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South Island Lantern Festival: A window into Chinese culture

21 December 2018

Christchurch’s Qiao Yi Lion Dance Team will share their culture with the city when they perform at the South Island Lantern Festival in Christchurch.

The group, who have been performing at the festival and around New Zealand since 1997, are excited to once again be part of the Chinese New Year celebrations held in Christchurch annually. The Chinese Lion Dance is a unique art form which encompasses performing and martial art steep in ancient traditions and rituals, which in recent years has evolved into a competitive sport.

Group founder George Chan, 47, moved to New Zealand in 1990 and says the passion of its 15 members and support of the community have kept them performing more than two decades.

“The festival is the largest and most comprehensive celebration of the Chinese people and their culture in the city. People should come to experience all the great food culture and performing art of both local and international Chinese artists.”

For the first time, the festival will be held over three nights – giving Christchurch residents and visitors to the city more opportunity to explore all there is on offer. There will be more lanterns, roving entertainers as well as two fixed stages for performances and traditional Chinese food available from vendors located throughout the route, not just at one location.

I had always liked the Chinese drums as we had family friends involved in another club growing up and there are photos of me hitting upside-down buckets with chopsticks. Instead of breaking chopsticks and buckets it was more cost effective to play the drums! Looking back at it, it’s a cool thing to be involved in and a unique link to my Chinese heritage.”

Tomo Yee

Group member Tomo Yee, a second generation New Zealand-born Chinese, has been part of the group since it formed as a drummer – and he was just six years old.

“I had always liked the Chinese drums as we had family friends involved in another club growing up and there are photos of me hitting upside-down buckets with chopsticks. Instead of breaking chopsticks and buckets it was more cost effective to play the drums! Looking back at it, it’s a cool thing to be involved in and a unique link to my Chinese heritage.”

Tomo says the festival is a window into Chinese culture.

“It’s really cool to see people of all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds come and enjoy the food, the art and the performances. I think that little taste of the culture has gone a long way in integrating the local Chinese community into Christchurch. The lanterns are world class and it brings life and people into the city.”

ChristchurchNZ General Manager – Destination and Attraction Loren Heaphy says the festival route is bigger and better this year, starting at the Bridge of Remembrance and heading all the way down the City Promenade into Victoria Square and The Commons.

The route is amazing – with lots of walking space alongside the beautiful river, as well as hospitality hotspot The Terrace being open, adding to the vibrant inner-city atmosphere,”

ChristchurchNZ General Manager - Destination and Attraction - Loren Heaphy

“The route is amazing – with lots of walking space alongside the beautiful river, as well as hospitality hotspot The Terrace being open, adding to the vibrant inner-city atmosphere,” Loren says.

“Accessibility is a priority for us at the event. This year there will be food vendors dotted along the route with paving underfoot, as well as better signage to help people find their way around.”

The festival has also undergone a name change, from the Christchurch Lantern Festival to South Island Lantern Festival.

“China has both cultural and economic importance to Christchurch. As the gateway for China to the South Island, we want to continue the warmth of our partnership, and incorporate not only Christchurch, but the whole South Island into our celebration. Ultimately, we would love to see towns and cities or regions from around the South Island contributing a lantern specific to them and their story. This year Ashburton and Dunedin are joining in with lanterns.

“And, of course, we want visitors from around New Zealand and overseas to come and enjoy the festival as well,” Loren says.

The South Island Lantern Festival will be held from 22-24 February 2019, starting at the Bridge of Remembrance and heading all the way down the City Promenade into Victoria Square and The Commons.

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