The University of Richmond hosted the fifth-annual ChinaFest last weekend, featuring Chinese films and speakers on Chinese subjects.

ChinaFest originally began as a film festival with the goal of promoting an understanding of Chinese culture in America. Co-chairwomen Rose Nan-Ping Chen, founder of the Rose Group for Cross-Cultural Understanding, and Irby Brown, a retired Richmond English professor, said they wanted to bring authentic Chinese films to an American audience.

"We felt film would be a wonderful vehicle for cross-cultural conversation because it's all encompassing," Chen said. "There is so much fear and misrepresentation in the world, we feel like we can bring some authenticity to each country on behalf of the other."

Lectures, exhibitions and performing arts were incorporated into the festival throughout the years. This year, ChinaFest featured two lectures, four films and a day of activities at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Weiping Wu, a professor of urban studies and planning at Virginia Commonwealth University, gave the first lecture on Thursday night about Shanghai as a rising global city, its environmental sustainability efforts and urban planning in preparation for the World Expo, which will be held in Shanghai this year. Jane Geaney, associate professor of religion at Richmond, gave a lecture on Friday morning about Daoism, titled "Interpreting the Dao De Jing, Then and Now."

The festival also featured four Chinese films shown in collaboration with the university's International Film Series, which shows different international films every Friday and Sunday.

Paul Porterfield, a member of the ChinaFest planning committee and head of the Media Resource Center, was involved in choosing the four films.

"When we chose the films, cross-cultural understanding was foremost in our minds as well as trying to have a better understanding of Chinese culture and history," Porterfield said.

The four films, "Jasmine Women," "Ip Man," "The Knot" and "In Love We Trust" were produced in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, bridging the different areas of China together, Porterfield said.

"We try to choose films that are unlikely to be shown anywhere else in Richmond, so it gives people an opportunity to see films they otherwise wouldn't," he said.

The VMFA contributed to the festival by hosting a family fun day, which included art activities, a slide presentation of images of Chinese art from the museum's collection, Chinese horoscope readings and zodiac animal face painting, said Megan Liles, coordinator of the VMFA event.

During the coming years, Brown and Chen said they hoped to expand upon ChinaFest and make it year-round, rather than only one weekend, and to involve more students. They said they hoped to use the resources that would be available in the Carol Weinstein International Center, such as the exhibition space, to further their goals of cross-cultural understanding.

"Our position is that we offer facts and authentic things for the audience to make a judgment on their own," Brown said. "We provide resources and the links to go on and learn more on their own. We have no agenda."

Contact reporter Elise Reinemann at elise.reinemann@richmond.edu