Chinese New Year: 9 questions for Nashville's Jen-Jen Lin (Tennessean) 2/5/19
February 5, 2019
Chinese New Year: 9 questions for Nashville's Jen-Jen Lin
Brad Schmitt, Nashville TennesseanPublished 6:00 a.m. CT Feb. 5, 2019 | Updated 7:36 a.m. CT Feb. 5, 2019
Jen-Jen Lin speaks about the dragon dance Nashville Tennessean
"I don’t believe people are racists; it’s a misunderstanding, not enough information, so stereotyping is the best they can do," she said. "I try to make Chinese more of a common thing."
· Lin says the biggest misconception about the Chinese is that all food comes on buffets
· She says Nashville is becoming more metropolitan and accepting of different cultures
· "We need better Chinese food in Nashville," Lin says
The Chinese New Year — Year of the Pig — launches Tuesday (Feb. 5), and Jen-Jen Lin, who founded the Chinese Arts Alliance here in 2002, once again will put on Nashville's celebration, set for noon to 3 p.m. Saturday in Hillsboro Village.
In advance of that, The Tennessean had a conversation with Lin about her time in Middle Tennessee.
1. What differences have you seen in attitudes toward the Chinese in Nashville in 25 years?
When I came in 1994, things are very different.
I have come across several not necessarily racist remarks, but they’ve never seen Chinese. In the grocery store, kids would point to my face, “Chinese!” I smiled.
And my husband is American. When we travel together to a public event, we got a lot of stares.
Jen-Jen Lin, director of the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville, rehearses the Chinese dragon dance outside Eakin Elementary School on Jan. 27, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)
I don’t believe people are racists; it’s a misunderstanding, not enough information, so stereotyping is the best they can do. I try to make Chinese more of a common thing.
Now there’s Chinese food, culture and arts, and now more Nashvillians travel to China. People are moving to Nashville from California, New York and other places; it becomes more metropolitan.
2. Where is the good Chinese food in Nashville?
You have to come to my events! (Laughs.) We have monthly Chinese dining adventures at Lucky Bamboo. It’s a chef table. They bring out authentic, delicious adventures. www.ChineseArtsAlliance.org.
You just don’t want to ask what’s in it. Just eat it!
My understanding? Chinese chefs, they can do all kinds of authentic, but they’ve had to cater to Americans’ taste to make a profit.
Sichuan Hot Pot in Antioch. They have individual-size hot pots, and they prepare all ingredients and you cook yourself. And all kinds of sauces. You just have to mix it yourself.
Jen-Jen Lin, left, director of the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville, and Julian Buchi-Fotre, cheer "Happy New Year" while rehearsing the Chinese dragon dance outside Eakin Elementary School on Jan. 27, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)
3. Your thoughts on U.S.- Chinese trade wars?
I’ll recuse myself from answering that. I like to keep our group not political because we focus on arts. We’re not importers. We are here living in Nashville. We already have invested our lives here, and we have a strong heritage and want to share our culture.
4. Biggest misconception about the Chinese?
People think Chinese food is, due to media, is always takeout, cheap and have to be big quantities. Or buffet. If you want big quantity and cheap, all you can do is fried food. But Chinese food isn’t like that.
Good Chinese food has fresh ingredients and is cooked and eaten quickly. Buffets sit there for a long time. How can that be fresh?
We need better Chinese food in Nashville, I agree.
5. What are your hopes for expanding awareness of Chinese culture in Nashville?
Julian Buchi-Fotre, left, controls the head of the dragon while rehearsing the Chinese dragon dance outside Eakin Elementary School in Nashville on Jan. 27, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)
Not just Chinese American, but from all different parts of the world, they also contribute to society. They are not a burden to society. They contribute to prosperity of entire community.
I also feel the richness of different cultures enrich our lives, from every part of the world.
I feel lucky to be American. America is still a wealthy country compared to every other part of the world. And we should be grateful for what we have and the freedoms we have that other people do not have.
6. Your favorite thing to do in Nashville?
Deep inside myself, I’m an artist and I choreograph and produce dance theater.
My favorite thing to do, closest to my heart, I came to the U.S. to study dance. Got my master’s. I continue to be in touch with my training and my skill.
7. Favorite moment of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Nashville?
Look at these kids, MLK students in the Chinese language program. I try to encourage Chinese program learners to come together to present what they learn in their Chinese programs.
And it can’t be just language. It has to be arts and culture and languages all coming together.
Reading Chinese poetry and singing Chinese songs? Fantastic.
Ensworth lower school, Brentwood High, Nashville Chinese School, Franklin High and Independence High, they have programs with Chinese. It’s good for these students to see each other at New Year. It fosters community.
8. Hopes for the Chinese community in Nashville?
There are many small pockets of Chinese communities. And I hope they won’t divide themselves and they embrace each other.
9. Why is Plaza Mariachi part of this year’s celebration?
A lot of minorities are in Antioch, and we want to jam in with them!
Reach Brad Schmitt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-259-8384 and on Twitter @bradschmitt.
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Jen-Jen Lin, director of the Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville, joins hands with participants after rehearsing the Chinese dragon dance outside Eakin Elementary School on Jan. 27, 2019. (Photo: Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean)
Chinese New Year celebration
What: Lion dancing, dragon dance, food, martial arts, juggling, arts and crafts, and more
When: Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 9)
Where: Hillsboro Village at Blakemore and 21st Avenue South
Register online: www.ChineseArtsAlliance.org