Take a sip of Snake Year’s tea, music

Xuelu Pan Washburn Review

WU Chinese Club offered a new year experience through their two events of celebration: Tea Sampling Party and Chinese Folk Music Evening. Both brought great pleasure to their participants.

Tea Sampling was held from 11 a.m., Feb 13 outside of the Corner Store. Next to a bulletin board introducing categories of different Chinese teas, two club members were doing the brew-up. The other members stayed behind the table to serve tea samples. All the teas were brewed in oriental tea pots, each having a introduction card ahead of them. Tea samples were served in small cups.

“We got very occupied at noon because large groups of passers-by were attracted to our stand, said Binbin Wu, president of the Chinese Club. “Over 100 comers have tasted our tea.”

Among all of the teas, chrysanthemum tea was most popular for its sweet taste. It was made of dewatered, or dried, small white or yellow chrysanthemums and could soothe a sore throat.

“Chinese tea is [more] bitter than American tea. It’s different from the teas I usually drink.” commented Buinsi Xoviel, a Psychology major, who passed by and took chrysanthemum tea.

From talking with other students, one learns that tea-lovers are from all across the world.

“People in Hungary love tea as well, but usually we drink an herb tea called ‘camilla,’” said Kinga Gaspar, an exchange student from Hungary.

Sandy Morgan, who takes tai-chi class, loved Da Hong Pao, which has a pleasant fresh scent and slight bitter taste

“I drink tea almost every day, but most times iced tea,” said Morgan. “It’s fun to taste some original Chinese teas.”

Savoring tea is considered a tasteful social interaction among scholars in ancient China. 

At 4 p.m. Feb 16, about 60 people came and enjoyed a Chinese folk music performance in the Choral Rehearsal Room, which is located in Garvey 143. This small concert was co-headlined by KC Chinese Music Ensemble and WU music students.

The show opened up with“Golden Snake Dance” by the traditional instrument ensemble, which was rendered a popular background music, especially for celebration occasions.

During the one-hour performance, 13 classical folk music pieces were rendered by different instruments including Erhu, Zheng, Pipa, Zhong Ruan, bamboo fluate, cello, and piano.

Minyi Zheng’s solo Gu Zheng (abbreviated “Zheng”) rendition, “Spring Flowers in Moonlight by the River,” the classic piece from Tang Dynasty,  deeply fascinated the audience. Zheng is an elegant traditional Chinese instrument with 13 strings. Players of Zheng were usually beautiful young ladies. They had to wrap special long “nails” (like picks for a guitar), on pads of each fingers when playing.

Zheng creates a soothing, quiet sound. It is considered one of the most ancient instruments in Chinese music. After the play, many spectators grew interested in Zheng and wished to learn how to play it someday.

Another solo of well-known folk music, “Streams in a Mountain,” was brought by pipa player Hon Ki Cheung, the youngest ensemble member and a sophomore music major from Kansas University. Cheung, who wore a pair of black-framed glasses and seemed a little shy after taking the stage, said she enjoyed playing with traditional instruments.

“I hardly played folk music in front of my classmates and friends. They almost know nothing about folk music,” said Cheung. “They just think Chinese folk music is very foreign and exotic.”

When asked the reason of picking up pipa playing, Cheung said, “I came from Hong Kong one and a half years ago. I do feel happy playing folk, I think it’s part of my heritage.”

Zhang Ming, the head of the 11-member music ensemble, was glad with the incredibly good feedback.

“We have been preparing for this performance since November. Several of our members used to be professional players before coming to States, but we are now all amateur,” said Ming. “We are glad to be invited to Washburn and hope to bring more wonderful performances in the future.”

The ensemble started playing just for fun and since then got a great demand from the community.

“Some parents send their children to us to learn Erhu,” said Ming. “But recently we are busy with our jobs, so we hardly spare time for teaching.”

In this year’s performances, a small group of WU music students from China were added to the concert, making it more rich and colorful. “The Lark,” a soprano by Xiong Siyue, enormously amazed me. Her partner was Luo Yao, who played the piano. The two cooperated artfully when Xiong’s singing came to the peak. The background music intertwined with the singer and made three twists which were followed by Siyue’s incredible, bold high-pitched voice.

Close to the end, Chen Geng, a piano major from Sichuan Conservatory of Music, grabbed the attention both because of his playing and acting. He played “Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon,” a well-known love ditty from south China. Music streamed under his dancing fingers and startled at the peak. Then Geng raised his right hand up for a while, waiting for the lingering sounds to stop. Applause thundered after a blink of silence.

“He played with his soul immersed into music. He is into his playing. That was amazing,” Natalie Wang, who came with her Chinese husband Yeqiang Wang, said.

Geng Chen started playing piano at the age of four. He performed in many concerts in China before he became an exchange student.

“I was a little bit nervous on stage, that’s why I stammered when introducing my piece,” said Geng. “I guess I have to recite more fluently next time.”

He said his on-stage actions were inherent.

“All I have to do is follow my mind and visualize them through body language,” said Geng.

Others enjoyed their experience, as well.

“I feel honored to come here. I came to their performance last year,” said Wang. “Although this performance is free and open to public, I do think they should charge admissions and commercialize it.”

Wang and her husband both agree that it was a good opportunity to get close to Chinese culture.