Dramatic artists consider meaning of diasporic community at York’s Chinese Culture Day

Paper lanterns lit up at night, stock image banner from pexels

York University’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics (DLLL) hosted the annual Chinese Culture Day event to celebrate Chinese artistry during the Lunar New Year festival on Jan. 24.

The event featured a keynote public lecture, “China and China Diaspora: Interrogating Identities in Sinophone Theatre Performances,” delivered by Kwok-kan Tam, English Chair and dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong. The lecture examined the complexities involved in the continuous re-conceptualizing of China’s culture, of diverging and converging Chinese communities, and these subjects in theatre performances in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and other Chinese communities.

A Toronto drama troupe, Events by Shawn, also performed four live stage shows titled “Ruan Linyu,” “Hard Time,” “Two Donkeys,” and “The Shabby Cottage” during the event. Performers included troupe instructor Rongying Xu, associate professor emeritus of Shanghai Theatre Academy, and her students: Xueshi Bai, Bangxin Nie, Limin Tang, Jiayi Wu and Yue Yu.

J.J. McMurtry, Maria João Dodman, Kwok-kan Tam, Jessica Tsui-yan Li, Justin Poy and Jack Leong at Chinese Culture Day
From left to right: J.J. McMurtry, Maria João Dodman, Kwok-kan Tam, Jessica Tsui-yan Li, Justin Poy and Jack Leong at Chinese Culture Day

“York’s annual Chinese Culture Day is a wonderful opportunity to bring instructors, students and the wider Toronto community together to explore and celebrate the diversity of Chinese culture,” said J.J. McMurtry, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS). “Each year the Chinese section of the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics delivers on this important commitment to community and global partnerships.”

“This event highlighted a public lecture that strengthened the research profile of LA&PS through bringing an internationally distinguished scholar from Hong Kong and providing experiential education experience to students, so as to engage them in intellectual and cultural exchanges at York University,” said event organizer Jessica Tsui-yan Li, associate professor and research coordinator in DLLL. “The performances also helped promote Chinese cultural literacy in the communities of York University and the greater GTA. Participants reflected on the intercultural knowledge during the question-and-answer section of the event and students further discussed the topics in the classrooms afterwards.”

Maria João Dodman, associate professor and DLLL Chair, noted the significance of the event. “Learning about the world beyond us enables us to acquire a deeper understanding of other cultural expressions, we become more respectful and empathic towards other people, and more able to support multicultural environments. In today’s global markets, cultural appropriateness and sensitivity is an essential added value for both professional and personal growth,” she said.

The event welcomed students, scholars and faculty members of York University as well as community members in the Greater Toronto Area. Li was also interviewed for news programs on AM1430 and Omni 2 regarding this event. Chinese Culture Day was sponsored by LA&PS, DLLL, Founders College and the Asian Business and Management Program at York University; and supported by DLLL staff, Josie Sansonetti and Bessie Andreopoulos.