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Chinese Clubs Share Culture at New Year's Celebrations

Two county groups will start the festivities early with art and music events this weekend in Oxnard and Thousand Oaks.


For 26 years, since the day it was organized, the Ventura County Chinese American Club has worked to share Chinese culture with the general public. Generally, the annual Chinese New Year celebrations provide the best opportunities to do just that.

Though Chinese New Year isn't until Feb. 19, the club will celebrate the occasion this Saturday at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard. The festival will also serve as a reception for the museum's "Chinese Brush Painting and Antiquities" show, on display through Feb. 25.

The Chinese American club is not alone in its early welcome to the new year, the Year of the Rat. The Conejo Valley Chinese Cultural Assn. and its Thousand Oaks Chinese School will hold a celebration of their own, Saturday evening, at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

"Chinese New Year is like Christmas to the Chinese people," said Hillary Ling, a past president of the Chinese American club, and chairwoman of the club's art exhibit committee. "We want to use the opportunity to open our doors for the local community to see how we do things, so we can work together instead of being so different. So we can celebrate the new year together."


Festivities at the Carnegie Art Museum will open with a performance of the traditional lion dance. "We'll also have a classical dance troupe," said Ling, "and we'll be doing traditional folk dances--ancient palace dances--that were done for the emperor as far back as 200 BC."

Following the dance performances and martial arts demonstrations, several artists whose works are on display in the museum exhibit will demonstrate their brush painting techniques. The exhibit, which opened Jan. 18, features the work of about 16 artists from throughout the county. Chinese jade, ceramic and bronze antiquity pieces are also on display.

For the Conejo Valley Chinese Cultural Assn., the annual New Year celebration should be particularly special this year, because it will also mark the 20th anniversary of both the association and the school it sponsors.

Special recognition will be given during the ceremony to the school's founder, Pearl Wong, the six principals who have served at the school over the years and to the past presidents of the cultural association.

The Chinese school, which meets weekly, exposes children from preschool to high school age to Chinese culture, language, arts and martial arts. Saturday's performance will feature traditional Chinese music and dance, as performed by more than half of the 260 students enrolled in the school.

"We will have a big jazz dance production with 40 of the kids to represent all three eras of the school," said Debby Chang, the school's activities director. "We will represent the 1970s, when the Chinese school got started in a living room; the '80s, when we were located at the adult school in Thousand Oaks; and the '90s, where we are now, at the Redwood Intermediate School."

Students will act out the story of the 12 animals of the zodiac, each of which is assigned a year in the 12-year Chinese cycle and has particular personal characteristics. The rat represents ambition, honesty, popularity and artistic ability.

"Through the performance, the students can actually practice the language they are learning and they will know better what Chinese New Year is about," said Sara Hser, spokeswoman for the Thousand Oaks Chinese School. "To the youngsters the new year is very important."

The evening will also have its share of virtuoso musical performances. Thousand Oaks High School students Joanne Hsieh and Eric Cheung will perform a piano duet, and violinist Clifford Wang will solo on the violin. Karen Han of China will play the Chinese stringed instrument known as the Er-hu.


* OXNARD: Chinese New Year celebration and reception for the "Chinese Brush Painting and Antiquities" show, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Carnegie Art Museum, 424 South C St., Oxnard, $3 general admission. Call 385-8157.

* THOUSAND OAKS: Chinese New Year celebration and 20th anniversary party for the Conejo Valley Chinese Cultural Assn. and the Thousand Oaks Chinese School, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., $10, tickets limited. Call 991-4209 or 373-8327.

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