Arts & Culture

Kentucky Wildcats Celebrate the Year of the Tiger

Sculptural art by Li Hongwei featured in "Brilliant Illusions: Crafted Forms by Li Hongwei" exhibit and musician Shin-Yi Yang with guqin
Sculptural art by Li Hongwei; Musician Shin-Yi Yang holds guqin

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 8, 2022) — The University of Kentucky celebrates Wildcats all year long, but this Lunar New Year, there is another wild cat to celebrate.  

Feb. 1 marked the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and according to the Chinese zodiac, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. 

UK has celebrated Chinese New Year for over a decade. This year, the tradition, which started with the former Confucius Institute, continues with the Office of China Initiatives (OCI). OCI will host four events during the week of Feb. 7 through Feb. 11 to celebrate the Wildcats and the Chinese New Year. 

“The UK International Center, home to the Office of China Initiatives, is committed to developing and sustaining a campus where diverse cultural perspectives are included and valued, and the Chinese New Year celebration nicely facilitates and showcases this priority,” said UK Associate Provost of Internationalization Sue Roberts.

After last year’s online celebration, this year’s weeklong Chinese New Year celebrations are being hosted in person.  

Celebrations began with a craft night on Monday, co-hosted by the Student Activities Board and OCI. Students learned how to make Chinese paper lanterns and calligraphy.  

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, UK students, faculty and staff, and members the greater Lexington community, are invited to attend “Brilliant Illusions, Resonant Notes: Chinese Sculpture & Music at the UK Art Museum” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to listen to a gallery talk by the curator of the exhibition "Brilliant Illusions, Resonant Notes," featuring sculptural and ceramic works by Chinese artist Li Hongwei. The gallery talk begins at 11 a.m. and the live guqin (ancient Chinese zither) performance by Boston musician Shinyi Yang begins at noon. Admission to the museum is free. To reserve spots, go to  

Celebrations continue Thursday, Feb. 10, with Asian Fusion, an art exhibit by Constance Grayson, at the Loudoun House, 209 Castlewood Drive, from 5 to 8 p.m. There will also be live Chinese music and a fashion show presented by Shuling Studio. 

Lastly, OCI’s Chinese New Year celebrations conclude on Friday, Feb.11, with the Chinese New Year Celebration for Faculty and Staff from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Harris Ballroom at the Gatton Student Center. OCI is bringing this celebration back. The event will feature a cultural marketplace, an open bar, food, live music, opera mask changing, dance and more. Those born in the Year of the Tiger will be honored with a special gift. This event is invitation-only. 

Huajing Maske, the executive director of the Office of China Initiatives, said the UK faculty and staff Chinese New Year celebration started 10 years ago under the then Confucius Institute.  

“The entire Boone Center was usually decorated for this festive occasion,” Maske said. “Over its history (the last in-person celebration was in 2020), we introduced Chinese New Year to hundreds of UK faculty and staff through our specially designed programs that included food, cultural presentations, faculty/staff recognition and celebration of those born in the Chinese zodiac year.” 

Roberts said OCI offers this opportunity each year to foster mutual understanding and to highlight and share all that students, colleagues, and community members with roots in China contribute to UK’s diverse campus. 

“One of my favorite annual campus events is our Chinese New Year celebration,” Roberts said. “It is wonderful to see folks from all over campus gather to learn about how millions of people all around the world mark the start of a new lunar year, and to enjoy Chinese food and cultural performances.” 

Wei Luo, associate professor in the Department of Radiation Medicine, said the former Confucius Institute partnered with the Kentucky Chinese American Association (KYCAA) to sponsor and participate in large-scale Chinese cultural events including the annual Chinese New Year Celebration and the Moon Festival Celebration that were well received in Lexington and Kentucky.  

“OCI and former UKCI have also successfully organized Chinese cultural events and supported China-related studies on the UK campus,” Luo said. “Further, they have played a key role in leading academic collaborations between UK and a number of Chinese universities as part of the UK global engagement effort. Overall, OCI and former UKCI have made a very positive impact on UK as well as the Commonwealth, culturally and academically.”  

Luo said these Chinese New Year celebrations are especially important because the events provide an opportunity for people to learn and understand different cultures. 

“UK has many students and employees with Chinese ethnic background but not many people are familiar with the Chinese culture,” Luo said. “Under the leadership of Dr. Huajing Maske, the UK Office of China Initiatives and the former UK Confucius Institute have made a lot of effort to promote Chinese culture on the UK campus and across the Commonwealth of Kentucky over the past decade.” 

OCI is also continuing the tradition of partnering with various colleges and departments that choose to carry out their own Chinese New Year celebrations. The Gatton College of Business and Economics holds an annual Chinese New Year celebration. Nancy Johnson, associate dean of International and Graduate Programs at the Gatton College of Business and Economics, said Gatton is honored to partner with OCI. 

“Over the last few years, the Gatton College of Business and Economics has been honored to partner with the Office of Chinese initiatives in celebrating the Lunar New Year for our students,” Johnson said. “We are very much looking forward to continuing on this tradition long into the future.” 

Maske said it was important for OCI to carry forward the Chinese New Year celebrations, and the Year of the Tiger was a fitting time for this new beginning.  

Traditionally, the tiger is seen to represent vigor, ambition, strength and courage. People born in tiger years (2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950 and 1938) are said to hold these traits, in addition to self-confidence, enthusiasm, generosity, justice and passion for helping others. 

“According to the Chinese zodiac, Tigers are enthusiastic and brave, so, it is good timing to bring the celebration of the Year of the Tiger to the Wildcat campus, especially after the two years being dormant during the pandemic,” Maske said. 

Roberts added that the Year of the Tiger may be especially meaningful to the UK community.  

“Tigers are wild cats, of course, so we might hope that the UK Wildcat community would find special meaning in this year’s celebration of the new Year of the Tiger,” she said.  

Maske said she hopes the campus will come together to not only celebrate the Year of the Tiger but to celebrate the Wildcats as a community. 

“The celebration of the Chinese New Year is not only fun, but also a time of coming together as a community when we can all contribute to enriching the diverse fabric of our campus culture,” she said.  

For more information on OCI’s Chinese New Year events, go to or email  

About Office of China Initiatives 

Established in 2014, the University of Kentucky Office of China Initiatives (OCI) leads UK’s China strategy through developing key partnerships, providing opportunities for students and faculty to engage with China, cultivating a holistic educational experience for students of Chinese descent and growing UK’s brand and alumni network in China. OCI also bridges internationalization and diversity, equity, and inclusion through advocacy and education while fostering and advancing a culture of belonging where ALL are valued, respected and engaged in their pursuit of global understanding. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.