Chinese celebrate cultural month

Maryann Kopp

The Bakersfield Chinese Woman’s Club and the Chinese American Association of Kern County completed their Chinese Cultural Month at the Beale Memorial Library, Oct. 25, with a Chinese Cultural Show.
The show, held in the library’s packed auditorium, started off with a Lion Dance demonstration by the Golden Lion Studio. Four “dragons,” varying in size and all but one supported by two different people, danced in front of the stage and around the auditorium. One adult and three children played drums, gongs and cymbals onstage while the performance took place.
A traditional Chinese dance was performed by Olivia Feng, a young girl who did a Uygur Dance of Xingjiang Province. Feng’s performance spanned one song, and her costume reflected the character she was playing, named “Alamuhan,” who “loves to sing and dance,” and “is a beautiful and talented girl.”
Two other young performers, Hannah and Meghan Tran, played three songs on ancient Chinese zithers. Having only played for a year, the two moved in synch with one another, as both instruments complemented each other.
Zithers are stringed instruments, resembling very large harpsichords in the way that they lie flat, but differ by being much larger in size and requiring both hands to pluck. It was first recorded in 220 B.C.
The final part of the show was a Chinese women’s fashion show that spanned about 5,000 years, distinguishable by dynasty.
Twenty-four models displayed outfits that were typical of the Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties, as well as modern Qipao and fashion from the Republic of China.
Cathie Godges coordinated the event and said that the fashion show was the fourth the association did this year. The first three were performed at clubs and private affairs. After The Bakersfield Californian covered one of the events, there was a response from the public, wondering whether they would be able to perform for the public. That is what brought about Chinese Cultural Month at the Beale.
The costumes worn in the fashion show were a combination of heirlooms, and some were sewn specifically for the event. Others were ordered from China.”If we didn’t have it, we made it,” Godges said.
Godges, in addition to putting the entire program for the month together, also hosted the show and did running commentary throughout. Between explanations of dynasties and clothing, she also included explanations of scientific and other accomplishments of the Chinese during the many time periods.
“This was educational for the women involved,” she said. “It helped American-born Chinese women to learn more about their culture.”
Two Tang Dynasty models, Kristi Townsend and Beckee Barnes, have been best friends since the age of five and have both been part of the Bakersfield Chinese Woman’s Club for three years. Townsend’s mother was part of the club, as was Barnes’ grandmother.
“Cathie needed models, so we decided to volunteer,” Townsend said.
Townsend also said that most of the outfits were “one size fits all,” but efforts were made to match the model with the costume. She had some of her great-grandfather’s clothes to contribute to the event and said that all of the headpieces were handmade.
The two had “a lot of fun” participating in the event and, as Barnes said, being in the club has brought them closer together.Townsend and Barnes said that the main function of the club is to raise scholarships for high school Chinese students.
Whether this event will become an annual event depends on the response they receive from the public, Godges said. However, it will be a bi-annual event as, according to Godges, it’s “too much work to do every year.”