The Hamilton Branch of the New Zealand China Friendship Society (NZCFS) has had a long history of participation in ‘things Chinese’ from the establishment of the Sister City relationship with Wuxi City in Jiangsu Province, China, in 1986 by previous Mayor of Hamilton, Sir Ross Jensen, to their role in the Chinese Garden Trust in 1988 which developed the Chinese Garden in Hamilton’s famous Gardens. The Chinese Scholar’s Garden was officially opened on 17th March 1991 with Wuxi Mayor, Wang Hong-min as special guest. Wuxi City has since made a number of very significant gifts to “Yichang-Yuan” (Garden of Rest in Flowing Happiness).
The NZCFS Hamilton Branch have played, and still play, a considerable role in keeping that relationship going. Once again this year, they helped organise, join, and support celebrations of traditional Chinese Festivals, further building and maintaining relationships with Chinese people and groups in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty Regions.
On Saturday 20th February, 2016, NZCFS Hamilton Branch held a Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival Concert at Founders Theatre, Hamilton, to celebrate the Year of the Fire Monkey. As part of celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Sister City Relationship, the Wuxi Foreign Affairs Office sent a nine member Performing Arts Group to perform at the concert – all other performers were from Hamilton.
A proposal requesting funding was sent to possible sponsors and donors, with the happy result that sufficient funds were donated to pay for the costs of the concert (principally hire of the theatre and associated charges). The concert was thus free to the public.
Official guests in attendance were Hamilton Mayor, Julie Hardaker and Deputy Mayor, Gordon Chesterman, Consul-General Madame Xu Erwen, Political Consul Zhan Yuhui and Culture Consul Heqing Zhang, Members of Parliament Dr Yang Jian, Tim McIndoe, David Bennett, Sue Moroney, and NZCFS Vice President George Andrews.
The concert opened with brief speeches by NZCFS Hamilton Branch President Miao Fan, Consul- General Madame Xu Erwen and Mayor Julie Hardaker, and a video of greeting from WANG Qian Mayor of Wuxi was played. Comperes for the evening was Tim McIndoe (M.P.) who spoke in English, and Christine Howard-Shi (Chinese language teacher) spoke in Chinese.
Special thanks go to the Foreign Affairs Office of Wuxi Municipal Government for providing The Performing Arts Group. The Wuxi Performing Group made an unforgettable contribution to the concert. NZCFS Hamilton Branch members were also astonished and delighted with the variety and talent of local performers – Hamilton Chinese Golden Age Society, Hamilton Dragon Dance Group, Jasmine Singers Choir, Hamilton Chinese School.
Other highlights of the concert was Xu Guoxing who painted a very large picture on stage of a vase of flowers whilst Sun Yi performed on his guqin. The painting was later presented to Mayor Julie Hardaker on stage.
Chen Xiyao ‘Yao’ played ‘Celebrating the Lantern Festival’, (composed by his grandfather Cao Dong Fu) on his guzheng and Joanna Li, from the Hamilton Chinese School, performed a Hula Hoop dance, which sounds unlikely, but it was, in fact, a remarkable act to watch.
Amber Zhang, in elaborate Sichuan-opera-style costume, fascinated the audience with mask/face changing, spinning and presenting in quick succession, another face to the audience so fast, they were unable to see how it was done.
A fashion show of Hamilton Chinese Golden Age Society ladies showed off a beautiful collection of Chinese sheath dresses, which were appreciated by the audience.
Without the assistance of Hamilton City Council, Waikato Weekly Chinese Newspaper, Chinese Students Association of Waikato Region, and Hamilton Chinese Students Association in organising and running this very successful event, it could not have taken place. We also gratefully acknowledge the generous support of all our sponsors and donors for their generous help.
WUXI PERFORMING GROUP
Mr XU Guoxing – Director, Culture and Sports Service Centre of Wangzhuang Community;
Ms SONG Yinghong – Music teacher, Taibo School, New District, Wuxi;
Mr YANG Qiang – Dean, Jiangnan Flute Research Institute;
Ms CHEN Shasha – Staff member, Erhu Culture Park, Meicun Community, New District, Wuxi;
Mr LU Cao – Chief, Youbei Art Training Centre;
Mr SUN Yi – Chief Guqin Studios, Jiangxi Community, New District, Wuxi.
Mr JIANG Yong – Staff member, General Office of Wuxi FAO;
Mr YANG Fan – Staff member Asia-Pacific & Oceanian Affairs Division of Wuxi FAO;
Mr SUN Jun – Section Chief, Culture and Sports section, Social Affairs Division on New District, Wuxi