In 1977, a half-dozen extended families of Chinese origin decided to create a school that would keep their language and culture alive in the CrescentCity. Their 30 children were the first students of the Academy of Chinese Studies in New Orleans.
Now, more than three decades later, the school is still going strong with a student body of more than 100 – both children and adults – who meet weekly in donated space on the campus of Tulane University.
They will celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year on Sunday afternoon with all the traditions of their forbearers. For some of the families, this special holiday marks the continuation of yet a second, albeit not so ancient tradition – their link to the more than century-old Chinese community in New Orleans.
Few know that New Orleans once had its own small but thriving Chinatown. Located in and around the 110 block of Tulane Avenue, it was a community of stores and groceries, restaurants and hand laundries until the end of the 1930s, when the neighborhood was demolished for the urban development that resulted in today’s Central Business District.
For more recent newcomers to our city, like Jing Hu, principal of the Chinese Academy, celebrating Chinese New Year is not only a link to her homeland, but also a way to keep traditions alive for her two young sons, both of whom have grown up in the United States.
Jing, like all who are involved in teaching at the Chinese Academy, is a volunteer sharing her passion about her culture and language in the more than 14 age-based programs geared for students as young as 4 years old. Each Sunday, those who want to teach and those who want to learn meet from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Newcomb Hall.
This coming New Year is the Year of the Dragon. Occupying the 5th position of the Chinese zodiac, the dragon, which comes around once every 12 years, is considered to be the strongest of all the signs — one that is supposed to be a deliverer of good fortune. For those dragons born in 1952, it is the Year of the Water Dragon, a 60-year cycle that is supposed to be particularly auspicious.
For more information about the Academy of Chinese Studies in New Orleans, click here.
Sharon Litwin, president of NolaVie, writes weekly about the cultural life of New Orleans.