers. These volunteers included students, senior citizens and people from many backgrounds and professions. To them, a hearty and sincere “Thanks!”
For additional photos and videos of A Passage to China, visit www. ChineseHeritageFoundation.org or www.chinainsight.info.
Editor’s Note: Unless otherwise noted, all photos provided by Jijun He.