Feature: Chinese in Canberra witness changes of Spring Festival over decades' development

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-07 14:40:34|Editor: zh
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Overseas Chinese from the Federation of Chinese Community of Canberra Inc. rehearse waist drum dance for the upcoming National Multicultural Festival at the St. Vincent Primary School in Canberra, capital of Australia, Feb. 3, 2019. (Xinhua/Pan Xiangyue)

By Bai Xu, Yue Dongxing

CANBERRA, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- While people in China watched televised performances during the Spring Festival, thousands of kilometers away in the Australian capital city Canberra, Ouyang Lijun and her Chinese friends were busy rehearsing drum dance.

"We will perform for the Happy Chinese New Year events at the 23rd National Multicultural Festival this year between the 15th and 17th of this month," Ouyang, chair of the Federation of Chinese Community of Canberra Inc, said.

"We have lived here for decades, but whenever holidays come, we miss our hometown," Ouyang said.

"Our roots are always in China," the woman who was in her 50s said.

The National Multicultural Festival, usually in February, is close to the traditional Chinese New Year. Thus it provides a stage for Chinese people in Canberra to showcase their traditional culture. However, more than 20 years ago, there were no Chinese performers at the festival.

Ouyang arrived in Canberra in January, 1986, when there were only more than a score of Chinese students in the city.

"We celebrated our first Spring Festival here in the Chinese Embassy," she said.

Her experience was shared by Chen Jiayi, a kindergarten teacher who came to Canberra 19 years ago.

"I was a student then," Chen said.

"We watched the televised Spring Festival Gala in the Chinese Embassy, where we also made dumplings together with other Chinese in Canberra," she said.

Some Chinese people were not able to go to the embassy on the eve of Chinese New Year, so the embassy recorded the program with video tapes, which later circulated among Chinese people.

Over the years, both Chen and Ouyang felt the great change as a result of China's development.

"Now Canberra is home to thousands of Chinese people. When we just arrived, it was difficult to buy Chinese food. Now there are Chinese restaurants and supermarkets everywhere," Ouyang said.

Along with Chinese products came Chinese culture.

Ouyang remembered well the absence of Chinese people at the National Multicultural Festival when she first arrived in Canberra.

"I thought to myself that maybe we could do some performances," she said. She then founded the New Star Dance Group.

"The first dance I taught the children was the chopsticks dance, because chopsticks are an icon of Chinese culture," she said.

Chinese culture was welcomed by local people. This year the festival will see Chinese drum dance, square dance and chorus.

"Sometimes when we were practicing, some local people would join us. Some local officials in the government of Australian Capital Territory even invited us to their events," Ouyang said.

According to Ouyang, the social status of Chinese in Australia also improved. "Now there are Chinese researchers and some worked in local governments," she said.

She said that such changes would be unimaginable without the development of China. "Now that China is world's second largest economy, people like us living abroad really feel proud. Our country is our strong support," she said.

Most overseas Chinese attached great importance to the Chinese cultural education of their children. "A lot of people like me sent our children to learn Chinese.We also have them participate in root-seeking events to go back to China and visit their hometown," Ouyang said.

As a result, Spring Festival is an important occasion for them to tell their children traditional culture. "We gave the younger ones red envelopes, just as what we did while in China," she said.

"We also cook traditional dishes of our hometown. It has been so many years. But whenever we do that, we feel our bond with the motherland strongly," she added.

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