For the several years that Tiny Tang has lived in Vienna, she has pined for the Chinese New Year celebrations of her homeland, where friends and family greeted one another in community-wide gatherings marking the beginning of the new year on the lunar calendar. Although the Chinatown in Washington, D.C., has had its own Chinese New Year events, its smaller scope didn't have the same festive spirit as her childhood celebrations.
But in 2004, Tang, with several other Northern Virginians, traveled to New York City to commemorate the Year of the Monkey in an inaugural Chinese New Year Gala and celebration sponsored by an independent, international, Chinese media company.
"It's the first time that Chinese people can have a gala to spread Chinese culture," said Tang, who attended the New York celebration with her daughter Linda Wang, 4, and her husband.
The company hosting the Gala and celebration is New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), a station broadcast worldwide on satellite television. The station aims to give the 2.3 million Chinese who live in the United States and 60 million Chinese worldwide unbiased news and programming on China and overseas Chinese.
Likewise, the station's attempt to create a Chinese New Year gala in New York City was its effort to unite Chinese who live on the Eastern seaboard, as well as introduce Westerners to Chinese culture. In addition to Tang, about 50 people from Fairfax County attended the celebration which took place Jan. 17 and 18.
"I suspect that the New York Gala will bridge the West and the East," said Julianne Xu, a Fairfax City resident who also does public relations and reporting for the Washington bureau of NTDTV.
The two-day event featured a parade with dragons in Flushing, N.Y., as well as performances by internationally known singers and dancers during the crowning jewel of the event, the Gala.
"It really showed the best parts of Chinese history," said Tang, whose favorite moments were during a dance called "Heavenly Gate," performed by Falun Gong practitioners. "I was touched by the performances."
The New York Gala was part of a series of other galas hosted by NTDTV, in Toronto, Taipei and Paris. Because the station is producing the program, the performances will be played on satellite television. In Fairfax, viewers can witness a telecast on MHz Networks (Channel 56) on Saturday, Jan. 24, from midnight to 2:50 a.m. The International Channel will air the Gala on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, from 1:30-4:30 p.m.
"This year, the Gala will be broadcast in Iceland," Xu said.
The reason for creating a major event that would attract visitors for many states was to unite the many Chinese living abroad, according to Xu. She related the story of how her friend had lived in Washington, D.C., prior to Xu's residence here.
"Many Chinese felt they weren't represented in mainstream media," said Xu, who added that her friend felt lonely and isolated. "Also, the overseas Chinese are not so united."
Xu and her husband, Frank Gong, regularly produce stories and interviews for NTDTV. Gong covers the U.S. Congress for NTDTV and sends his stories to the station's main offices in New York City for editing and airing.
Gong volunteered to be a correspondent for NTDTV because he agreed with the station's views of fairness and human rights. Since the station's inception two years ago, the nonprofit has covered SARS, Tiananmen Square, and individual rights abuses by the Chinese government.
"It's not propaganda at all. We report, and you decide," Gong said. "When you see the power of the media, you know your responsibility."
WHILE THE SATELLITE feeds originate from New York, several of the shows are produced in the Washington, D.C., area, such as a learning English program and a sports program, and the show "Weekly Economic Review."
"I really need to work hard to bring the truth to the local Chinese here," said Xu.
Xu considered a role with NTDTV as important, because in mainland China, where her father still lives, the government-controlled media didn't tell the whole story on the SARS sickness that spread in 2003. Last spring, her father ignored her pleas to stay indoors, because he said the news reported that the Chinese government had the SARS outbreak under control. Several days later, her father's neighbor died from the illness.
"I said, ‘Father, don't be fooled by the TV again,’" Xu said.