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Maridon Museum celebrates Year of the Dragon

The Maridon Museum hosted a celebration of the Lunar New Year on Friday, Feb. 9. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

Were he in his hometown in the north of China, near Beijing, Xiaofan Zhang would have visited his family for the Lunar New Year. He would have feasted on noodles, dumplings and flavorful pork and beef stews in a big reunion dinner he likened to Thanksgiving.

Together with fellow arts management student Ran Peng, whose hometown is near Hong Kong, Zhang took a trip from Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Pittsburgh to North McKean Street in Butler to kick off the Lunar New Year at the Maridon Museum.

Friday night, Feb. 9, marked the first new moon of the lunar calendar, and is celebrated as a lively spring festival by millions in China and around the world.

Each year centers on a different animal in the Chinese zodiac, rotating from the Year of the Rat, to the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog or Pig.

Friday was officially the last day in the Year of the Rabbit, Peng said. With Saturday began the Year of the Dragon.

Along with other guests, Zhang and Peng, who are both graduate students at CMU and involved in the Pittsburgh arts scene, admired the East Asian artworks collected and bequeathed by the late Mary Hulton Phillips, ranging from Meissen Blanc De Chine porcelain, to jade and ivory sculptures, tapestries and landscape paintings.

“I just can’t believe there’s an Asian museum here at the Maridon,” Zhang said. “Before I came to the museum, I (couldn’t) believe that there was a lot of Chinese art here. It’s hard to see this — Asian artwork, here in America, in a small town.”

Peering at the different pieces of art, Peng said a jade sculpture of a tortoise with a dragon head stood out to her.

In Chinese culture, she shared, tortoises represent longevity.

At the event, guests wandered the gallery as part of a scavenger hunt, recording the number of dragons and pearls displayed among the artworks.

The activity is a nod to the Year of the Dragon.

The dragon is the only mythical creature in the Chinese zodiac, said executive director Roxann Booser. She said pearls symbolize wisdom while dragons symbolize power and prosperity.

“In (Chinese) culture, everything has meaning,” Booser said. “Flowers, colors, shapes.”

She motioned to a tomb sculpture of a prancing horse from the time of the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century, and noted how, after all these years, it still retained pigment.

Xiaofan Zhang and Ren Peng, along with other guests admire a “Budai” sculpture during the Maridon Museum’s Lunar New Year celebration on Friday, Feb. 9. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Theodore Lauer, 14, looks at several sculptures at the Maridon Museum during its celebration of the Chinese New Year on Friday, Feb. 9. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Josh Yockey looks at a “Budai” sculpture at the Maridon Museum during its celebration of the Chinese New Year on Friday, Feb. 9. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Rooms were filled with Chinese-inspired artwork and sculpture during the Maridon Museum's Celebration of the Chinese New Year event on Friday, Feb. 9. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The Maridon Museum celebrated the Chinese New Year on Friday, Feb. 9. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
Judith Cichra admires a Chinese sculpture at the Maridon Museum during its celebration of the Chinese New Year on Friday, Feb. 9. “This is Butler’s best kept secret,” Cichra said. “It’s a gem of a place.” Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle
The Maridon Museum hosted a Celebration of the Chinese New Year event on Friday, Feb. 9. Morgan Phillips/Butler Eagle

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