Chinese-American group celebrates Lunar New Year

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Chinese-American Association of North Hempstead President David Chiang (center) is flanked by the Manhasset High School Dance Club at a celebration of the Lunar New Year. (Photo by Rose Weldon)

The Chinese-American Association of North Hempstead celebrated the Lunar New Year with a visual and performing arts festival at Manhasset Secondary School on Monday.

The Lunar New Year, also called Chinese New Year, celebrates the beginning of the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar, and marked the beginning of the Year of the Metal Rat in the Chinese zodiac.

David Chiang, the association’s president, who was dressed in the traditional garments of the Chinese god of fortune, wished the audience good wealth and health in the new year.

“The Chinese-American Association of North Hempstead was started over 20 years ago by the parents in the Manhasset and Herricks school districts,” Chiang said. “We want to make sure that our children are welcomed in the community and that we can share our beautiful culture with the community.”

Chinese-born visual artist and Manhasset resident Cao Jun, who opened an installation of his paintings at the school’s art gallery that night, was also present at the event.

Cao’s work has been seen in the National Art Museum of China, New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings and on the unmanned Chang’e-5 spacecraft, sent to the moon by China’s National Space Administration.

“I cannot express how deeply honored we are not only to have Mr. Cao as a member of the community, but to host his work here,” Manhasset Fine Arts Director Christopher Hale said.

The artist was honored by school officials, faculty and collaborator Steven Rockefeller Jr. at the event.

“All of you are very, very fortunate to have Cao Jun’s show here,” Rockefeller said. “I’m sure when you walk into the gallery, you can see what an extraordinary experience you’ll have. I can attest, having traveled with Cao Jun for weeks and weeks in China, doing many shows together, what a special man he is, and the Manhasset community is very fortunate to have him here.”

Cao  thanked the school and the association in brief remarks.

“This occasion is among the most important to me,” Cao said. “[Manhasset] is my hometown.”

The Herricks High School Lion Dance team then performed a traditional lion dance onstage, followed by a ribbon dance performed by the Manhasset Secondary School Dance Club.

Audience members were then invited to take a hands-on approach to the Lunar New Year. Younger revelers built lanterns, fans and origami with members of the Manhasset Cultural Club, and parents and older students learned traditional Chinese calligraphy with teacher Xinde Sheng.

Cao also set up shop in the secondary school’s library, where he painted a full-size tiger through his signature mix of traditional Chinese calligraphy and modern Western techniques before an audience of silent onlookers.

Cao’s paintings will be on display in the Manhasset Secondary School Art Gallery until Feb. 8.

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