Confucius Institute hosts paper-cutting workshop at Lan Su Chinese Garden

Chinese and American cultures mingled for traditional paper-cutting at the Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Portland State’s Confucius Institute hosted a Chinese conversation circle where attendees crafted traditional Chinese paper ornaments, sampled mooncake and practiced short phrases in Mandarin.

The circle on October 2 was part of a series, held at no cost beyond the garden’s entrance fee, every Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 pm.

Yao Chang, a Chinese language instructor from the institute, said that events and workshops like the conversation circles are one way the Confucius Institute works to improve relations between the peoples of China and America—by exposing local students and Portland residents to Chinese language and culture. She’s taught regularly at the conversation circles for roughly the last year.

Previous conversation circles have focused on other celebrations, such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese Valentine’s Day.

“So for the different topics, we will prepare different things–relations with the festival or the most important part of the culture,” Chang said.

Sometimes the topics will have components that are analogous to western traditions, according to Chang, who added that one cut-out in particular might be used to decorate a tree in the same way that some Americans might decorate a Christmas tree.

The Confucius Institute at PSU has been holding conversation circle events like this one since its inception, according to Meiyu Hua, another Chinese language instructor at the event.

“We are so proud to work here and do this job to introduce to our culture…to the local students and local [people] and let [them] know more about China,” Hua said.

The tradition of paper-cutting in China has its roots in the Chinese Spring Festival, Hua explained, adding that Chinese citizens use the paper cut-outs as decorations, all of which have different meanings.

“This is the Chinese character [for happiness], so these two mean double happiness,” Hua said.

Some cut-outs in particular might be suited to special occasions like weddings, where one might cut out a pair of young girls to wish the newlyweds luck in having children.

Linda Morrow, a local attendee at the conversation circle, said it was her first time to attend one as well as her first time visiting the Chinese Garden.

She enjoyed the Confucius Institute’s event, owing largely to her interest in other cultures around the world.

“I was just walking by and I love to do hands-on stuff,” Morrow said.

Events like the paper-cutting workshop are easily accessible even to children, according to Morrow, who added that she thought her granddaughter would have enjoyed it.

“She would have a little bit of patience, maybe, for doing the tour and having somebody take her around, but actually being able to interact and produce something at her age right now would be a lot more meaningful to her,” Morrow said.

Lisa Goldberg, another first-time attendee at the event, said she took Chinese conversation classes at the Confucius Institute three or four years ago.

“I was just looking for different options for taking Chinese and I found out about those at the Confucius Institute,” Goldberg said.

Exposing Americans to foreign cultures from anywhere across the globe is a good thing, according to Goldberg.

“I guess because of my family, I just have a special interest in Asian cultures,” Goldberg said.