homepage logo

End of the Chinese New Year: Celebration highlights Shepherd professor’s semester in Taiwan

By Staff | Feb 14, 2020

Christina Lu, of Shepherdstown, reacts to the lion dance, as the lion prepares to throw out her "good luck" lettuce leaves from its mouth, during the celebration in Erma Ora Byrd Hall on Friday night. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — When Shepherd University history professor David Gordon and his wife, Christina Lu, traveled to Taiwan at the end of last summer, they had no idea how busy the upcoming fall semester would be.

Gordon taught five classes over the following months — two for Shepherd online and three at Shepherd’s partner university in Taiwan, Nanhua University. On Friday night at a Chinese New Year party celebrating the end of the 23-day holiday in Erma Ora Byrd Hall, Gordon shared photographs and information about his semester abroad.

“I had been very interested in teaching a summer class originally, and thought of teaching at Shepherd’s partner university in Mexico, but they didn’t need a history teacher. I then looked at our other partner universities in Cyprus and Taiwan, and the university in Taiwan was interested when they saw my resume,” Gordon said, mentioning he has taught Asian history at Shepherd for 20 years.

Since Nanhua University does not have summer classes, Gordon agreed to teach for the fall 2019 semester, which he said was overall a good experience. He even taught a new class at Nanhua University, American Immigration History, which he hopes to teach at Shepherd in the future.

“I’m very glad I did it, but it’s a one-time thing to do,” Gordon said, mentioning his wife’s fluency in Chinese and his knowledge of Japanese helped them navigate life in Taiwan with relative ease.

Diana Villalobos, a junior economics and business double major, serves Chinese food to Conner McManus, a sophomore computer science major, during the celebration in Erma Ora Byrd Hall on Friday. Tabitha Johnston

Gordon said he hopes his experience will encourage his students to consider participating in Shepherd’s Study Abroad program, which would place students at one of Shepherd’s partner schools for a semester.

“I would encourage students to try it, because it broadens your world. Also, you might be learning a foreign language as a student while you’re there, which might make you more marketable,” Gordon said, mentioning he would like to make a return visit to Taiwan in the future.

Attendees of the Chinese New Year celebration munched on Chinese food, participated in a raffle and supported the Study Abroad Club by bidding on silent auction items Gordon brought back from Taiwan.

The crowning event of the celebration was the presentation of the Lion Dance by the Wong People Kung Fu Association, of Washington, D.C. Director Raymond Wong explained the dance’s significance to Taoists at the beginning of the new year.

“The lion is about driving out negative spirits. We want to balance our energy as we come into the new year, so the Lion Dance will be our way of helping to drive out your negative energy and being in good luck,” Wong said, before handing out two lettuce leaves to audience members interested in participating in the dance. The leaves collectively represented the combined good and bad luck each participant was bringing into the new year.

Shepherd University history professor David Gordon looks at silent auction items at the celebration in Erma Ora Byrd Hall on Friday night. Tabitha Johnston

“You’re going to place it in the lion’s mouth. The lion will take it, swallow it and then spit the good pieces back out on you,” Wong said. “What happens to the bad pieces? The lion has the power to dispose of it.”

The free event was sponsored by Shepherd’s Study Abroad Club, Program Board, Multicultural Student Affairs, Shepherd University Foundation and Phi Beta Delta. For Senior Class President Henry Mendez, the celebration was an opportunity to expand his understanding about another culture.

“It’s very important for me to learn about other cultures and where they’re coming from,” Mendez said.