Friday, February 4, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit

I had the privilege last night of being a panelist at the Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce educational forum, a bimonthly gathering that fosters business and cultural partnerships between the state of Tennessee and the most populous nation in the world. China is Tennessee's third largest trading partner, behind Canada and Mexico. It happened that the meeting fell on the Chinese New Year, which is no small occasion. Every year, over 230 million urban Chinese migrant workers buy train tickets to return to their towns and villages to celebrate the New Year. If they only get to see their families once a year, it is at New Year's. This is the largest human migration on the planet -- and it takes place every year. I was recently invited to a screening of a documentary that follows one family's harrowing journey and some of the painful dynamics of migrant family relationships. Read about Last Train Home here
Houses are thoroughly swept to sweep away any misfortune and make room for good luck. Windows and doors are decorated with red cutouts and poems that speak of blessings, happiness and longevity. Families gather to feast on the Eve of Chinese New Year, ending the evening with fireworks. The next morning, children rise to wish their parents a happy and healthy new year and in turn receive red envelopes with money in them.
The Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce was founded by Dr. Ming Wang, a renowned pioneer in lasik eye surgery and a prominent member of the Nashville community. Stay tuned for my interview with Dr. Wang, a fascinating and multi-faceted individual.

Still to come -- other fascinating tidbits about the waking giant that will be an ever-increasing part of our lives, and an inevitable daily presence in the lives of our children. 

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