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Keeping Culture Vibrant

Keeping culture vibrant

By Kenneth Lim
and Rhonda J. Miller Staff Writers

February 8, 2002

If Johnny Chiang had his way, Chinese New Year celebrations in South Florida would be more like those he enjoyed growing up in Taiwan.

The celebrating would go on for up to 15 days, with special activities on many days that would be tied together by visits with relatives and friends.

Chiang of Hollywood is realistic and knows that Chinese people living in the United States can't take two weeks off for the New Year's celebration.

"Here we just do what's convenient and celebrate the New Year during a weekend," he said.

To give some defining recognition to the New Year, Chiang would like to see Chinese who live in the United States take the day of the New Year holiday off from work.

"If we don't keep the traditions, we will lose them in 50 years," said Chiang, who is president of the Coral Springs Chinese Culture Association.

Chiang estimates 20,000 to 30,000 Chinese live in South Florida. Like many of them, he feels an urgency to preserve the culture for future generations.

No other tradition is as important in this preservation effort as the New Year, which this year falls on Tuesday.

Groups in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have organized elaborate, colorful events to celebrate this New Year, which is the Year of the Horse.

Activities will include the lion dance, music, magic, karaoke and traditional foods. Because most Chinese must work or attend school on Tuesday, events have been set for the next three weekends.

The New Year's festivities are visible proof that during the entire year, individuals, families and community groups have been busy keeping Chinese traditions alive.

While some Chinese go to cultural centers to meet people with a common heritage, others get to know each other at work, then form cultural groups.

Yegang Wu, an environmental scientist working on Everglades restoration for the South Florida Water Management District, is president of the Chinese Association of Science, Economy & Culture of South Florida. The group will sponsor a New Year's celebration on Saturday at BeachPlace in Fort Lauderdale.

Wu, who lives in Wellington, occasionally gets together for lunch with some of the 20 other Chinese who work at his agency.

Wu has seen high-tech job opportunities draw a growing number of science and technology professionals to Florida.

The Chinese Association of Science, Economy & Culture, which was formed in 1994, has about 350 member families, said Ren Xu, vice president of the group.

Xu of Pembroke Pines is a senior scientist at the Miami offices of Beckman Coulter, a company that manufactures scientific instruments.

"The goal of the group is to promote Chinese culture and unite local Chinese-Americans," said Xu, who is active in keeping his culture alive as a member of the performing arts group Blossoms.

Blossoms will bring the Chinese arts to South Florida on Saturday, with a performance at the Palm Beach Zoo at noon.

New Year's festivals are a binding force for Chinese residents scattered throughout South Florida.



In Palm Beach County, Chinese tradition is growing ever stronger through the efforts of the Chinese Culture Association of South Florida, which has offices at Sandalfoot Square, west of Boca Raton.

The group, which conducts Chinese brush painting classes at its offices on Sundays, sponsors the Chinese School of Boca Raton, which has Saturday classes in Chinese language, culture and tai chi at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton.

The school has about 80 students, children and adults, Chinese and some non-Chinese.

"It's for the Chinese people living here, but it's also a public service for the community," said Jack Chien, president of the Chinese Culture Association.

The organization will celebrate the New Year on Saturday with the lion dance, a traditional Chinese dinner and a folk dance performance at Olympic Heights High School.

The celebration is a fund-raiser to help the group meet its goal of buying a building for a Chinese school and cultural center in south Palm Beach County in the next few months.

"We want to remind the second generation of their roots, that they are Chinese, no matter what," Chien said.



Rhonda J. Miller can be reached at rjmiller@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6605.



Editor's Note: Our Community's Many Faces periodically spotlights one of the dozens of nationalities conducting South Florida celebrations of cultural and historic milestones.



Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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