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The Whole Town Turned Out for San Francisco’s Chinese New Year Parade

China

As 50,000 firecrackers lit up by the Mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee, on February 15, the curtain of the annual Chinese New Year Parade raised in Chinatown to celebrate the incoming Year of Horse. "During those times, the horse was the only thing that delivered people and goods, and so, I think it’s a call on all of us to be more dependable to each other," said Mayor Lee, explaining the significance of the horse in the Chinese zodiac.

An estimated one million people gathered for the parade, regardless of the shutdown of the Muni subway service and forecasts for rainy weather. For some of the spectators, it has become a family tradition to join the annual parade. Every year, more and more new participants are attracted by the event.

Commencing at Market Street, the parade marched to Geary, down Post, and ended in Chinatown on Kearny Street. Dressed as the ancient "Terracotta Warriors" (兵马俑), the Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy led the parade and presented the image of the underground army arrayed in defense of the First Emperor of Qin Dynasty (秦始皇). Some other entourages dressed up as young warrior comrades of "Hua Mulan" (花木兰), the legendary heroine who joined the army to free her father from the throes of war as a gesture of filial piety. A 150 feet dragon, steered by the San Francisco Police Department highlighted the event, along with another 110 feet dragon mounted by Yau Kung Moon School, a southern Shaolin Kung Fu school based in San Francisco.

Realizing its tradition as the largest parade of its kind outside Asia, the luminous presence of the 268 feet long "Golden Dragon" embellished the finalé of the celebration which is also considered to be the end of a series of Chinese New Year celebration events that have lasted for one month.

Yifan Cao is a University of Sydney Intern at the East-West Center in Washington.