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by Shane Sochocki, staff writer

 

HPU classes were startled by firecrackers and drums last month, as Chinatown celebrated Chinese New Year. In this culturally diverse island, tastes of China are everywhere, and one of the perks of HPU’s downtown campus is its proximity to the island’s largest Chinese community. In fact, one of HPU’s own, junior communication major Dan Yuan, 22, from Hebei Province, China, placed third in the 60th annual Narcissus Festival Pageant, making her the new Narcissus Second Princess.
Yuan is president of the Chinese Student Association at HPU and helped raise money for the assistance of the victims of the May 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China.
“ The queens and princesses from the past 60 years, each has her unique characteristics,” said Yuan, reflecting on her accomplishment, “and they all established a good public image.”
Following months of public appearances and practice, the pageant took place in the Hawai‘i Theatre, one block from HPU’s downtown campus, Jan. 10. In the first phase, contestants demonstrated their talents in Chinese culture-related activities, including painting, dancing, and musical instruments. Yuan performed traditional Chinese Dunhuang-style dance while playing the pipa, a traditional Chinese musical instrument.
“ I chose this dance because it is the symbol of China’s friendship with other countries,” Yuan said. “I hope I can be an ambassador of cultural exchanges between China and other countries.”
Contestants then modeled traditional Chinese dress, known as Qipao. Yuan’s dress was custom-made in China, where it was painted with Chinese blue and white porcelain. She added, by hand, dozens of mini diamonds to the dress.
The third phase involved knowledge of Chinese culture. Each contestant was asked to discuss a specific topic. Yuan explored the tradition of using firecrackers during Chinese New Year festivities to scare away evil spirits.
“ Competing with native-born contestants, English is my weakness and it was time consuming to adjust my accent,” Yuan said. “I would practice all the time, even during meals or in the car, and although my friends thought I had been driven crazy by the pageant, I know that without hard work, there would be no reward.”
Not only was Yuan selected as the Second Princess, but she also won the most popular award, for selling the most tickets and raising the most money for the event, Yuan and the pageant queen, as well as other princesses, attended their coronation in Hilton Hawaiian Village a week later.
Michelle Choy, contestant coordinator and the pageant court advisor, said that the goals of the pageant are to promote Chinese culture and to showcase talented contestants in Hawai‘i, not just beauty, but also talent.
Kacie Pang, selected as the Third Princess, said she learned much and made new friends through the pageant’s activities: “Not knowing a lot about culture while growing up, I learned so much through this,” Pang said. “I learned to take responsibility, and more about the culture as well as my Chinese ethnicity.”
Yuan cried when she received the crown. “It helped me to grow more, she said, and added, “I also learned to appreciate everyone around me.”

 

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