Corrections or additions?
This article was prepared for the January 28, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Ringing in the Year of the Monkey
After the Christmas and New Year holidays, Chinese American
communities across the country prepare for the upcoming Year of the
Monkey. This is the year 4701 on the Chinese calendar, which began
when the Emperor Huang united the tribes living in the Central Plain
around the Yellow River Basin. The people marked the passage of the
years with 12 different animals. This year is the Year of the Monkey,
and the holiday period began on January 22 and ends February 5, with
celebrations from Plainsboro to Newark.
The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company brings "The Monkey King in the Palace of
Heaven" — a program of music and dance telling one of the most
beloved stories in Chinese classical literature — to the New Jersey
Performing Arts Center in Newark on Saturday, January 31, and Sunday,
The Monkey King is one of the most popular characters among Chinese
children, and the Nai-Ni Chen production features guest artists Tao
Liu and Yao Zhong Zhang (who specializes in the role of the male
warrior in the Beijing Opera). According to the legend, the Monkey
King (Wu Kung) was born from a rock, fertilized by the essence of
Heaven and Earth. He studied and obtained magical powers from a great
master. In one somersault, he can travel 108,000 miles. He can also
transform himself into different objects at will. He can be larger
than a mountain and smaller than a ladybug. His weapon of choice, the
Wonder Staff, weighs 108,000 Chinese pounds (Jin) and can be
transformed to different sizes at his command.
To appease the Monkey King, who is eager to gain a proper position in
the hierarchy of the Heaven, the Heavenly Emperor grants him a title
of Heavenly Wizard, with the minor responsibility of guarding the
Heavenly Peach Orchard. Humiliated, the Monkey King decides to wreak
havoc on the annual party given by the Queen Mother of the Emperor —
and thus unfolds a battle of heaven and earth.
At this performance, the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company is also unveiling a
new Tibetan dance, choreographed by Wei Chen, a teacher from the
Szechuan University who specializes in Chinese classical and folk
dance. The Newark Museum near the New Jersey Performing Arts Center
houses the largest Tibetan collection in the country, and families
coming to the performances are encouraged to visit the museum, since
the dance steps reflect the way of life of the
Also on the program is Nai-Ni Chen’s recently choreographed dance,
"Raindrops," a celebration of the pleasure of sisterhood she enjoyed
growing up in the Rain Harbor of Taiwan, Keeleung, and Tao Chen,
considered one of world’s best Chinese bamboo flutists.
To gain a complete Chinese New Year experience, the audience is
encouraged to participate in the company’s 15-course Chinese banquet
at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center site office. At the banquet,
the company will honor Scott McVay, who has made significant
contributions to the Chinese language and studies program during his
tenure at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation as executive director.
McVay, a former Princeton University administrator, is currently the
president of the Chautauqua Institution in New York.
Sunday, February 1, 2 p.m., Victoria Theater, New Jersey Performing
Arts Center. The banquet follows the January 31 performance at 4 p.m.
$18; $9, child. Performance and banquet: $65; $25, child; $100,
Plainsboro Public Library ushers in the Year of the
Monkey on Saturday, January 31, from 3 to 6 p.m., with performances,
games, dances, demonstrations of Chinese arts and crafts, Chinese
cooking, and even a ping-pong tournament. Events will take place in
the library, municipal building, and outdoors throughout the complex.
The event is free.
The festivities begin with an outdoor presentation of Plainsboro
Huaxia Chinese School’s 20-member marching drum corps. From 3:30 to 5
p.m. artistic performances include Chinese songs presented by the
Happy Singers, Umbrella Dance by the Princeton Chinese Language
School, and solo pieces by Yingchao Zhang with the Huaxia Chinese
Folk dance, Chinese yo-yo, Chinese opera, and a sword dance are also
featured, as well as demonstrations throughout the afternoon of
Chinese cooking, paper cutting, knotting, and calligraphy. Games for
children, held in the library from 5 to 6 p.m.. include Pick Up M&Ms
with Chopsticks, Ring Toss, Dominoes, Red Fish Go Fish, and Stick the
Ears on the Panda Bear. A ping pong championship match will be held in
the municipal building from 5 to 6 p.m.
The library has one of the largest Mandarin collections in the area
and an expanding collection of videos and CDs. It also boasts a major
collection of English language books about Chinese art and Chinese
translations of classic American authors.
The day ends with distribution of red envelopes — a favorite Chinese
New Year’s custom. Traditionally filled with gifts of money, the
envelopes at the Plainsboro celebration will be filled with
chocolate-filled golden coins.
p.m., Plainsboro Public Library, 641 Plainsboro Road, Plainsboro.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.