Sunday, January 29, 2012


Outside the gallery

Friday night Mom went to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to help them celebrate the Chinese New Year.  A whole lot of other people also went there to help with the celebration, so Mom had to park a few blocks away because the garage was totally full.  Every year, the art gallery has a great big party for the Chinese New Year, and they do this because the gallery has one of the best collections of Asian art in the whole country, especially Chinese art.  Mom went one other time to the gallery for the Chinese New Year, but that was several years ago.

Waiting for the dancing to start

Anyway, I am going to show you some pictures that Mom took and tell you about the stuff that was going on.  I couldn't go along with Mom to the art gallery because they don't allow dogs there, except for service dogs.  But I don't think I would have liked it very much because big crowds of people make me nervous.  Also there were loud drums and cymbals and other scary things like that.  So I was glad to stay home and let Mom tell me all about it afterwards.  I just wish she had brought me a pork dumpling instead of eating them all herself.

The dragon procession

Okay, so one of the things that happens at Chinese festivals is a Dragon Procession or maybe a Dragon Dance.  They only had a procession at the gallery, and their dragon wasn't all that big.  Mom saw much bigger dragons when she was in China, but I guess you can't expect too much here in Missouri.

What happens in the Dragon Dance is that a bunch of people carry a dragon on poles, and they can make it do all sorts of interesting things, such as having the body go up and down in waves, so it looks like the dragon is swimming.  And then they can also make the dragon swirl around in spirals and do fancy things like that.  In China there are Dragon Dance contests, but I don't think there are any contests like that in Kansas City.

Lion Dance

The Dragon Dance got started back in the Han Dynasty, which was a really long time ago, and it might have begun as part of a harvest festival.  And it may have also been used to heal people or keep them from getting sick.

Another thing Mom saw was the Lion Dance, which she said was very cool.  There were two lions, and each lion was made of two people.  The person in front held up the head of the lion and made its mouth open and close.  Also the lions had big eyes with long eyelashes, and they could blink their eyes, so it looked like they were flirting with you.  The person in the back part of the lion had to be really strong because sometimes he held up the front person on his thighs and made the lion look like it was rearing up on its hind legs and was very tall.

The lions danced to the beat of a drum and the clash of cymbals being hit together.  Sometimes the lions rolled over on the floor, which meant that both ends of the lion had to roll over at the same time.  Mom thought this would be hard to learn to do.  And also it would be hard for the front person to roll over while holding that great big lion head.

A child petting the lion's head

There were some people at the gallery playing traditional Chinese musical instruments.  One of these is called a gu-zheng, or sometimes just a zheng.  It can have between 13 and 21 strings, and each string has a  bridge of its very own.  In the old days, the strings were made of silk, but nowadays, they are mostly metal. You play the strings by plucking them with fake fingernails that you put on your fingers.

Woman playing the gu-zheng

The er-hu is sort of like a violin, except it only has two strings.  Also you don't stick it under your chin when you play it.  The bottom part that is down in your lap is like a little drum made of wood.  That's where the er-hu makes its sound.  The strings are usually tuned to D and A.  Then the player makes different pitches by touching the strings with his left hand while bowing them with his right hand.  Modern er-hu strings are metal, but they used to be made of silk or nylon.

Three men playing er-hu

This instrument is called a pipa, and it is sort of like a lute with 4 strings and 30 frets.  You hold it in a vertical way to play it.  Pipas go back at least 2000 years.  Over time, they were developed so that they can now play full scales instead of pentatonic ones.  I don't know what that means, but Mom said that people who know something about music will understand.

Pipa player

Okay, well, these are just a few of the many things Mom saw at the Chinese New Year celebration.  She also looked at a bunch of artwork in the new Chinese galleries that just got opened up.  So later on I will try to show you some of the pictures she took.  There were lots and lots of dragons, but also some camels, oxen, sheep, and even some dogs!

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