Connecting the Community: Chinese Culture Days

From a 70-foot dancing dragon to delicious regional cuisine to awe-inspiring performances of traditional acrobatics and music, Chinese Culture Days is a beloved St. Louis tradition. Each May, the event brings thousands of guests to the Missouri Botanical Garden to experience and appreciate different facets of Chinese culture just in time for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. T&S is taking a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the event and how it promotes inclusion and acceptance in the St. Louis community.

Chinese Culture Days began as a way for the Missouri Botanical Garden to celebrate the opening of the Margaret Grigg Nanjing Friendship Chinese Garden in 1996. Designed by Chinese-born architect Yong Pan, the space is modeled after “scholar’s gardens” found in the southern provinces of China. “What began as a way to highlight the garden has become one of our longest-running events,” events manager Lauren Schertz says. “It’s grown into a beloved cultural festival with vendors, performances and food, which has been great to see.” Originally a single day, Chinese Culture Days is now a two-day event that brings between 9,000 and 12,000 visitors to the garden.

To make the event possible, the Missouri Botanical Garden partners with Chinese Culture Education and Services, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of Chinese culture and promoting societal harmony and respect. “They have been a pivotal partner to the event, helping us coordinate every detail and find the best artists and vendors,” Schertz notes. “It truly takes a village. St. Louis is a melting pot of unique backgrounds, and it’s wonderful that the Missouri Botanical Garden can be a welcoming place where the community can come together and celebrate different cultures.”

Chinese Culture Education and Services chairman Matthew Yu adds that the process of putting the event together is extensive. Organizing and budget-making begins in September and is followed by months of planning and rehearsals. “If you enjoy project management and working with a large group of passionate people, Chinese Culture Days is your perfect project,” he says “It consists of about 30 individual programs. The confluence of roughly 750 volunteers and nine months of effort is displayed each May at the event.”

For Yu, Chinese Culture Days is an important way for the St. Louis community to come together for cross-cultural understanding. It is an opportunity for neighbors to strengthen bonds while experiencing different customs. “The event offers educational opportunities for people to learn about Chinese traditions, arts, cuisine, language and history, enriching their knowledge and broadening their perspectives while celebrating diversity,” he says. “In short, it demonstrates the vibrancy of our community and helps foster mutual respect and appreciation among people from different backgrounds.”

This year, Chinese Culture Days is May 18 and 19, and it promises to have something for the entire family to enjoy. Children’s activities include face-painting, arts and crafts, and games. Cultural demonstrations and performances range from traditional music and Chinese opera to acrobatics, including a performance by Lina Liu who holds a Guinness World Record for umbrella balancing. Schertz notes that the garden is excited to welcome talented sugar artisans from New York City for the first time. “They will demonstrate sugar pulling to make zodiac symbols,” she says. “Not only is it very cool to watch, but guests will have the opportunity to purchase the candy as well.” She adds that the event also is continuing to expand its food offerings, including the addition of Honey Bee Tea, a local boba tea shop.

“I encourage everyone to experience Chinese Culture Days in person,” Yu says. “The best way for us to become a stronger community is to have an open mind and a willingness to learn something new. If you visit with curiosity, respect and a sense of adventure, you can fully immerse yourself in the experience and gain a deeper appreciation for a culture that has been around for 5,000 years. I would like to thank the Missouri Botanical Garden for being a loyal, supportive and dependable partner in sharing Chinese culture with St. Louis for the past 30 years.”

To purchase tickets, visit

Photo: Sundos Schneider

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