This year for Lunar New Year I wanted to offer you not only some music, but also firsthand stories.
If you are looking for some more music, please see these previous posts - there are MANY!
My daughter's story began as an infant in China. We adopted her 12 years ago and about 6 years ago she joined a wonderful group of girls in a Chinese dance troupe called Little Lotus. The director's name is Xiao Song and she is the sweetest and most loving teacher. She is also an incredible dancer who loves Chinese dance and uses this medium to instill in the girls a love and respect for Chinese culture. I recently sat down for a phone interview to find out a little more about growing up in China and Chinese New Year. Enjoy the conversation.
Aimee: Tell me about growing up in China.
Xiao Song: I grew up in Shanghai and was the youngest of three girls.
When the Cultural Revolution began in 1966 our parents, both doctors, became very busy.
There was a shortage of Doctors because of the Revolution and so they worked day and
night and were rarely home. It was best for us to not be with them so they took us to a safer
place for children during the week and would pick us up on Saturday morning and we would
go back there Monday. Life changed dramatically due to this although it was a short period
of time. I remember being so excited to see my parents. All the children at the daycare
had this same situation because of the Cultural Revolution.
A: How did the Cultural Revolution change things in China and how did it change music?
XS: We don’t talk about that period of time because it is too painful. My mother liked to sing
and she would sing old, beautiful songs – no one sings them anymore. After the Cultural
Revolution 1970’s modern Chinese opera and ballet came along and everyone loved to sing
and hear them. We would go to the movies to watch these – family outing – neighbors,
sometimes Indian, Russian (Soviet Union), WW1 or WW2 themed movies, Swan Lake
was my favorite! Many of the Russian movies had traditional music and lots of dancing
in the movies.
A: Did you have music in school?
XS: Once a week we had music and as an older student schools offered choir but no band
or orchestra. No traditional instruments like pipa, guzheng, or erhu; (editor's note - probably
due to the erasure of these instruments due to the Cultural Revolution).
As the Soviet Union supported China there were many Soviet influences including musical
instruments; we were taught accordion.
Dance was offered after school in small groups and we were taught folk dances and current
modern dances. The Shanghai Ballet Company would come to scout for dancers in our classes.
I was chosen for Ballet School but eventually was not chosen for the program as I did not
have their strict body proportion requirements. I am so lucky I didn’t get into ballet eventually
– now I dance Chinese modern and Chinese folk and love it.
A: What was your favorite food growing up?
XS: Junk food – street food on street corners – you tiao fried dough which was twisted.
My mother’s dumplings with pork and cabbage.
A: Chinese New Year- tell me about how your family celebrated.
XS: We stayed up late, watched TV and the entertainment on New Year's Eve. Every family
would do spring cleaning the week before to welcome in the new year to make the spring
goddess happy. We would make dumplings; my father would make the dough, mother
would make the filling and my sisters would make the dumplings. My job was to transfer
the dumplings to the plate to cook. Everyone had their roles.New Years Eve is the FEAST
– we would have a lot of food. Spring rolls with shrimp. My mother would cook for hours.
This year is the year of the ox. One of my sweet friends, Kathy, is an American who
has lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years. She shared this speech piece that could be
used as call/response, drumming, etc. and is perfect to use with younger students.