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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Uniting the community’: Spokane Chinese Association gifts painting symbolizing harmony to the city

Spokane Mayor Lisa Brown, left, delightfully excepts an original artwork painting from the Spokane Chinese Association and renowned Chinese calligrapher and painter Master Wang Zong Ren, right, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, in the mayor's seventh-floor office. Master Li Yue Feng is at center holding the dragons. The painting, which took two hours to finish, but many hours thinking about it, depicts a phoenix, a dragon, Canada geese, the Riverfront Clocktower and the Monroe Street Bridge. Brown says the city has not yet decided where it will be displayed so the public will be able to see the gift.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A dragon and a phoenix dance in the sky over the Monroe Street Bridge and the Great Northern Clocktower in a painting presented on Thursday to Mayor Lisa Brown from the Spokane Chinese Association.

The painting Brown accepted on behalf of the city, created by local artist Master Wang Zong Ren, depicts two mythological creatures often symbolizing yin and yang, which together signify harmony, said Weiling Zhu, president of the Spokane Chinese Association.

“This is about uniting the community without consideration of differences,” Zhu said in an interview. “We wanted to present an exquisite gift, an original painting by our local renowned artist to the people of the city of Spokane.”

In return, the mayor’s office gifted the Spokane Chinese Association with a copy of Artist’s Eye on Spokane, a fully hand-painted book by local artist Megan Perkins that depicts various elements of the city.

Though Spokane’s Chinese immigrant population is much smaller than in Seattle, San Francisco or New York, Zhu said she was proud of the size of her community’s impact on the city, in a way symbolized by Thursday’s gift to Spokane.

“They are trying to share the beauty of their culture with the people around them, and the Spokane Chinese Association is taking a lead in this role, to help people to understand a different culture and a different ethnicity has beauty, and to enhance harmony in the community,” she said.

She also pointed to charitable works by Spokane’s Chinese community, including providing food to the homeless and senior citizens.

“During the pandemic, we noticed the senior citizens were impacted a lot, stuck at home and no one to help them,” Zhu said. “The youth, supported by the Spokane Chinese Association, they would leave food to seniors, not just of the Chinese community, but the whole community.”

A number of other community leaders participated in the gifting ceremony, including Master Li Yue Feng, a fourth-generation apprentice of Master Huo Yuan Jia, a heroic figure during the late 1800s and early 1900s who has come to symbolize China’s defense against foreign aggressors, Zhu said.

Yue Feng, coach for the team that will perform a dragon dance during this year’s Lunar New Year celebration who will also be performing a martial arts demonstration, brought a costume dragon’s head to Thursday’s gifting ceremony.

The Lunar New Year, often called the Chinese New Year but similarly celebrated in Korea and Vietnam, falls on Feb. 10 this year, ushering in the year of the Dragon. The Spokane Chinese Association will host a Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 18 at the Fox Theater for the second year. Though the Spokane Chinese Association has hosted a Lunar New Year celebration every year since its incorporation in 2004, except in 2020 and 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was typically held in smaller venues like community college or high school auditoriums, Zhu said.

Moving to a larger venue last year was only possible due to the support of the Downtown Spokane Partnership, the city of Spokane, and Spokane Arts, among other private foundations and businesses.

After the success of last year’s event, the list of sponsors has only grown, Zhu added, allowing the organization to host in the Fox again this year.

“It was heartwarming, the outpouring of support from the community,” she added. “The impact of the Spokane Chinese community is mutual for the Chinese community and the Spokane community as a whole.”