Chinese Temple Fair Kicks Off at Confucius Institute at University of Abomey-Calavi

[Source]    Confucius Institute at University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin [Time]    2019-02-18 13:40:26 

On February 9th to 10th, local time, the Spring Festival Temple Fair was held at the China-assisted Friendship Stadium’s square in Cotonou, Benin’s economic capital. Jointly organized by the China Cultural Center in Benin and the Confucius Institute at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, this fair was attended by tens of thousands of Beninese. Both the size of the event and the number of participants were unprecedented.

Over 5000 people attended the opening ceremony, including Johannes Dagnon, Special Adviser of Benin’s President, Bellarminus Kakpovi, Representative of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sports and Executive Secretary-General, Enagnon Pétas Akogbeto, Director of the General Office of the Ministry of Health, Peng Jingtao, Chinese Ambassador to Benin, Wei Jun, Cultural Counselor and Director of the China Cultural Center in Benin, Zhang Bohui, Economic and Commercial Counselor, Beninese from all walks of life and the local people, some ambassadors to Benin and representatives of international organizations to Benin, teachers and students of the Confucius Institute, personnel from Chinese-funded enterprises, and representatives of overseas Chinese.

Temple fair

Amid the beating of drums, a pair of vivacious and agile lions approached head-on, from whose mouths a Spring Festival couplet was hanging, which read “wish you longevity, good health and family prosperity; wish you happiness, safeness and eternal auspiciousness”. Bursts of cheering and applause broke out from the audience. In his speech, Peng Jingtao said that for Chinese people, the Spring Festival is for family reunion, expressing gratitude to relatives and friends and sharing fruits, and that he would like to take this opportunity to express his heartfelt gratitude to the Beninese government and its people. He stressed that as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of People’s Republic of China, he looked forward to greater progress in China-Benin cooperation. He hoped that the two sides will actively implement the consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries at the 2018 leaders’ meeting and the outcomes of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation through joint efforts, thus carrying forward the win-win cooperation between China and Benin.

Afterwards, Peng Jingtao and Bellarminus Kakpovi together beat the drum for three times to announce the beginning of the temple fair. The spot where the fair was held was decorated with lanterns and streamers, and there were surprises for visitors present around every corner, like having snacks, playing games, watching performance, doing Spring Festival shopping and so on. People in foreign countries are able to enjoy the festive atmosphere of Chinese New Year.

For many Beninese, gourmet is an important symbol of Chinese culture, with the supply of traditional Chinese food like dumplings, potstickers, barbecue, instant-boiled meat and eight treasures rice pudding falling short of demand. For those Chinese compatriots who spent Chinese New Year in Benin, the gourmet provided at the temple fair not only brought a delight to their lips, but also eased their homesickness.

In the area of fairs and sales, each exhibition stand looked warm and festive with the decoration of Spring Festival ornaments like big red lanterns, Chinese knots, koi fish, door gods and small firecrackers. A variety of commodities bearing good wishes were very popular among the local people, like DIY paper cuttings, exquisite Spring Festival couplets, scrolls inscribed with the Chinese character “Fu”, windmills decorated with colored drawings, handmade lanterns with the auspicious meaning of abundance and key cases with the meaning of good luck.

The recreational activity organized by teachers and students of the Confucius Institute was an indispensable highlight of the temple fair. The amusement area was divided into two subareas, the area of cultural experiences and the area of interactive games. Cultural experiences included activities like writing the Chinese character “Fu” with ink brushes, cutting papers to produce beautiful patterns, painting colored drawings on blank fake faces, weaving Chinese knots skillfully, and experiencing traditional Chinese medicine. Interactive games featured Chinese characteristics, like pitch-pot, bean picking, dart throwing, touching character “Fu” with eyes being covered, running while tossing the ball and so on. Each stand was packed with people enchanted by the activities, with bursts of exclamations and laughter breaking out from them. Besides, Chinese Enterprise Association, the Beninese Council for Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China and Overseas Chinese Association in Benin donated abundant prizes with rich variety to the temple fair. People who went to the fair not only enjoyed themselves by playing games, but also experienced the happiness brought by winning the prize.

Guests trying Chinese calligraphy

As evening closed in, the art performance, “Celebrating New Year on the Fifth Day of the Lunar Calendar”, was performed in the performance area. Amid the joyous song “A Good Day”, eight students of the Confucius Institute performed Yangko dance in a vivid manner with red ribbons fluttering in their hands. The audience clapped and cheered with the rhythm, resulting in bustle both on and off the stage. Afterwards, students of the Confucius Institute performed a Chinese-style dance “Like a Dream”, a modern style solo “Give Me A Reason to Forget You” and the hip hop version of the song “At Least I Still Have You”. The African version of the double act “No Sooner Said Than Acted”, which combined seamlessly traditional Chinese folk art Shuanghuang (double act) with Beninese folk dance, has won continuous cheering from the audience.

African Double Act

During the temple fair, people have tasted delicious food, played interesting games, watched wonderful performances and purchased a few Chinese-style articles before leaving...The Spring Festival temple fair was not only an opportunity for Beninese to have a better understanding of Chinese New Year, but also for Chinese people in Benin to enjoy the strong festival atmosphere.

Many mainstream media from China and Benin, including Xinhua News Agency, Beninese State Broadcasting and TV Station, Al Jazeera, Canal 3, Trans World Radio, La Nation, L'autre Vision, La Presse du Jour, Le Potentiel, Le Matinal, Matin Libre ,Fraternité, arrived at the scene for full coverage of the event.

Story by Shen Lin, Wu Qiong


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