East-West musical thrills 

One of San Francisco’s fine musical traditions is how it serves as a “golden gate” and instrument of fusion between Asian and ­European-American cultures.

The American Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco is one of many institutions making Northern California a vital crossroads of East-West intellectual, spiritual and artistic exploration and creation.

Others include the pioneering Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Lou Harrison’s gamelan works in San Jose and Santa Cruz, the late Ali Akbar Khan’s school of music in Marin and the Center for World Music in Berkeley.

Performances, too, are in the spotlight. Just more than a week ago, on Jan. 20, Chinese-American artists, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and prima ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan, graced big San Francisco stages.

The Shanghai World’s Fair, starting in May, has impact in the Bay Area.  “A Year of Shanghai by the Bay” is being presented by the San Francisco Asian Art  Museum and some 30 local cultural organizations.

Events include the museum’s “Shanghai” exhibit, running Feb. 12 through Sept. 5, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s sister-school agreement with the Shanghai Conservatory, being celebrated with a Feb. 8 concert at the school.

Additional examples of Mao Zedong’s “hundred flowers” blooming in the area’s concert halls and theaters include:

Visions of Asian Music

Dozens of artists — from Balinese gong orchestra Gamelan Sekar Jaya (Feb. 13) to the St. Lawrence String Quartet (Feb. 12) — are participating in Stanford University’s sixth annual Pan-Asian Music Festival. Founder and artistic director Jindong Cai has put together a remarkable East-West roster for the festival, including percussionist Beibei Wang performing Tan Dun’s “Paper Concerto” on Feb. 20; and Mohsen Namjoo, a classical singer and contemporary composer from Iran appearing Friday. His works encompass Hafez, Rumi, Saadi, blues and rock; he has been called “Iran’s Bob Dylan.” ­[Feb. 5-21, $5-$10, Dinkelspiel Auditorium, Stanford University; (650) 725-2787, www.panasianmusicfestival.stanford.edu]

Butterfly Lovers Dance

Similar to the East-West mix in the “Yellow River Piano Concerto,” the 1959 “Butterfly Lovers” violin concerto by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao is a cross-cultural experience. The 2,000-year-old Chinese legend about star-crossed lovers is now a ballet of the same name. The Beijing Dance Academy, featuring Wang Zihan and Shao Junting in the leading roles, presents the peformance. [7:30 p.m. Feb. 16-17, $35-$70, Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon St., S.F; (415) 392-4400, www.cityboxoffice.com]

Chinese New Year Celebration

Celebrating the lunar new year — Year of the Tiger, arriving Feb. 14 — San Francisco Symphony offers its 10th anniversary Chinese New Year Concert and Celebration. The program includes music and dance featuring Michael Tilson Thomas, pianist Haochen Zhang and San Francisco Ballet principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets. The fun is extended with lion dancing, Chinese calligraphy, children’s entertainment, desserts and tea. [3 p.m. Feb. 27, $25-$65, Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.; (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org]

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