Chinese Spring Festival Temple Fair celebrates Chinese New Year

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dancers Helina Chin Lee, Sofia Baboolal and Brooke Chong-Ashing from the Chinese Art and Culture Studies Society perform the traditional Long Sleeve Dance, at the Chinese Spring Festival Temple Fair hosted by the Chinese Embassy TT, at the Anchorage in Chaguaramas on February 24. – ROGER JACOB

Chinese culture and history were on display at the Chinese Spring Festival Temple Fair at the Anchorage, Chaguaramas on Saturday. The event was part of the celebration of the Chinese New Year and also coincided with the Lantern Festival.

Known as the Year of the Dragon, 2024 also marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Trinidad and Tobago and China.

Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said Chinese culture entered the melting pot of TT when the Fortitude arrived in Trinidad in 1806, bringing the first Chinese migrants.

“They not only travelled with their worldly possessions but also their values, beliefs and customs. Chinese culture has blended into the country’s diverse cultural landscape while retaining its own unique flavour.”

She said the event is the latest of a series of cultural exchanges between the two countries.

“TT has benefitted from training in Mandarin offered via the Confucius Institute and the Centre for Language Learning, UWI. Within the last year, the Chinese Embassy and the Chinese Association have collaborated to offer a culture and language exchange programme to the police service.

“TT has also impacted the Chinese cultural landscape as the late Madame Dai Ailan, born and raised in south Trinidad, is regarded as the mother of Chinese dance for her choreography and performance of dance across China, and for her leadership of pioneering dance institutions.

Fang Qiu, Chinese ambassador to TT. – ROGER JACOB

“The steelpan, our national instrument enthralled Chinese audiences when they heard its pulsating sounds during tours by our best steelbands.”

Gopee-Scoon said the respective governments are working on broadening economic partnerships in 2024. She said as Trade and Industry Minister, last month she addressed the opening of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate, the first of its kind in the Caribbean under the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.

“In 2023, the TT Fine Cocoa Company started the sale of Trinitario chocolate in China, in partnership with a Chinese distributor. By the end of last year, four tonnes of this locally made product had been exported to China, with a further 12 tonnes to be shipped in 2024.

“We have partnered with China for the establishment of the new Forensic Sciences Centre, which will enhance our responsiveness to the ongoing crime challenge. Chinese companies are also involved in other major infrastructural projects such as the new terminal of the ANR Robinson International Airport and the recently completed Diego Martin Highway.”

She said she expected further expansion in the cooperative activities undertaken by the countries, and said culture has and will continue to create the strongest bond between them.

Chinese Ambassador Fang Qiu thanked the Chinese community in TT for making the temple fair possible, as well as contributing immensely to TT’s social and economic development and the friendly exchanges between both nations.

“Your efforts are a source of great pride for me. Since the Chinese Spring Temple Fair was first launched last year, it has been widely welcomed as a local brand cultural event. It now serves as a window, providing an opportunity for more local people to understand Chinese culture and feel the charm of China.

“The temple fair witnesses the wonderful encounter between Chinese and TT cultures. While bringing good wishes for the two peoples in the Year of the Dragon, it will also further deepen the friendship and mutual understanding, and better promote people-to-people exchanges between the two countries.”

Fang said total trade exchanges between China and TT reached a record high of US$1.34 billion. He said some of the collaborative efforts included donations of medical supplies, a high-performance mobile donation vehicle, a school bus, and disaster relief equipment and materials.

“Last year nearly 200 TT trainees went to China for various programmes, a historical number. The Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship has been established for two consecutive years and benefitted nearly 50 students.”

He said two other initiatives were the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate and the signing of the agreement for the new forensic sciences centre.

Fang said China stood ready to take the celebration of the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations between the two countries as a new start to enhance the collaborations with TT.

Dragon doubles by Precious Pies. – ROGER JACOB

“We are committed to creating more driving forces for the bilateral cooperation in specific fields suck as agriculture, new energy, and digital economy. We are determined to work together closely with TT to create a community for a shared future, so as to deliver more tangible benefits to our two peoples.”

China Society president Charles Cheng thanked those who put the festival together. He also recognised Dr David Picou, founding chairman of the Chinese Bicentennial, for his pivotal role in incorporating Chinese culture into TT’s annual cultural celebrations calendar. Picou will be 97 next month.

Attendees were treated to a variety of cultural performances, including drumming, the Long Sleeve Dance and a Dragon Dance by the Chinese Art and Culture Studies Society and the song Guang Nian Zhi Wai by Giselle, a UWI Language student. Police officers sang the song Kung Hei Fat Choi (wishing you good fortune and happiness), a traditional Chinese New Year greeting.

Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher said she was proud of their efforts.

“We do have a large community of Chinese and it is only wise that our officers are trained to communicate. The officers are a credit to the organisation.”

From left, Public Administration minister Allyson West, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, Fang Qiu, Chinese ambassador to TT, President of the Senate Nigel deFreitas, Davendranath Tancoo Opposition MP for Oropouche West, and Senator Laurence Hislop lead in the signing of the signature board marking the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of established diplomatic relations between China and TT, at the Chinese Spring Festival Temple Fair, at the Anchorage in Chaguaramas on February 24. – ROGER JACOB

Moko jumbies Adrian “Daddy Jumbie” Young of Future Jumbies, JJ Gozalves of Touch the Sky and Ethan Yuklow of Jaiso Mokos were also present dressed in Chinese-themed costumes.

Vendors from China, including China Railway Construction, and various Chinese stores and restaurants located in TT sold jasmine tea, books and DVDS about aspects of Chinese culture, parasols, jade jewellery, clothing, dim sum and local versions of Chinese delicacies.

The signing of a commemorative board for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and TT and the restart of Dragon Boat races marked the end of the opening ceremony of the fair, which continues today.