China By Way of DC

Studying a language in the absence of context is a missed opportunity. That’s why the Chinese Studies program at Sidwell Friends embraces enrichment activities outside of school. Immersing students in Chinese culture helps them better understand China’s place on the world stage and how China’s vast history informs its culture today. 

Last weekend saw two great examples of Sidwell Friends’ deep connection to Chinese culture and experience. On Saturday, the Chinese Embassy hosted Sidwell Friends School families by special invitation for a mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebration. Nearly 200 4th–8th grade Sidwell Friends Chinese students and their families joined Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang as they took in the Embassy’s architecture and artwork. 

Ginger Dietrich P ’26, ’24 initiated this special event after meeting with Minister Counsellor of Education Xinyu Yang. “I was excited about this unique opportunity because cultural exchange is very important for our students growing up in a global community,” says Dietrich. “This event was the perfect path forward to a better understanding of Chinese culture and arts. I was so pleased Sidwell was very receptive to making this invitation available to our students and families.”

The Embassy provided those families with lots of traditional Chinese activities, such as calligraphy, brush pen painting, the Chinese yoyo, paper cutting, tea tasting, and how to use chopsticks. There were also performances of Chinese music, dances, and Tai chi. “Students were highly engaged, and having a great time,” says Middle School Chinese teacher Fei Xiong Reed. “The highlight was the mooncake making and eating. Everybody took home the mooncakes they made!”

Ambassador Qin Gang noted the importance of the moon in Chinese culture in a speech to all the Sidwell Friends families, “As a very famous Chinese saying goes: ‘The moon represents my heart.’ From the bottom of my heart, I wish all of you over the moon! I wish young students shoot for the moon and much success.”

The 8th grade students even analyzed the poem “Quiet Night Thought” (《静夜思》) in preparation for the event. The poem, written by one of the great Chinese poets, Li Bai (李白) from the Tang Dynasty, is traditionally performed at Mid-Autumn Festival. Fittingly, two students, Gardiner Dietrich ’27 and Jake Snow ’27, recited “Quiet Night Thought” at the event. 

Then on Sunday, Sidwell Friends hosted the Harvest Moon Youth Talent Festival—a partnership with the Chinese American Museum in DC, the Howard County Chinese School, and the Chinese American Organization of the Greater DC Area—which was open to students from middle and high schools across the DC area. 

The festival showcased a variety of gifted Chinese-American performers, including Sean Guo ’28, who played a piece of classical music on the flute. “The event was marvelous, with an amazing group of talented young people performing,” says Upper School Chinese teacher John Flower (whom the Chinese ambassador praised at the embassy visit the previous day!). 

In addition to the flute, participants played a wide variety of classical and popular music on piano, violin, and traditional Chinese instruments. “The program also included wonderful dance performances reflecting the cultural diversity within China,” Says Flower. “The Harvest Moon Youth Talent Festival was a great example of how Sidwell Friends’ Chinese Studies program partners with the Chinese-American community in a way that enriches the cultural life of the School and the diversity of experiences for our students and families.”
 

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