The local celebration began 12 years ago as a way to keep tradition alive among younger Chinese generations. But the original version is thousands of years old. Legend has it that Buddha invited all the animals to a great banquet, but only 12 showed up. To honor his guests, Buddha named a year after each animal. In the Chinese zodiac, this year marks the Year of the Horse, a symbol of success and good luck.
Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants certainly are fortunate, says Lin Ling Lee, president of Phoenix Chinese Week 2002 Committee. "We are able to learn both Eastern and Western cultures, and then we have the choice to adopt the best from each," she says.
A variety of family activities have been scheduled for this year's tribute to the Valley's Chinese community and the sister city of Chengdu, China. Most of the events will be held under the red-and-green pagodas of the COFCO Chinese Cultural Center, east of downtown Phoenix. Highlights include a three-day culture and cuisine festival, a 5K "wok" and run, and a performance by the Chengdu Children's Acrobatic and Variety Group.
Festivalgoers can also look forward to the popular lion dance and a mah-jongg booth. New to this year's event are a costume display representing a timeline of dynasties and a "dough artisan" from China -- one of the last two artisans believed to still practice his craft.