On Sept. 7, at approximately 5:30pm, USF witnessed the birth of the Sino-Heritage Association. The occasion was marked with formal wear, a spread of various foods and two very impressive keynote speakers for the night. USF President the Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J. and Liyou Zha, deputy consul general of the People’s Republic of China in San Francisco.
The event officially marked the opening ceremony for the association, who introduce themselves to the school as “An integrated platform for providing a learning environment for exchanging the Chinese traditional wisdom and culture with both Eastern and Western perspectives.” The founder and president of the association, Lichao Zhang, is a junior international studies major who had envisioned the opening ceremony of the Sino-Heritage Association since his freshman year. In recent months, everything finally started coming together.
“When I had the idea of this opening ceremony, I knew that I could not do it without the support of Father Fitzgerald and the Consul General,” said Zhang, who already had history with both men before asking them to speak at the inaugural event of the association.
“They are the receivers of our voices. We have to send out the message not only to our peers but also to our leaders; they need to know what we are really thinking. And they are not unreachable, we must continue to help each other, advocate for one another,” said Zhang.
Zhang also attributes much of the work and preparation for the ceremony to his team of executive board members. “This was a team effort: we made this happen collectively and it was not up to any one individual. If we are asking for an inclusive cultural platform, then that inclusiveness must first start from within,” said Zhang.
The first member of Zhang’s team came in the form of Tucker Reiland, a senior asian studies major and Vice President of Mission for the association. In Reiland’s introductory remarks he told the story of how he and Zhang became acquainted. “When I first met Lichao, we had an Asian Philosophy class with Professor Kim, and I remember on the first day, I don’t remember what the question was, but we were talking about the Book of Bodes, and the only person who was willing to speak up was Lichao,” said Reiland. “I knew from the first day that I met him that he was a very passionate guy about Chinese traditional culture,” he added.
Sherry Feng, junior computer science major and the association’s Executive Assistant, met Zhang last fall when they were both elected as International Student Representatives for ASUSF Senate. “Once our term was over for Senate, he wanted to start the paperwork for Sino-Heritage. He asked if I would like to be part of the executive board and I was like ‘yeah, of course,’” said Feng. After being approved by Student Leadership and Engagement (SLE) earlier this fall, the association came out in force to recruit new members at Involvement Fair, which served as a sort of soft opening for the executive board. Efforts at Involvement Fair proved successful with the help of freshman student Junjiao Lei, who performed a musical piece on a traditional Chinese instrument called Guqin, which has been played since ancient times. The performance, Lei said, was his first on US soil.
Fitzgerald described the recital as a “beautiful, meditative, and deep performance,” and he has also given high praise for the work that has been done at USF’s Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western culture. The Ricci Institute is one of four separate institutions which focus on research on ancient and modern Chinese culture, as well as the intercultural dialogue between the Chinese world and the other cultures around the world. For the Sino-Heritage Association, Zhang wanted to embody what the Ricci Institute stands for while also practicing their philosophy with students of all walks of life.
The Administrative Director of the Ricci Institute, Dr. Wu Xiaoxin, was able to congratulate Zhang on the formation of the association, which was largely molded at the institute under his mentorship. “The University of San Francisco is such a nurturing environment that it involves everybody, and certainly, the Sino-Heritage Association is one of those student bodies that will involve everybody,” said Xiaoxin, who thanked Zhang for the opportunity to collaborate on the initiative that eventually became the association. “Standing here, I am very delighted and honored to be with Father Paul Fitzgerald, Deputy Counsel General Liyou Zha, faculty and staff members, but above and beyond, with all of you.”
Originally plans called that there be another keynote speaker, Director of the Ricci Institute M. Antoni J. Ucerler, S.J., but unfortunately he was scheduled to be in Kyoto, Japan for the date of the event. This did not prevent him from making his presence felt at the ceremony, with Xiaoxin reading a letter he had written to Zhang. “Here at USF there are over a 1’000 Chinese students, which provides all of you with a unique opportunity to experience every day Chinese-Western Cultural History and exchange ‘in action’ “ said Ucerler, who added “But while all that may or may not happen of its own accord, it is thanks to Zhang Lichao, that you now have a student organization worthy of this large Chinese community at USF.”
To celebrate both the establishment of the Sino-Heritage Association, and the relationship that has bonded the Ricci Institute to it, Zhang brought back a piece of art from China that Feng described as “a tangible symbol of Sino-Heritage Association and what we stand for.” Zhang, who said he received some grief over the large artwork at customs, has donated the piece to the Ricci Institute to show his appreciation for the work they have done. The piece reads Sino-Heritage Association in Chinese, and is now on display at the Ricci Institute, located inside the Del Santo Reading Room up at Lone Mountain, which Lichao hopes will stay there for a very long time.