Year of the Rabbit

Lunar New Year has always been my favorite holiday. Some of my best memories of celebrating LNY are from my childhood, when all San Francisco public schools would have the day off. I remember the rush of excitement as my sister and I would put on the clothes our parents had bought us. It is customary in some cultures to wear new clothes from head to toe (or at least one new item) to symbolize the idea of beginning anew and discarding the old. We would go eat dim sum with our family and collect red envelopes full of money all day long. Because LNY is traditionally a 15-day festival, the celebrations continued in the form of learning the Chinese zodiac in class, wearing red at any chance possible, playing cultural games and activities, participating in San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade, and attending large social gatherings. 

As a child, I thought that LNY was like Christmas for Asian people, so I assumed that everyone would get the day off. I hadn’t yet realized that Lunar New Year is not an official public holiday, and often passes by without the celebration I thought was so commonplace as a child. I have not attended another school that observes LNY since elementary school. Even when I petitioned for my high school to have one of their “faculty work days” fall on LNY, I was unsuccessful. It was only this past October 2022 that California signed a bill making Lunar New Year an official state holiday. 

Today, many institutions and environments do not give space for Lunar New Year, reflecting the broader lack of acknowledgement for Asian and Asian American culture and identity. Because of this, I am always looking for chances to claim the space that we are denied. At ICP, I have the opportunity to pay homage to a cultural holiday that holds such a special place in my heart. For this exhibit, I wanted to display at least one book from each country that celebrates Lunar New Year: China, Vietnam. South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong-Kong, and Japan. Oftentimes referred to as Chinese New Year, other cultures’ variations of New Years celebrations get lost in the shuffle. While it is my hope that the ICP community will take the time to look through this collection, I have no expectations that it will incite some cataclysmic community change. For me, it is enough to walk in every day and see these books on the shelves. Even without opening them, their very presence is an expression of gratitude for what is ours–a history to be proud of and inspired by.

My grandfather’s living room, where we celebrated Lunar New Year this year.

Stray Bullet by JeongMee Yoon from It Will be a Better Day- Korean Modern Short Stories

From How Loneliness Goes by Nguan

From double happiness by Chien-chi Chang

From A Pleasant Day by Chung ChuHa

By Zhang Wubin, From Chinatowns in a Globalizing Southeast Asia

By Rong Rong from the series East Village, from Life and Dreams: Contemporary Chinese Photography and Media Art

From A Room of Her Own by Hana Zhang

Array of Bamboo Boats by Don Hong-Oai from Photographic Memories: Images from China and Vietnam

The Dream of a Butterfly by Ho Jup Mong from Impression

On the Way Home (Bridge. Penghu). 1990 by Chang Yung-Chien from Visions of Taiwan

From Hanabi by Rinko Kawauchi

08:33 from the series In the Raw from I know something about love, asian contemporary photography

Her Study by Fan Ho in Hong Kong Yesterday

Tsuma Sakamoto (Japanese) by Taku Aramasa from A Portrait of Japanese Immigrants to South America

From chinese muslims in indonesia by Zhang Wubin

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