Feature: Celebrating Chinese New Year on the Mississippi

By Xu Jing

CHICAGO, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Chinese knots, rabbit and panda dolls, together with a lion dance made for a festive atmosphere on the Mississippi.

Nearly 100 local residents gathered Wednesday at a hotel conference room in Muscatine, a city on the Mississippi in the U.S. state of Iowa, for an event hosted by the Chinese Consulate in Chicago to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Former Iowa Governor Branstad, also a former U.S. ambassador to China, spoke about the close relationship forged between China and Iowa over the decades. "We appreciate very much all the people here that volunteer and all the people that are continuing to learn the Chinese language and building the friendship that we get over the years," he said.

Luca Berrone served as a guide to Xi Jinping and his delegation during their stay in Iowa in 1985. "It was a wonderful time," he said.

"We cannot really underestimate the importance of people-to-people exchanges and people opening up their homes and welcoming foreign visitors and exchanging ideas, information as we learn more about each other," he added.

Berrone was glad to see so many young people attending the party, and he encouraged them to travel to China, to exchange ideas and experience the country for themselves. "Our future will be much better with all of you guys involved," he said.

Chinese Consul General Zhao Jian praised the lion dance presented by Muscatine High School students, expressing the hope that they would learn more about the Chinese culture and Chinese people.

"The future of the China-U.S. relationship is in the hands of the younger generations ... They need to communicate, enhance understanding, and work together to create a better future for our countries and for the whole world," Zhao said.

Dumplings and other traditional Chinese foods were served at the party. Cultural Counsellor of the Chinese Consulate in Chicago Zhu Qi briefly introduced the Chinese New Year culture, and taught students how to write the Chinese characters Fu, which means "Happiness," and Tu as in the Year of the "Rabbit."

Sixteen-year-old Molly Mercer knew that red is an auspicious color in China. "I have a grandfather, he has been to China many times, and he has authentic photos and paintings hanging in his office. He talks about it a lot and says how beautiful it is there and how the culture is so different," she said,

"I know a little bit about China, but I really wish to go someday," she added.

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