Villager Q & A: Veronica Bai, president of The Woodlands Chinese Cultural Center
Veronica Bai founded The Woodlands Chinese Cultural Center in 2016 to help educate the local community about Chinese culture. Bai particularly wanted to showcase the various arts found in China, and she recently was able to bring the Art Troupe of The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China (RDFZ) to give a Chinese New Year Celebration performance at The Woodlands High School.
Bai was raised born in Beijing and grew up in some of the larger cities in China. Bai moved to The Woodlands with her husband because of his work.
Question: Where are you originally from and why did you settle down in The Woodlands?
Bai: I used to live in The Woodlands but now I’m living in Lake Conroe. I came from China with my husband and my son. I was born in Beijing.
First, I went to Europe and lived in Belgium for six years. When I graduated (school) from China I moved to Belgium and reunited with my husband. He worked with Halliburton in Belgium. Then after that we moved to Dallas and then to Houston.
In the (United States) you just feel like it’s your home. You settle down here. You work here and you’re just one of the family members here. Americans have their own culture and are very open to everybody.
Question: What inspired you to create the Chinese Cultural Center?
Bai: Right now the world is totally changing. People come from China and American people go to China. There are always open hearts that want to learn something new. So that is very good.
So I founded The Woodlands Chinese Cultural Center to see how we can help each other, help both sides with cultural exchange and know each other well.
Question: Why is it important to facilitate a cultural exchange?
Bai: Culture identifies who you are. If you want people to respect you, you have to show them your culture and background. We have to show what kind of culture we have so we can respect each other. You really want to go offside to show the people and tell the people who we are and the people can have a deeper relationship. If you always hold back and keep to yourself, nobody can understand you.
Chinese culture has a long history and there is a lot of amazing stuff, especially in the arts, some of which Americans have never known. In China, they train the children very seriously. When they perform, what I hear a lot from American people is that they look like professionals. But that is just the norm in China.
Of course, American people also have art. For example, hip hop became very popular in China five years ago. I never could imagine some of the things that have happened in China. They just accepted it very quickly. That’s so good and the American people always treat everything very positively.
Question: What qualities are valued in Chinese culture?
Bai: Education for sure and also art and the spirit. For example, the Taoists and Confucius. Chinese always train the inside and the mind. They say turn the inside out because the inside is most important. Philosophy is very important.
Question: What was it like raising your son in America compared to how you grew up in China?
Bai: My son left China at 2 years old. He was in Belgium first. There (is) a cultural...(it) is so different.
For example, in school there is bullying and my son said some kids would fight each other. He would report to the teacher and the teacher would say, ‘OK, you kick him back.’ When he moved here he told me, ‘We can not do so.’ The first time he reported to the teacher the teacher said, ‘This is your responsibility to deal with, too.’ They both got the same punishment and my son cried to me and said ‘This is unfair. I was just defending myself. Why do I have the same punishment?’
So you can see, there is a culture difference. There’s a difference in culture and different way to deal with the same scenario.
We have to adjust ourselves to adopt the environment. That is why culture education is so important. You can not use your own ways to deal with everything the same way.
My son also spoke the Chinese language at home so he speaks Chinese very well. He graduated from The Woodlands High School in 2006 and went on to U.T. Austin and Stanford after graduating from there. I really appreciate the U.S. education system.
Question: Do you work or do you put all of your effort into TWCCC?
Bai: I used to work for seven years as a production controller. When I moved to Lake Conroe, the location I worked was very far from my home so I told my husband I can not drive that long to work and I wanted to quit. But I really wanted to do something like art and my husband said, ‘Yeah, go do what you want to do.’
Question: Is there anything else the community should know about TWCCC?
Bai: The Culture Center is just in the beginning step. We are trying to find a leasing space for the center. This place will be open to everyone who lives in The Woodlands and the area around.
There are a lot of learning programs that will be in it. For example, Chinese Language and culture, Chinese folk dance, Chinese traditional music instruments, Shaolin Kongfu, Taichi, Ping Pong and more. All of the coaches will be professional, even some who have won world prizes or ranked in China as top national class artist. Also there are some others clubs, for example, include a choir singing both Chinese and Western songs, an orchestra playing both Chinese and Western music with any kind of Chinese traditional or western instruments.
We really need many people to support what we do not only for the Chinese people that live here but also for the American people. Bringing the Chinese arts here benefits everybody. The center is like a societal cornerstone that brings together all people who love Chinese culture and centralizes artists and their artistic processes as vehicles for The Woodlands community to enrich life.
We exist just for fun and to help people try to understand more and see a variety of art in The Woodlands.