The Columns

W&L Celebrates Chinese Year of the Dragon

— by on February 3rd, 2012

Washington and Lee University welcomed the Year of the Dragon with songs, dances, presentations, and Chinese food and drink during a celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year on Thursday, Feb. 2, in Elrod Commons.

“This was definitely a singing year,” said sophomore Victoria Van Natten, who was among a group of students who performed a song in Chinese called (in translation) “Sorry, My Chinese Is Not Good,” which celebrates the mistakes the British pop trio Transition made when learning to speak Chinese. Another group of students performed a Backstreet Boys song in Chinese.

The celebration was sponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, the Pan Asian Association for Cultural Exchange (PAACE) and the Students Association for International Learning (SAIL).

Hongchu Fu, professor of East Asian languages and literature and department chair at W&L, explained that the Chinese Lunar New Year, which arrives on a different day each year, fell on Jan. 23 this year. This is the Year of the Dragon, which comes only once every 12 years, since there are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. “The Chinese Lunar New Year is always the most important event in Chinese culture, similar perhaps to a combination of Thanksgiving and New Year in America,” said Fu.

“Although the dragon is a fictitious animal, it has always been regarded as a propitious one,” he added. “Since early Chinese history, it has been regarded as a symbol for Chinese culture. Chinese emperors always liked to associate themselves with the dragon; their robes were called dragon robes and were decorated with dragons, their throne was the Dragon Throne, and even their faces were called Dragon Faces. That is why a lot of people rush to get pregnant so they can have what we call a dragon baby. But I heard of some people who gave birth just one day before the New Year, and they were very upset.”