Letter: American cultural center brings Chinese chanting performance to Ames community

On the weekend of Sept. 23 to 24, 16 students and faculty members from the chanting choir of Xinlian College in China visited Iowa State for a cultural exchange tour. Xinlian College is one of the universities in China selected to host an American Cultural Center (ACC) in partnership with a U.S. university. Xinlian is a partner with Iowa State and is directed by Dr. Linda Serra Hagedorn, the Associate Dean of College of Human Sciences. The center, which had been funded by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since 2014, has successfully organized a series of cultural exchange events, such as the Annual Bald Eagle and Panda Conference, and cultural exchange summer camp. (more information about ACC can be found at the project website https://baldeaglepanda.wordpress.com/)

The center is proud of its 100 percent satisfaction rates from student participants and faculty partners and has won the 2017 Excellence Award by the American Centers for Cultural Exchange (ACCEX) in June 2017.

The American Director of the ACC, Dr. Linda Hagedorn, considers the chanting performance as a unique way of showcasing classical Chinese music, dance and literary culture. Chanting (yin song) to Chinese poetry is a special cultural practice that provides musical training. Performers sing the poems coupled with dance and instruments such as the flute, flageolet, lute, Chinese zither and piano. Professor Chen, Jiangfeng, the Xinlian leader (as composer and flageolet player) and the Vice President of Xinlian College wishes to introduce classical Chinese poetry and prose to Chinese Americans and other communities abroad through the performance.

The chanting group performed at the Ames Chinese Language Academy (ACLA) with over 120 people in attendance including representatives from ISU and ACLA students, teachers and parents.

“The performance was a cultural feast for our students,” remarked Ms. Jingtao Wang, principal of the ACLA. The seven programs featured diverse genres of poetry and prose by chronological order. ”We are honored that they chose to perform at our school.”

Parents of ACLA were also impressed. “This is something special that you cannot see everyday, even in China,” said Shuting Wei. “Most of our children are born and raised in the U.S., and chanting is a perfectly joyful way of telling them about our own civilization.”

The music and dance, with chanting, was also enjoyed by the ACLA students.

“I love the lutes and the dance. I cannot understand the words, but I like the music,” said Crystal Zhang, a third-grade student at ACLA.

As sponsors and hosts of the performance, Dr. Hagedorn highly praises the performance as a cultural appreciation. Ms. Jingtao Wang also plans to open more “cultural windows” to students at ACLA.