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Diana '23 and Kate '24 practicing their calligraphy in the Chinese Language House

I started studying Chinese during my freshman year of high school. When it came time for me to apply for college, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies, so I searched for universities with strong language departments. I did some initial research on Chinese language and culture offerings at Dartmouth before I applied. But when I arrived on campus, I found the Chinese language curriculum and supporting cultural programming even more robust than I had imagined. 

There are several ways to explore Chinese language and culture at Dartmouth. The best starting point is to take classes in the Department of Asian Studies, Cultures, and Languages (ASCL). There isn't an official "Chinese major" at Dartmouth, but all classes are listed under ASCL. I have taken eight Chinese language classes, from Chinese 4: Advanced Beginning Chinese to Chinese 40.03 "Modern Chinese Short Stories." Almost all Chinese language classes offer or require drill, which are 45-minute small group sessions with a student instructor to work on tone and pronunciation. Students can also request a language partner, often with a heritage speaker, for more personalized language practice. Other incredible opportunities to tap into Chinese culture involve living in the Chinese Language House or joining clubs like the Dartmouth Chinese Culture Society.

Fall leaves surrounding the Chinese Language House
I think the Chinese Language House looks the most beautiful in the fall

These are regular activities offered year-round at the college. The ASCL Department, the Office of Residential Life, and the Chinese Language House often collaborate to host special events. I managed to squeeze in two of these events in just this weekend! I started strong with a "Chinese Kung Fu and Calligraphy Workshop" event this Friday hosted in the Chinese Language House. The session began with a martial arts demonstration from George Leung '07. George walked us through several movements, demonstrating poses with Yeel '26. Although his actions were dance-like and beautiful, George emphasized each movement's hidden power by revealing one move that could break an opponent's wrist. I even got to talk to George one-on-one at the end of the session, and he shared his experience studying Chinese language and linguistics at Dartmouth.

George Leung '07 and Yeel Lee '26 in a martial arts demonstration
George Leung '07 and Yeel Lee '26 demonstrate a martial arts technique

For the second part of the afternoon, Professor Zhang led us through a calligraphy workshop. He walked us through properly holding the brush before performing several demonstrations in different script styles. I was pretty impressed but intimidated by how professional Professor Zhang's characters looked, especially since he started us off with a complicated "dragon" character to honor the Year of the Dragon. My friend Kate '24 and I tried our best to to mimic Professor Zhang's techniques. We weren't the best, but we enjoyed snacking on pineapple cakes and getting to know the underclassmen in the introductory Chinese courses.

Professor Zhang gives calligraphy demonstration to students
Professor Zhang demonstrates how to write the traditional Chinese character for "dragon"

Kate '24 works on her calligraphy in the Chinese Language House
Kate '24 started getting the hang of it after her first calligraphy session!

A few days later, on Sunday, I attended a lion dance performance in an early celebration of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPHIM). The performance featured Gund Kwok, America's first all-female lion dance troupe. At the beginning of the show, troupe leader Cheng Imm Tan introduced herself and the group's origins. Females were previously banned from participating in the lion dance because they were seen as too weak. However, Tan has always been committed to women's empowerment and has worked to elevate female martial arts performers for the past 26 years. 

A "Buddha" figure watches over the lions, holding a "Welcome" sign
A "Buddha" figure watches over the lions and welcomes in the Lunar New Year

I had seen a lion dance before in Boston's Chinatown, but this was my first time being able to experience a performance just feet away. I was amazed by the versatile strength of the women. Their movements were strong, meant to lift the women to the top to reach a standing position, but there was also a beautiful and graceful fluidity to their movement. I especially enjoyed it when the lions ripped up cabbage "money" and threw oranges "gold" at the crowd to ring in prosperity and luck for the year. These are just two of the many events happening throughout the year to celebrate Chinese culture. Although Hanover, NH, is 7,000 miles from China, I love finding little pockets of Chinese culture on campus!

Diana '23 trying on the lion head
Taking a stab at wearing the lion's head

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