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Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2006

Festival Marks the Dog Days of Spring as Winter Blusters

  • Music, dancing, crafts and a parade celebrate Chinese culture at a party at the Huntington.

    By Martha Groves, Times Staff Writer

    The official 15-day "spring festival" ushering in the Year of the Dog ended a week ago, but the party continued Saturday with much banging and clanging — as well as far quieter pursuits — at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

    Thunderous drumming by the Northern Shaolim Kung Fu Organization broke the usual contemplative stillness in San Marino, where hundreds of patrons gathered to watch lion dancers in bright pink and green costumes as they figuratively chased away evil spirits. The tiniest, 2-year-old Jed Chan, was dressed in red and black and wore his own pint-sized lion mask.

    The troupe led patrons in an impromptu parade that snaked through the garden, halting in front of the Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science to demonstrate kung fu moves with hands and swords.

    Throughout the day, a steady stream of visitors, running the gamut from newborns to grandparents, entered the Huntington along a tree-lined path. Hanging from the branches overhead were dozens of red and gold lanterns.

    Blustery winds chilled hands as storm clouds skittered past, threatening to douse the festive mood.

    After the opening lion dance, parents and children adjourned to Friends Hall, where San Francisco author Oliver Chin read his children's book "Year of the Dog: Tales of the Chinese Zodiac," about a puppy named Daniel and a girl named Lin.

    Later, groups of young girls dressed in bright red costumes performed traditional folk dances, waving ribbons and spinning cloth squares on their fingers.

    Elaine Chou of San Marino and her daughter, Elizabeth, 4, found themselves rolling green clay into tiny pieces to adorn the small dough dog they were making at a crafts table. Kaz Kitani and his wife, Hatsumi, of Pasadena helped their granddaughters — Kristin, 6, and Kimberly, 5 — as they bounced from one activity table to another, trying lantern-making, knotting and calligraphy.

    Kaz Kitani said he welcomed the chance to expose his granddaughters to Chinese culture. "I think it's great, especially for the children, to learn about different cultures and get acclimated to the people in this world," he said.

    For audiences, it was a movable feast of activities. In the indoor-outdoor rotunda of one gallery, youngsters from the Galaxy Youth Art Performing Group of Irvine played traditional flutes and trumpets.

    Lily Shiau, 7, dressed in a red skirt and red and gold jacket, her hair in two bead-bedecked buns atop her head, performed "Edelweiss" on the long-necked erhu. The two-stringed instrument, centuries old, is played with a bow and sounds like a violin, but with a thinner tone. She held the audience rapt as she moved with halting steps toward center stage, playing as she walked.

    The Huntington, which launched the event last year, is offering more China-related programs in connection with its formal Chinese Garden, in the early stages of construction on several woodsy acres. The garden is destined to be the largest of its kind outside China.
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