Chinese New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February and the Year of the Monkey began February 8, 2016! The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, which is perfectly timed in Portland as everything, like this Chinese Paper Bush, is coming into bloom. People born in a year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, or 2016) are witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality but personality traits, like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness, make them very naughty! (I can think of a few people who fall into that category!)
We enjoyed the New Year celebrations at Lan Su Chinese Garden, an unexpected and lovely walled oasis in the middle of the city. Covering a full city block, Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from Suzhou in the Jiangsu province and is modeled after Ming Dynasty gardens designed as spiritual uptopias. Even with the crowds for Chinese New Year, it was still remarkably peaceful and if I worked downtown, it’s somewhere I’d love to escape to in the middle of the day!
There are events at the garden nearly every day from walking tours, music in the teahouse, folk art demonstrations, traditional floral arranging, craft making, Tai chi classes, discussions about the plants in the garden, performances from local cultural organizations, Chinese calligraphy classes, Chinese conversation classes, and even children’s Mandarin lessons!
The garden definitely made the most of the year of the Monkey celebrations. As soon as we walked in the main entrance, there were monkeys to find, with ten monkeys hidden throughout the garden, including a spider monkey visiting from South America and shadow puppets of the Monkey King. There were also lantern riddles to solve like this one-“It’s been around for millions of years, but it’s no more than a month old. What is it?”, a wishing tree where you could toss a red ribbon to wish for prosperity, happiness and longevity and monkey themed puppet shows by Tears of Joy Theater to watch.
Of course a Chinese New Year celebration wouldn’t be complete without traditional Lion dances. The Lee On Dong Association lions regaled us with danced stories about the origins of the lion, how the lion overcame its fears to cross the mountain and the story of three lions searching for food. The lions pranced, jumped, climbed and made faces to the beat of the drums as they acted out the different tales.
The children thought the festival was amazing and loved the lion dancing and watching the skill of the calligraphy artists. Cultural celebrations are so much fun to experience with children. Even if you aren’t able to travel to a particular country or perhaps especially if you’re planning a trip they are a great introduction to another world.
Things to know before you go
October 15 – April 14 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
April 15 – October 14 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Your admission gains access to the garden, Chinese Teahouse, and when offered, public tours and events and activities during regular hours.
Free — Members
$9.50 — Adults
$8.50 — Seniors (age 62 & over)
$7.00 — Students (age 6-18 and college students with I.D.)
$28 — Family Pass (two adults, two students)
Children five and under are free