LUNAR NEW YEAR AT PMA: A dilettante at large review

Happy Year of the Dragon!

The Philadelphia Museum of Art celebrated the Chinese new year with some fascinating special events on Sunday, February 11. A group of  highly skilled artisans from Zhejiang province, China, provided demonstrations of some crafts traditionally part of the lunar new year celebration in China.

Most remarkable was the sugar painting. We all stood in lined waiting for our turn to spin a wheel and whatever astrological sign it lands on determined what the artist drew with liquified sugar.  He dips a little ladle into the a pot of boiling sugar and creates, free-hand, a figure of great delicacy in the shape of an ornate creature—the dragon was the most beautiful.Before it hardens, he places a stick on the figure; it seems almost criminal to eat the art, but it is, after all, a lollipop.

There was also tea-whisking: a woman uses a small wooden whisk to beat the boiling water that has been ritually poured over tea . The whisking creates a foam; she then writes on the tea’s surface, in much the way in American culture a barista might draw a picture on the surface of your coffee.

If you were feeling poetic, an artist would write in black ink on a strip of red paper in Chinese calligraphy.

And there was a spectacular puppet show, as two women manipulate Taishun puppets, an ancient dramatic tradition using marionettes that  swoop and dance in their brilliant costumes.

It was a lovely quiet day and a treat to learn about the Chinese ways, beyond firecrackers, to celebrate the new year.

[Family Festival: Lunar New Year at Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway] February 11, 2024;

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