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The Chinese America Spring Festival Gala – Irvine Theme “Homeland Love 2023” Organized by the American Southern California Economic and Cultural Association and the Irvine Dragons Club, presented a night to remember Saturday, January 28 at the Barclay Theater on the campus of University of California Irvine to a full house. Following the opening after Covid as the Modern Day Marco Polo, I have been invited to and attended several Chinese New Year Celebrations. Most Chinese New Year Events in Orange County are somewhat private. Dong Ping puts on the Spring Gala as signature event for those local Orange Countians and especially for the larger Irvine residents but draws from the larger American Chinese Community and through Television back to China. This is often the time when overseas Chinese long for that “Homeland Love” that Dong Ping’s Chinese American Spring Festival Galas bring. Dong Ping Huang the President of the American Southern California Economic and Cultural Association was the Organizer of the Gala and put together a strong Production Team. The show embraced not only the theme but provided an audio-visual pleasure, and a true cultural exchange of diverse performers and audience young and old alike. Dong Ping has a unique ability to combine both professional. amateur and local talent with warm cultural artistic performances.

The Chinese American Spring Festival Gala-Irvine Theme brought together people from all walks of life in Southern California, American Chinese, Chinese and over 1,200 to watch the performance.

The Event started with VIP Guests and Press Conference with Organizer Dong Ping Huang American Southern California Economic and Cultural Association and Organizer, Sun Jing, a member of the Irvine Community Service Committee welcome VIP Guests, and Media.



Awards given to Sponsors and Organizers with Special thanks to the associations and chambers of commerce of this Chinese American Spring Festival Gala Irvine Theme, among which the Sponsors are: Orange County Chinese Chamber of Commerce, American Reciprocal Wealth Group, Peking University Southern California Alumni Association, American Chinese Development Mutual Aid Association, Yimei Association, Beyond Beaute’ Medical A Esthetics and Wellness, GCW Lydia Express LLC: Lydia Cui, lvyMax Feida Education, Founding Chairman of LALABA International Art Festival, well-known international bilingual host Zhou Zheng in Hollywood, Maison Sun Gallery: M-3 Model Media Academy, Dr. Mark Rafter Owner and CEO of MD Marco Polo Kwik Coffee. Thank you for your active participation and sincere cooperation. Because of you, all things possible became reality!

Donald Wagner, 3rd District and Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Farrah Kahn, Mayor of Irvine, Ms. Mari Barke , President & Trustee, Orange County Board of Education, Scott Voigts, Former Councilmember City of Lake Forest,  Saga Conroy Executive Assistant & Outreach Director, Orange County 3rd District Supervisor Don Wagner’s Office, Oliver Chi, Irvine City Manager, Michelle Grettenberg, Irvine Assistant City Manager, Other political figures sent their representatives: An Mingshuan Consul of the Consulate General of The People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles, Joe Zhou, Founding Chairman of LABA International Art Festival and well known bilingual host in Hollywood, Mr. Brian See, Representative for State Senator Dave Min, Mr. Michael Tou, Representative for Assemblywoman Cottie-Petrie Norris, Ms. Nam Hyee Kim, Representative for Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim, Ms. Michelle Phuong-Ahn Nguyen, Representative of Congresswoman Katie Porter, and VIPs, Lily Yuan, Vice President of American Southern California Economic and Cultural Association, Helena Wang, Honorary President of American Southern California Economic and Cultural Association, Dr. Mark A. Rafter, Owner and CEO of MD Marco Polo Enterprises, Tiffany Hsu, Lisa Smith, GCW (Irvine Chinese Performance Arts), Lydia Express LLC, Vicky Zhang, lvyMax, Max , Maison Sun Gallery, Mindy Li of M-3 Model Media Academy, Mr. Scott Baugh, Former Assemblyman, Kit Bromley, CEO of Attenditus, LTD, BCII and Black Chamber Intelligence & Analytics who has worked for 4 US Presidents and his lovely wife Amy were personally present.

At the press conference before the performance, Ms. Dong Ping Huang, president of the American Southern California Chinese Economic and Culture Association and Organizer of the Gala Event, said that this is the Chinese Spring Festival. At this time, Chinese living abroad especially with Covid inevitably have some melancholy of “missing relatives during Chinese Spring Festival time”. This one with the theme of “homeland” is filled with a strong “New Year flavor”. With the goal of “promoting Chinese culture, uniting overseas Chinese people, and enriching cultural life,” the New Year’s Gala “Chinese flavor” condenses the feelings and overseas Chinese feelings, so that the audience can enjoy the audio-visual pleasure brought by art while relieve homesickness, and welcome the new year with a new spirt and outlook. As MD Marco Polo I find when I am at a moving local Chinese American event I too feel like ancient Marco Polo some homesickness for China.

Organizer, Sun Jing, a member of the Irvine Community Service Committee, said that the COVID-19 has given us an unusual life experience over the last three years, and many people have been both emotionally and psychologically affected to varying degrees, and especially after the shooting in Monterey Park on New Year’s Eve this year. It made all of us realize that we need to remember our humble beginnings back in China and the prosperity we are enjoying. Normal social life allows each of us to contribute to the better cohesion of the Chinese and American Chinese community. A Spring Festival Gala not only allows us to relive the Cultural Beauty of the Chinese New Year, but also show the sense of a strong and cohesive community while highlighting the nature of Chinese culture, and let the Chinese Americans build our beautiful home together in the post-coronavirus era.

MCs Bo Jin and Wenxi Lin, Jiachen Zhang and Xudong Lu giving a warm welcome to bring in the Chinese New Year

“Xin nian kuai le. Wang Qi, Consul, of the Consulate General of The People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles of the delivered a welcome speech on behalf of the Los Angeles Office of Consul General and thanked the organizing committee, crew and volunteers for their hard work and dedication and wished the performance a complete success. Further, Wang Qi with Organizers Dong Ping and Sun Jing and MCs wished Chinese and overseas Chinese and friends a happy, good luck and prosperous year in the Year of The Rabbit.

Orange County 3rd District Supervisor Don Wagner presents Recognition Award on behalf of the OC Board of Supervisors to Organizers Dong Pin Huang and Sun Jing

Presentations to Organizers by Dignitaries along with Beauty pageant winners including Miss Asia, 2021 Tao Tao and Miss Asia 2022 Selina Dai, Yanyu Zhou, President of the Orange County Chinese Association, Yong Zhang, President of the US-China Federation of Commerce and Industry, Beiao, President of Beijing Friendship Association, Ming Zhang, Former President of Southern California Chinese Colleges and Universities Alliance.

The Chinese American Spring Festival Gala Irvine Theme organizing committee invited many heavyweight American, Chinese and international artists and a number of dance and choral, martial arts groups and Classical Musicians from China, Orange County and Los Angeles, and college students from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) combined with carefully prepared an audio-visual of artistic and Chinese cultural highlights as a backdrop with perfect integration of Chinese and Western art and culture for the audience when matched with on stage performance integration enhanced the excellence of singing, dancing, folk music, Western music, opera, martial arts, model Hanfu, that communicated the Homeland feel of joy, peace, and talent gathering, and various forms of art-culture entertainment for all present.

Jiesheng Wang, Chief Director, Xiao shan Wu, Deputy Chief Director, Ai Huang, Stage Manager, Ying He, Art Director, Sophie Hu Executive Director and a wonderful crew of volunteers and stage hands.

There was a Special Performance by choreographer Huangcheng “Peter” Wang who is famous with the most dazzling folk style Chinese Square Dance often broadcast live through TV networks and viewed by over 250 million followers. Crowned “China’s Square Dancing Prince” in 2010 after leading more than 700 dancers at the Zumba Instructor Convention in the United States. Peter is an amazing body of energy driven by passion on stage. While square dancing is one of the most popular activities in China, it was then still widely considered a pastime for the middle-aged and those in their twilight years. The 32-year-old Wang, a native of Nanjing, Jiangsu province, today runs his own fitness studio in Beijing that has around 20 staff, half of which are instructors.

The gym is renowned for its unique workouts which combine Chinese folk dance with moves from other styles like hip hop and salsa. Kids, young teens and old grannies dance with Peter and his instructors. Wang says, “Every granny used to be a mother like our own mother and there lives a little bunny inside their hearts.” That fits well for The Year of the Rabbit. Peter, whet on to say, “If you unlock their heart with the right key, they are just lovely, cheerful people. That key is dancing,” and that is what people saw on stage, the always cheerful joy that Peter Wang dances with. It set the stage for an uplifting show. Peter has such a heart for dance, kids, health and fitness that following the central government’s call to improve people’s health, Wang was commissioned by China’s General Administration of Sport to create 12 national-standard square dance routines to further popularize the activity. Wang said, “The trick to designing square dances is to make it easy for even those who have never worked out, but at the same time infuse some artistic moves to make it a fun and effective exercise.” Peter is one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. When I first was introduced to Peter, this famous world class dancer and choreographer and told him about the Marco Polo Panda Character I created and asked if he could create a dance for the Marco Polo Panda Puppet, I prequalified that I did not have a full budget yet. Peter responded immediately,  “if it’s for kids, promoting culture and health, I don’t need a budget, I’m in! I was joyfully surprised. Every year, Peter creates an average of 200 choreographed dances. He also regularly appears as a judge, consultant and lead dancer for the competitions and shows and has been a part of Dong Ping’s Galas and we in America are lucky to have him any time Peter is here to dance.

Recording artist Josh Moreland from Bradenton, Florida, known for his big sound what he calls his “Battle Cry Music” with its mix of Pop/Rock & Soul with an edge to it referring to as the roaring of the soul and has toured with famous singers like Stevie Wonder Charlie Puth, Rick Ross and Far East movement and recently toured South Korea. Josh performed a modern pop/rap song Uptown Funk that had the younger audience going, but when he followed with a Chinese song made famous by Teresa Teng, The Moon Represents My Heart (Yue Liang dai biao wo de xin, and now he had the older audience immediately breathed an Ahhh and he encouraged their participation and the whole audience stood up and sang along with him Ni wen wo ai ni you duo shen  (You ask me how deep I love you) Wo ai ni you ji fen (How much my love is) Wo de qing ye zhen (My affection is real), Wo Yueliang daibiao wo de xin (The Moon represents my heart),,,the result truly was the Cultural Bridge that MD Marco Polo talks about. As a performer at that moment Josh stole the show. It changed the dynamics of the evening. For most of the older audience it took them back in China and the immersion into the memories of China, Chinese Culture and family celebrations, traditional food, red envelopes, singing, games in their hometowns or villages of the past and became very real with the feeling of the longing for the Homeland and yet had a Chinese New Year joy. It was amazing to see and as often with Dong Ping’s events a unique experience that most will talk about for days and weeks to come.

The visual background had the famous Broken Bridge with the Leifeng Pagoda of the evil abbot Fahai where many Chinese get married in traditional costumes just like is acted out here at the Chinese American Spring Festival Gala Irvine Theme. This is one of China’s most famous operas and it is said that all Chinese are connected to West Lake and it is a place of magic and the supernatural and spectacular. It is a Chinese saying, “If heaven is above then Hangzhou is heaven on earth.” Hangzhou the Garden City. When ancient Marco Polo visited the city he called it the greatest city he had ever been to. This truly touches most Chinese with a touch of homesickness for Homeland Love.

In just three hours, the audience felt the merging of the East and the West, the integration of classical and modern. The warm applause signified the audience’s sincere love and appreciation of the performances and the spirit of the “NEW Year…The Year of the Rabbit.” Those in attendance salute the hard work and selfless dedication of the organizing committee and volunteers that led to and wonderful cultural experience and joyful new year kick off for all.

As they close the curtain on their show, it was truly a wonderful gala to kick-off Chinese New Year and ended with Organizers, Performers, Sponsors and VIPs gathering on the stage with congratulations, flowers and of course lots of pictures and wishing all luck and prosperity in the Year of the Rabbit be with you and your family!

Dr. Mark A. Rafter
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