Festivals celebrate Chinese New Year

Dunedin Senior Chinese Association members (back, from left) Rachel Xu, Sue Chan, Pan Jian Rong,...
Dunedin Senior Chinese Association members (back, from left) Rachel Xu, Sue Chan, Pan Jian Rong, Zhu Lulu, (front, from left) Chen Haogui, Weidi Xu and Li Chaoyang gather to rehearse ahead of Chinese New Year Celebrations this weekend. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD
Dunedinites are invited to make a weekend of it for Chinese New Year - taking in Dunedin’s celebrations at Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden on Saturday night, and then heading to Lawrence Chinese Camp on Sunday afternoon for a colourful festival to welcome the Year of the Dragon.

The Chinese New Year Festival at Lawrence Chinese Camp is both a celebration and a fundraiser towards the preservation and restoration of the camp’s heritage buildings.

The festival will run from noon-4pm on Sunday, at 116 Beaumont Highway, entry by gold coin.

Dignitaries there will include People’s Republic of China consul general Madam He, Clutha District Council Mayor Bryan Cadogan and local politicians.

To welcome in the Year of the Dragon, Lawrence Area School pupils will perform a traditional dragon dance, alongside a lion dance by the Otago-Southland Chinese Association, and classical and folk dances by the Chinese Cultural and Arts Association.

Children’s activities will include treasure hunts, making a dragon and making chinese knots. Adults can while away the afternoon at the gambling den in the Empire Hotel where they can learn traditional Chinese gambling games such as mahjong, fantan and pakapoo.

There will also be story readings in the Poon-Fah Joss House by authors Eva Ng and Maxine Alterio.

University of Otago archaeologist Prof Richard Walter will be conducting tours of the camp.

Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable Trust chairwoman Denise Ng told The Star the camp was recently granted resource consent and was running a ‘‘buy-a-brick’’ campaign to raise $30,000 to finish detailed restoration plans.

‘‘We have very exciting plans for the future of the camp, and we are hoping for a good turnout on Sunday to help support us with our fundraising.’’

Established in 1867, the camp was the earliest and largest Chinese goldmining era settlement in New Zealand.

Three original buildings remain, the Empire Hotel, stables and the Poon-Fah Joss House, which have category 1 New Zealand Heritage Historic Place status.

Major restoration work on the buildings and landscaping will begin this year.

It is estimated the project will cost about $3.5 million. So far, $170,000 has been raised.

'Exciting time' for association 

Dunedin Senior Chinese Association members have been practising hard for the past month to prepare to perform traditional Chinese dances during Chinese New Year celebrations at Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden on Saturday. 

The association is in hot demand this year, dividing into two groups to perform at Chinese New Year celebrations in Dunedin and Arrowtown on Saturday.

‘‘It is a very exciting time for us,’’ group member Weidi Xu said.

Dunedin Senior Chinese Association secretary Racee Ngiam said the organisation, which provided opportunities for local Chinese seniors to gather, socialise and work on their English, had been a fixture in Dunedin for decades.

‘‘It is very good for the elders to come together, support each other, and take part in activities together.

‘‘As part of their regular get-togethers, they enjoy learning traditional Chinese dance and music, which they perform during events such as the Chinese New Year celebrations, as well as going to rest-homes.’’

The 30-strong group received invaluable support from Dunedin Community House and the Ministry for Ethnic Communities.

The Dunedin Senior Chinese Association meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10am-noon, at Dunedin Community House.

BRENDA.HARWOOD @thestar.co.nz