Mali Hsu, a Chinese-language teacher in Colorado Springs, didn't like telling her students that there was no place in the Springs to exchange ideas and experiences about Chinese culture.
So she created one. On Feb. 3, 2001, Hsu, formerly principal of the Colorado Springs Chinese Language School, and others formed the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute (CSCCI), a nonprofit organization designed to foster better understanding of China and its customs.
Four years ago, the institute began staging a public celebration of the Chinese New Year that, last year, drew close to 1,000 people for food, music, calligraphy and an all-day party celebrating Chinese culture.
This Chinese New Year, 4071, will be marked by the CSCCI's annual party on Saturday, Jan. 24, at the City Auditorium. The China Restaurant will provide the buffet lunch; participants will enjoy authentic Chinese music and performances by Colorado College's Asian Studies students; there will be Kung Fu and calligraphy demonstrations and a Lion Dance.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $6 for children at the door (the deadline for advance tickets has already passed).
Meanwhile, the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute carries out its mission in the community.
"We offer resources and networking opportunities to more fully integrate Chinese people and traditions into the local community," said Rhonda Maehara, CSCCI board member. "And if a Colorado Springs corporation is interested in doing business in China, CSCCI is here to help."
Reasons for joining the Institute vary widely.
"Some people come to it through adoption," said Maehara, exxplaining that for many people, their first contact with Chinese culture comes when they adopt a Chinese child.
Other members are interested in travel opportunities -- every year CSCCI plans a trip or two to China, educates the travelers and accompanies them with translators and guides.
"It really broadens the experience when you know the traditions and history of your venue," said Maehara. "Whatever you're seeing [on these trips], you're seeing in depth."
CSCCI runs its programs with 12 full-time board members, all volunteers, and a strong Internet presence that keeps members informed of regular events. The board meets once a month at City Hall, but members prefer to come together over dinner four times a year at various Chinese restaurants around town. The popular dinner programs, all open to the public, have paved the way for other activities including movie screenings and guest lectures. The only requirement for membership is interest, and the membership fee includes ticket and travel discounts, advance notice of cultural events, and quarterly newsletters highlighting planned activities and news.
"It takes a lot of time," said Hsu, referring to the volunteerism that keeps the institute going. "But it's all paid off by seeing so many people come to our New Year's celebration."
-- J. N. Nail
Year of the Monkey Chinese New Year Celebration
Sponsored by the Colorado Springs Chinese Cultural Institute
Saturday, Jan. 24, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
City Auditorium, 221 East Kiowa St.
$15 for adults, $6 for children
Call 201-8373 or visit www.cscci.org