Sounds of China

Visitors center concerts unite cultures with Church

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sounds of an ancient Chinese zither called a GuZheng filled the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors Center Sept. 15 as musicians performed traditional and modern Chinese selections.

The evening was part of an ongoing series sponsored by the visitors center to unite members of the ethnic communities in the Washington, D.C., area with the Church. Bing Xia of the Montgomery Chinese Branch in Maryland directs the Washington GuZheng Society. The instrumentalists include two other LDS members, Stephanie Tan and Rachel Wang.

Sister Xia learned to play the GuZheng as a young girl in the Jiang Su Province of China, where she developed into a renowned professional. She came to the United States in 2000.

The evening concert was noteworthy for the seven Chinese-speaking missionaries who serve at the visitors center and who helped welcome almost 400 guests. For Sister Ou Yang from Taiwan and Sister Kwun from Hong Kong, the evening was a chance to recall their homeland and tunes from their youth.

"I'm so happy to hear this music again," said Sister Ou Yang. "It's nice that Americans can be exposed to it to help them understand Chinese culture, plus such events help Chinese visitors learn about our Church as they tour the center and temple grounds."

Sister Kwun added that the tones and technique of the harp-like instrument make it unique. "The style and sound is so different, so emotional, so refined," she said.

Shortly after arriving in America, Sister Xia's husband, Jian Song, met the missionaries at a bus stop. Their family started taking the discussions. What impressed Sister Xia was the emphasis on family. "I love my family so much and I saw how much the Church emphasizes this. We are all part of a bigger family and everybody we meet on earth can go back and be with Heavenly Father again," she said.

Typically, a sense of family with connections to past generations is a strong component of Chinese culture, according to Branch President Benjamin K. Tsai.

He said the Church's teachings attract many Chinese who are interested in helping their families, making genealogy and family history very appealing.

Brother Tsai also explained that although he is an American citizen who was raised in a family that converted to the Church in Taiwan, he tries to make his Chinese heritage a part of his life.