The Asian American Society of Central Virginia celebrates its diverse heritage. 

Eastern Enchantment

The best way to learn about a group of people is by studying their culture. The best way to study a culture is to observe the way its people express themselves artistically, through music, dance and visual arts. On Saturday, May 6, Richmonders will have a unique opportunity to learn first-hand about the cultures of Asia with "An Evening of Eastern Enchantment," a free program at the Carpenter Center.

Sponsored by the Asian American Society of Central Virginia and financially supported by corporate sponsor Bell Atlantic, the program will feature music and dance from Cambodia, China, the Philippines, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

"To understand another culture you have to have an education about it," says Avril Lim, a member of the Asian American Society. "We really want the American people to come to this event — we don't want it to be for just us."

Saturday's program includes an impressive lineup of some of the world's most respected Asian artists. Chinese erhuist Xu Ke will return to Richmond after a performance here last fall. Known as one of the world's best players of the erhu, the traditional Chinese stringed instrument, Ke will be accompanied by Richmond pianist Joanne Kong.

From Korea come Young Lan Choi and 18 dancers to perform the country's traditional fan dance and classical drum dance. The program will also include traditional Korean music.

Nguyen Dinh Nghia, Vietnam's premier flutist and master of the bamboo xylophone, and his family will entertain with Vietnamese instrumental music. Known as "the Jean-Pierre Rampal of traditional Vietnamese music," Nghia and his family have performed at Carnegie Hall.

From Japan comes Marco Lienhardt and Taikoza, a percussion group that uses the powerful rhythms of Japanese taiko drums, a large, barrellike drum that can sound like rolling thunder.

The remainder of the program consists of traditional dance from India, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.

The Asian American Society of Central Virginia represents some 30,000 people of Asian heritage living in the region. It is a population that has been steadily growing and becoming more visible in the community. Although the group's members are from countries as diverse as Cambodia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam, they all have one thing in common, says member Julie Lo. "Our common heritage is now that we all consider ourselves American." But, she adds, "We all have cultural roots that we like to share. Maybe someday our roots will become part of American

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