Lotus Festival brings Chinese traditions to Los Angeles

In beautiful Echo Park in the western US city of Los Angeles, chubby tots and raven-haired toddlers run giggling together along the grassy banks of the lake while saucer-sized lily pads bob up and down as dragon boats race by.

A stone's throw away, under a perfect summer sky, visitors snap selfies in front of a Chinese-style moon bridge which arches over a motionless inlet skirted with nodding reeds.

This bucolic scene is not some idyllic place in the countryside, but right in the heart of Los Angeles during the 38th annual Lotus Festival on Saturday.

Celebration of culture

The festival is a popular Angeleno celebration sponsored by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks that brought 200,000 festivalgoers together over the weekend to celebrate the diverse pan-Asian and Pacific Island communities and culture of the city.

"The Lotus Festival started small, but with the help of its passionate supporters, it has bloomed just like the lotus flower to celebrate the beauty of our city and its people," enthused David Ryu, a member of the Los Angeles City Council.

Brightly-colored red, white, and gold lanterns danced on strings looped between the white-topped peaks of a hundred pop-up booths that were brimming with colorful clothing, ethnic handbags, hats, jewelry and trinkets of all kinds for sale.

Blow-up bouncy slides entertained scores of kids, as did a variety of other kiddie booths offering arts and crafts workshops of all kinds.

Tasty treats were in abundance too, including a wide selection of Asian fare, like bean buns, panda snacks and Chinese delicacies.

Each year the festival showcases a different country and culture, and this year it is honoring China and the vibrant Chinese culture which is an integral part of Los Angeles and California.

Los Angeles city councilman Mitch O' Farrell, along with Chinese Consul General in Los Angeles Zhang Ping kicked off the festival.

"At the Lotus Festival, we celebrate our diversity and the multiculturalism that makes LA the greatest city in America. This year we honor China and their 5,000 years of civilization," Farrell said.

Zhang said the Lotus Festival provides an opportunity for Angelenos to celebrate the cultural heritage of Asian and Pacific Island communities, and showcase the ethnic harmony and cultural diversity of Los Angeles, a vibrant city which many communities of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds call home.

"In today's world, we need more inclusiveness, better understanding, closer exchange and cooperation to make our community and world more harmonious and prosperous," added Zhang.

Elliot McDaniel, an American who took Asian studies in college and has spent time in China, told the Xinhua News Agency, "I'm really happy this event is available. I feel like I have been exposed to a lot of China. This can expose other people that may not have the privilege that I've had to experience such a cool and unique culture."

Free lessons

The Chinese pavilion also offered lessons on Chinese culture and arts, such as the ancient art of calligraphy and the delicate art of paper-cutting.

Enchanting traditional Chinese dances were preformed on the main stage by brightly-garbed dancers in exotic head-dresses, accompanied by ancient-style Chinese music played on traditional Chinese stringed instruments and flutes.

The gentler martial art of Tai Chi was also showcased, as skilled practitioners enthralled the crowd, moving in unison in slow motion.

"I love the music and dances of China. They are so unique, like nothing you've ever seen before," one booth vendor who gave her name as Virginia said.

"These cultural events and people-to-people exchanges have a positive impact on bilateral relations and form the foundation of our strongest relationships. They can make people in both countries realize the importance of maintaining good, steady relations and world stability," Zhang said.