Year of the Dog

Wednesday marks the beginning of the year of the dog in the Chinese calendar, and there was no better way to celebrate it than with the Chinese Language Clubs’ Chinese New Year’s celebration. The day is celebrated not only by a large and sumptuous Chinese meal in commons which serves as the central aspect of this holiday, but also by a series of skits put together by the Chinese classes and even a raffle In previous years, the Chinese New Year celebration has been much the same, skits, food, etc. But with the arrival of Instuctor in Chinese Travis Conley, Kang Laoshi as he is known to his students, a raffle was introduced. The prizes were so numerous that every other person walked out with a Chinese knot, figurine, or wallhanging. Of course, the top prize, a glistening and expensive mahjongg, a traditional Chinese game, set did not go to everyone, and one lucky student walked out with a real treat to take home. When the renowned Instuctor in Chinese Yuan Han retired in the spring of last year to his native Shanghai, many felt that a major part of the celebration went with him. Dr. Han always arrived at the celebration in full Chinese traditional dress, a colorful zhongshanzhuang, or silken Chinese shirt, as the focal point of his outfit. Sometimes Dr. Han would even participate in his students’ skits, from a zookeeper trying to recapture an escaped chimp during the year of the Monkey to Little Bo-Peep trying to find her sheep in the year of the Ram. One other interesting aspect of the skits was the enhanced development of the plot the higher the level of the class. The levels of difficulty ranged from the Chinese 100 classes, which usually included hand motions in lieu of more complex words, to the 500 levels, which were very complex and contained more clever jokes. There are some exceptions, however. Last year the 220 class performed a production that will surely go down in Chinese New Year Celebration history. The students transmutated a familiar text passage into several forms: Kung Fu Movie, Beijing Opera, and the obligatory Soap Opera. The passage is as follows: Is this your car? This is not my car. This is my mother’s car. Is this her book? Yes, that is her book. Is your mother a doctor? Yes, she is a doctor. Such an elementary conversation retained several different forms as the Beijing Opera took it to melodramatic heights with high-pitched, sing-songy lines, and a whirling swordfight. The Kung Fu movie had the actors shouting the lines and engaging in intense hand-to-hand combat, only to be followed up by a breathy and exhausted, “Is your mother a doctor?” The Soap Opera followed the family through a heartbreaking tale, an offending car and book destroying the relationship between two young lovers. As with previous years’s shows, this year’s celebration proved to be no less humorous or exciting, and served as a pleasant diversion to an otherwise typical Wednesday evening. Like previous years, soap operas, gameshows and dance numbers were featured. Notable performances this year included a Mandarin version of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” as well as a few traditional songs sung by children of faculty learning Chinese.