Krakow celebrates Chinese New Year

In the Chinese horoscope the rat is a symbol of wealth, charm and order, yet also associated with death and pestilence. Nevertheless, in China, the rat is respected and considered as a courageous and enterprising being. The element of the rat is Earth, so 2008 is also called the Year of the Brown Rat.

And now it is time for fortune-tellers to predict what the New Year 2008 can bring. This year will demand hard work to achieve goals, but it will be a good time for those planning to get married or to begin a new business. Apart from China, the beginning of the New Year in February is also celebrated in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan and by the Chinese diaspora all over the world.

According to the moon calendar, this year begins Feb. 7 and ends Feb. 25, 2009.

For the Chinese, the beginning of the New Year means a week-long holiday break. This period is also called the “Golden Week.” In the Middle Kingdom people travel a lot and visit their families and friends. They spend their free time at popular traditional celebrations where they can watch various artistic shows, for instance Chinese martial arts and Tai Chi. Another attraction is the opera or theater in Beijing.

This year the Chinese could also celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rat in Krakow. Starting Feb. 15, the Festival of Chinese and Asian Culture, together with Poland-wide celebrations of the Chinese New Year 2008, lasted until Feb. 17. These events were organized by the Jagiellonian University, the Polish Kung Fu Organization, Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu Center in Krakow and Choy Lee Fut School Sport Club.

For the occasion, organizers played host to the Chinese ambassador to Poland Yuan Guisen, as well as to Rector of the Jagiellonian University, Karol Musiol. The Festival of Chinese and Asian Culture has been organized since 1993 by the oldest Kung Fu School in Poland – Choy Lee Fut Poland. In 2006, the Grzegorz Ciembroniewicz School gained the status of the best Choy Lee Fut School in Europe. Its foundations come from the southern provinces of China.

This kind of martial art is the most popular form of traditional combat in the world. Choy Lee Fut is not only a sport combat based on long traditions and knowledge, it can also be effective as self-defense. Those who practice Choy Lee Fut can gain strength, flexibility, precision, perfect concentration and incredible reaction speeds. The Choy Lee Fut Poland organization trains the most experienced and talented Polish champions, known all over the world.

This year celebrations were three days long. The first day of the festival held many attractions, especially for Chinese cinema amateurs. The ARS Krakow Cinema Center (ul. Jana) and the Kijow Cinema showed Chinese films on Valentine’s Day.

The festival program was filled with entertainment. Everyone had a chance to watch many successful films of renowned Chinese directors. Furthermore, the most interesting were various competitions, workshops and other demonstrations, such as Chinese calligraphy, demonstrations of traditional tea brewing, presentations of some feng shui cardinal principles, a kung-fu crash course for children, a chance to familiarize with mysterious qigong and an opportunity to ask a Chinese oracle “i-ching” for advice.

The most awaited item of the program was the Festival of the Chinese New Year 2008 Final Gala. It took place at Auditorium Maximum UJ in Krakow (ul. Krupnicza) Feb. 17. The organizers were surprised by the number of spectators who wanted to participate in the gala. This year, more than 1,000 people were the first in Poland to watch outstanding performances – Dance of five Lions and a traditional Southern Dragon dance show.

These attractions are traditional shows for all Chinese holidays and they are usually associated with happiness and success. During the gala all guests had a chance to attend an extraordinary demonstration of martial arts performed by Kung-fu and Wushu world and European-class champions from Polish Martial Arts Organizations. In the meantime, there was an opportunity to listen to traditional Chinese music and learn how to preserve one’s well-being by complying with Tai Chi and Qigong health rules. Members of the Confucian Institute affiliated with Jagiellonian University gave presentations on that subject, while other experts taught practical Chinese manners.

The festival was hailed as successful and competently organized. Its aim was to bring Poles closer to understanding Chinese culture, tradition and philosophy. As stated by Joanna Skamla, four-time world champion in Choy Lee Fut disciplines, instructor and coordinator of Center of Chinese Martial Arts and Choy Lee Fut Polska in Krakow, it is necessary to possess a basic knowledge about Chinese etiquette, rules of conduct, culture and traditions to be successful in business with the Asia.

Skamla stresses that, as China becomes a major economic power, people begin to focus on closer relationships with the country, but often forget about the differences between civilizations. Skamla said it is impossible to negotiate efficiently with the Chinese without knowing their habits.

The multidimensional form of presenting Asian culture during the Festival of Chinese and Asian Culture was an excellent way to get access to broader audiences and also an unrivaled occasion for the Chinese themselves to show their traditions and way of life. This year the festival also had an integrating character. Many officials, Chinese students in Krakow and other members of the Chinese community attended this meeting.

If anyone feels a lack of Chinese culture in Krakow on a daily basis, they should contact the Center of Chinese Martial Arts, Choy Lee Fut Polska or with the Confucian Institute in Krakow.

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