Whangarei and Christchurch schools to get a taste of Year of the Monkey magic

Chinese performers in New Zealand for the Lantern Festivals will visit schools in Whangarei and Christchurch as part of an Asia New Zealand Foundation education roadshow.

Puppeteers from the Shanghai Puppet Theatre, a magician and strongman act from Guangzhou Acrobatic Arts Theatre, and musicians from the Guangdong Traditional Philharmonic Trio are being hosted in New Zealand by the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

The performers will visit Whangarei Intermediate School and Onerahi School on Tuesday 23 February. They will then travel to Christchurch and perform for Lincoln Primary and Westburn School on Thursday 25 February, followed by Cobham Intermediate on Friday 26.

Asia New Zealand Foundation director of culture Jennifer King says the school visits are a long-running component of the Foundation's Lantern Festival programme, but this is the first time performers have travelled to Whangarei. 

“The school visits give hundreds of New Zealand children the chance to learn about the traditions of the lunar new year and the lantern festivals, and to see the performers close up and ask them questions. It's a fantastic way for them to learn about China. 

“These interactions also give children from Chinese New Zealand families the confidence to talk about their own culture in their classroom.”

The Asia New Zealand Foundation is very grateful for the support of the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the provincial governments of Shanghai and Guangdong, she says.

The award-winning Shanghai Puppet Theatre was founded in 1960 and now includes playwrights, directors, performers, costume designers, stage designers, and puppet-makers in its ensemble.

The troupe specialises in rod puppets, but will also be performing a cloth puppet routine, in which puppeteers fold and knot pieces of cloth to create puppets and scenes.

Founded in 1959, the Guangzhou Acrobatic Arts Theatre is one of the largest in China. The schools will be visited by the theatre troupe’s strongman act and its very own magician, Ms Fu Caixia. The Guangdong Traditional Philharmonic Trio use traditional Chinese instruments to recreate some of Southern China’s best-loved pieces of music.

The groups will also perform at the Christchurch Lantern Festival on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 February and have already performed at the Auckland Lantern Festival.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to building New Zealand’s links with Asia through a range of programmes, including business, culture, education, media, research and a Leadership Network. www.asianz.org.nz

Lunar New Year and Chinese Lantern Festival background:

The Lunar New Year, celebrated in China and other Asian countries, began on February 8. 2016 is the Year of the Monkey.

People born in the lunar years of 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 and 2016 are considered monkeys in the Chinese zodiac, which has 12 animals. They are believed to be lively, curious, innovative and mischievous – but also impetuous.

The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty (206 BC–221 AD). The festival is usually held on the 15th day of the lunar New Year and marks the end of New Year celebrations.