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Article updated: 2/6/2013 9:16 AM

Festival celebrates Asian culture at Benedictine University


Disciples of the Illinois Shaolin Kung Fu school will display the power and self-control of the martial arts discipline in a show at Benedictine University's sixth annual Festival of Asia from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, at the school's Krasa Student Center, 5700 College Road, Lisle.

Grand Master Yang Chen, an expert in Shaolin-style kung fu and the school's instructor, will lead his students in a demonstration of several types of authentic kung fu, including the use of traditional weaponry such as nunchucks and staffs.

Last year, audience members gasped as a member of the school used a sledgehammer to crack apart a concrete block that lay resting on the back of another school member.

This year, Chen also will offer six free tai chi lessons to visitors of the festival.

The Festival of Asia not only is meant to be entertaining and exciting, it is an experience that showcases Asian culture and tradition. It includes traditional Asian cuisine, music and dance performances featuring Benedictine students, according to Elsie Yuan, executive director of International Programs and Services at Benedictine.

Attendees can participate in table tennis tournaments, view a cooking contest, and shop in an Asian-style market that features authentic clothing, jewelry, art and more.

The festival began in 2008 to recognize and celebrate the university's budding Asian programs, as well as the small number of Chinese students who came to study at Benedictine.

Since then, the university has expanded its academic programs in China and Vietnam. Today, 110 Asian students are enrolled throughout Benedictine's Lisle and Springfield campuses, Yuan said.

"This has been a great opportunity for Benedictine to provide this experience for Asian students while they are away from home," Yuan said. "This provides them with the chance to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Vietnamese New Year and the Asian Spring Festival with the local community.

"This event is also about promoting cultural understanding by bringing people from diverse backgrounds together. It's about opening the door for people to interact and learn from one another, which hopefully leads us to build a more connected and mindful world community."

Admission is $20, which includes a family-style lunch. For tickets or information, call the Office of International Programs and Services at (630) 829-6354.

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