The annual 'San Francisco Chinese New Year's Parade 2014' celebrating the 'Lunar New Year' trotted through the streets of the city to Chinatown on Feb 15. This is the "Year of the Horse", the seventh of all the animals of the Chinese zodiac, and those born during this year are considered energetic, optimistic, charming and wise.
The history of this spectacular parade hails from the Gold Rush when over 50,000 Chinese came to California. Since the 1860's, Chinese Americans have held an annual parade in Chinatown, San Francisco, on Grant and Kearny.
One of the front entourages was the Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy dressed as the ancient "Terracotta Warriors", a wise choice since the burial site of first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang from 210–209 BC, included warriors and horses protecting him in his voyage to the underworld.
Mayor of San Francisco Ed Lee took the opportunity to light up 50,000 firecrackers at the parade start, which descended into a protective steel cage, not the first time exploding bamboo was lit during the parade route.
One of the film related entourages were the young warrior comrades of "Mulan", the heroine in the Walt Disney animated 1998 film who chose a fast horse to get away as quickly as possible. The film was set during the Han dynasty in China.
There were plenty of dragons, of course, including a 150 ft one rode by the San Francisco Police Department. Another 110 ft dragon was mounted by Yau Kung Moon school, a southern Shaolin Kung Fu system based in San Francisco.
Parade delegates included the San Francisco Hung Sing Lion Club, the oldest Chinese martial arts club in the USA for over 100 years. The Shaolin Temple USA was also a respected addition to the parade, the first official North American branch of the world famous Songshan Shaolin Temple in the Henan Province of China. Headquarters are in San Francisco. This was the original Shaolin Temple established in 495 AD and the birthplace of Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhism and Shaolin Kung Fu.
This year's Parade Marshall Major Kurt Chew-Een Lee was the first regular U.S. Marine Corps officer, and the first of Asian descent. Lee earned the Navy Cross under fire in Korea in September 1950, serving in the 1st Battalion 7th Marines. Lee was seated next to Rep Pete McCloskey in a chauffeured automobile, who has just returned from a military reunion in North Korea.
Recognizable corporate sponsors featured horse themes. Chinese immersion schools included Wah Mei, the first Chinese-English bilingual preschool in San Francisco established in 1974, and Alice Fong Yu , the first Chinese immersion K-8 public school in the USA. This year's Alice Fong Yu students painted the murals for one of the floats featuring huge handmade horses.
Several marching bands were featured, as in other parades, including one playing Kurt Cobain’s "Smells like Teen Spirit"; the title of the song came from Kathleen Hanna who wrote the slogan on Cobain’s wall. There were also quite a few colossal 'money gods' roaming the streets of San Francisco.
Two major goodbyes are the tradition of each San Francisco Chinese New Year's Parade, the largest Chinese New Year's Parade outside Asia and one of the top ten parades of the world: the retirement of Miss Chinatown USA, and for 2013, Karen Li from Houston Texas, now Harvard bound - and goodbye to the "Year of the Snake".
The evening's finale was the breathtaking luminous presence of the fiery red and gold 268 ft long "Golden Dragon", symbol of the Emperor - the son of heaven, power and vitality.
Gung Hay Fat Choy to the "Year of the Horse".