2024 UK Chinese Student Spring Festival Gala Celebrated in London
On February 7, the UK's Chinese Students and Scholars Association organised the “2024 UK Chinese Student Spring Festival Gala” in the heart of London. The gala aimed to display China's rich traditional culture, advance cultural dialogue between China and the UK and deepen mutual comprehension and camaraderie between the two nations. This notable occasion allowed Chinese communities living in the UK to engage with their cultural roots and anticipate the new era.
The Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, Oxford Brookes University President Alistair Fitt, and Zhang Ruihua, the Chairman of the UK's Chinese Students and Scholars Association, were among the distinguished speakers at the gala. The event drew close to a thousand participants, including delegates from more than 30 UK universities, representatives from several Chinese-funded organisations, members of overseas Chinese communities, and friends from all sectors, who convened to welcome the Year of the Dragon.
The theme for this year's Spring Festival Gala, "Soaring Dragon's Spring Melody," was segmented into three chapters: "Dragon Dancing, Prelude Anew," "Dragon Leaping, Blossoms Agog," and "Dragon Soaring, Future Ablaze." The event was a vibrant display of China's diverse cultural heritage, featuring an array of performances such as vocal renditions, traditional Chinese opera, martial arts, a cappella, and dances from Yunnan's ethnic communities. The gala was organised with the dedicated involvement of the Education Section of the Chinese Embassy in the UK and received robust support from Chinese Student Associations nationwide.
Ambassador Zheng Zeguang celebrated China's recent progress and emphasised the nation's commitment to continued high-quality development and modernisation in the face of an intricate global arena. He championed the move towards a balanced global multipolarity and an all-encompassing economic globalisation, aiming to forge a common human future.
He reminisced about his time as a student in the UK, contrasting the modest number of 200 Chinese students then, with the 200,000 present today. Zheng took pride in the current generation of Chinese students for their hard work and discipline, urging them to uphold the honourable tradition of overseas study and service to their homeland. He extended his best wishes for their scholarly achievements, familial joy, and China's ongoing prosperity and harmony.
Oxford Brookes University's President, Alistair Fitt, highlighted the Spring Festival as the first major event noted in his annual diary, urging those who haven't experienced it yet that they're in for a “real treat.” He praised the achievements of the Confucius Institute at Oxford Brookes University which is set to be a highlight of Oxford's New Year festivities.
He noted the significance of 2024 being the Year of the Dragon, a symbol of good luck, strength, power, and wisdom in the Chinese zodiac. Fitt expressed his admiration for China's scenery, food, culture, and history during his visit last September and acknowledged the sincere desire to strengthen Sino-British ties, believing that the wisdom of both nations would overcome any future challenges.
Chairman Zhang Ruihua summarised the association's yearly progress, marking China's 75th anniversary and honouring Huang Kuan, the pioneer of Chinese students in the UK from 175 years ago. She emphasised the enduring spirit of studying abroad to serve the country. Looking ahead, the association pledges to support Chinese students in the UK and to foster cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges with Britain.
The gala commenced with Aveta and Aria Shakespeare's rendition of "My Motherland and Me," which deeply resonated with the audience. Zhang Qingwan from the University of York was deeply moved by the song feeling an inseparable bond with her country as stated in the lyrics. She felt that, despite being far from home on a British stage during the Chinese Spring Festival Gala, the warmth of her homeland never seemed distant. Spectators were treated to a rich variety of performances that blended traditional and modern artistry, including choral ensembles from both China and the UK, fast-paced storytelling acts, and enchanting dragon dance spectacles.
Xu Cheng from the University of Leeds shared that the most memorable performance of the evening was the a cappella choir from the University of Oxford. She was pleasantly surprised to see a British choir perform on the stage of the Chinese Spring Festival Gala, interpreting this as a sign that China’s notable traditional culture is gaining global recognition while the world embraces China with open arms.
A capella group “Out of the Blue” stunned the audience and received high praises for their “Frozen” and “Here Comes the Sun” medley. They are the top a capella group in the UK by several championships, with over 17 million views on YouTube, touring the world performing on the West End and Broadway as well as reaching the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent.
Angus from the singing group expressed his awe for the event and Chinese New Year stating: “It’s been an absolutely incredible event, we’ve had an amazing time doing the rehearsals earlier and getting to see all the other acts and how it works, it was really cool and such a different experience for me.” He further explained that Out of the Blue supports the ‘Helen & Douglas House’ children’s hospice charity, having already donated more than £160,000 in the 19 years that they have been supporting them, saying that “that’s why we all do this.”
Another highlight was the Chinese performance of face-changing from Sichuan Opera, performed by Zhang Zhijie and Liu Yanning from the University of Bristol, who astonished the audience with their precise and rapid transformations. They shared their journey of mastering this intricate art form, from its fundamental skills to the grand stage. The performers expressed their hope of promoting this traditional Chinese art internationally.
The gala's PR manager, Liang Yuchen, noted how the celebration of the Chinese New Year is becoming more beloved by Britons, as seen in the many local businesses displaying Spring Festival couplets and the streets of London adorned with lanterns, bringing the festive atmosphere to the UK.
The evening resounded with the artful rhythms of Peking Opera, telling tales of China's legendary past; the Guqin’s melodies, a gentle breeze over the rich tapestry of China; and graceful dances, symbolising the united efforts of the nation. A call to the motherland stirred pride and honour deep within, a mention of Chinese youth sparked dreams of ambition, and a poem of contemplation transformed the stars into a nostalgic yearning for home among overseas Chinese. The UK Chinese Student Spring Festival Gala was a cultural feast that melded the hearts of China and the UK on stage, building a sturdy bridge of friendship across thousands of miles.
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