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South Coast Plaza begins celebration of Lunar New Year

Some 20 tour groups from mainland China will be stopping in Orange County as part of a trip around California.

January 19, 2012|By Imran Vittachi

COSTA MESA — To the crashing of cymbals and beating of drums, a brilliantly adorned troupe of Lion Dancers at South Coast Plaza on Thursday heralded the arrival of the Year of the Dragon.

The shopping center was kicking off its 13-day celebration of the Lunar New Year. A 40-foot red paper dragon coiled itself in the two-story space around Jewel Court, and a ring of holiday greetings from the balcony above proclaimed "Happy New Year" in English and the languages of four Asian countries marking the occasion: China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

South Coast Plaza management did not bill the event as a singular celebration of the Chinese New Year, yet aspects of Chinese culture will clearly dominate the mall's Lunar Year showcase in the coming days.

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For one, an exhibit of crystal sculptures of dragons, made by San Francisco-based Liuli Glass Art, will be displayed in Jewel Court through Jan. 31. Then, on Saturday, the Bowers Museum will present a "live" Terra Cotta Warrior display, while Chinese calligraphy artist Jack Liang will create personalized bookmarks for shoppers.

In addition, the Lion Dancers will be back for at least four more performances in Jewel Court, according to an SCP press release.

On Thursday, before the Lion Dancers performed, state tourism officials announced that more than 20 tour groups comprising more than 650 travelers from mainland China would be stopping in Orange County as part of what they were billing as a 10-day "Chinese New Year" package trip around California.

The groups will converge at Disneyland on Jan. 25. Shannon Brooks, the state tourism bureau's manager for international public relations, confirmed that all 20 tour groups would also be making stops at South Coast Plaza — a "key stop" on their O.C. itinerary.

Visit California officials forecast that these more than 650 tourists would spend at least $2,652 while in California — more than twice the amount that the average foreign visitor spends as a whole on one trip. In 2010, according to state tourist data, about 401,000 visitors from mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan) spent $1.06 billion while visiting California.

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