Happy Mid-Autumn Festival from China to you!
Today (September 15, 2016) is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie). The festival will fall on the 15th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar, which just so happens to be today for 2016. Although today is the official day of the holiday, most people in China will take a 3-4 day weekend to celebrate. 🙂 For example, at our university all classes are cancelled for Thursday – Saturday, with Friday’s classes made up on Sunday.
Based on the lunar calendar, on the 15th of the month, the moon should be a full moon, shining bright and beautiful. So a lot of the stickers and pictures being sent around WeChat (Chinese version of Facebook) are full moons or things shaped like full moons. 🙂
The moon has a special place in the world of Chinese art and culture, with many of my students great enthusiasts of the “romantic and beautiful night sky.” So during the Song Dynasty, the Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival was created to celebrate the Harvest Moon. This is supposed to be the brightest, biggest, most beautiful moon of the year.
One of the best and largest part of the Mid-Autumn Festival is the tradition of eating what are called “Moon cakes” (月饼 – Yuè Bĭng). Moon Cakes are little pastries or cakes about 4 inches around and 2 inches thick. The pastry crust tends to be pretty thick and then inside are any variety of treats or fillings. Most common in Henan is the red bean or Jujube paste, but there are many others with nuts and fruits inside. (I’m not terribly fond of the paste ones, but a few of the nut versions are pretty good.) The pastry top will somehow be stamped with a Chinese character of good fortune luck, peace, happiness, etc. They are usually passed around to family, friends, teachers, business colleagues, etc. Visit a Chinese shop before the holiday and for at least two weeks they will be selling these cakes like crazy.
According to legend, the moon cake became a holiday tradition during the Yuan dynasty. China was under the control of Mongolian rulers at the end of the dynasty, and the Ming Chinese were fed up. They decided to stage a revolution, but had a difficult issue in the logistics of communicating their message to the people without tipping off the Mongolians. The story says that the leader Zhu Yuanzhang and his adviser Liu Bowen came up with the brilliant idea of using moon cakes. They started a rumor that a horrific and deadly disease was spreading through the area and that special moon cakes were the only possible cure. Of course the people began buying up moon cakes and hidden inside each moon cake was a message telling them the date and time for the revolution (Mid-Autumn Festival). The Chinese revolted, the battle was won, and moon cakes became a permanent staple of the holiday! 🙂
Another famous legend about the festival is that of a tragic romance. In the west, our culture has the beloved Man on the Moon, but in Chinese it’s the beautiful Chang’e, Lady on the Moon. The story says that centuries ago there live a famous hunter, Hou Yi, and his wife Chang’e. At the time, the world was surrounded by 10 suns and they were burning the earth and its people to death. A brave man, Hou Yi took his bow and arrow and went out to shoot down nine of the suns. He saved the world in the end. As a reward, he was given a special potion that contained immortality. However, because he loved his wife so much and because the potion was only enough for one person, Hou Yi refused to drink it. After this, he was very famous and many people came to learn from him. But some also came to steal from him, including one wicked man. One day while Hou Yi was out, the evil man snuck into the house and attempted to steal the potion from Chang’e. She realized she could not keep him from taking it, and so drank it herself. The potion immediately gave her immortality, and her body flew up, up, up and up to the moon. Heartbroken, Hou Yi came home and prepared a feast on a table under the moon in honor of his wife and in the hopes that she would see his efforts and know how much he missed her. So (according tot the legend), ever since the Chinese like to eat big meals under the moon to remember her sacrifice and to celebrate their own families.
My Chinese friend called today asking to hang out. When I asked what was up, she said she intended to go home today but her brother called and warned her not to travel today. Apparently today the province is celebrating the Hungry Ghost Festival.
It falls on the 15th of the 7th lunar month. According to my friend, they believe that today many ghosts are able to travel around the country. This is why my friend couldn’t travel- she has to leave the way clear for the ghosts instead. Instead many adherents will go to the graves and leave lots of food for the hungry wanderers to eat.
They also make hand-made traditional dumplings out of long noodles. They are long so you can wrap up your ancestral ghosts in the strand and keep them close to you in the future. Funnily enough, we went to the little Chinese garden here and ran into 5-6 grandfathers out with their grandkids. They had been tasked with entertaining the kids while grandma made the dumplings. To participate, my friend and I had beef dumplings at the local street market and she promised to wait until tomorrow to go home :p
Heard from the ACSEA (Asian-Canadian Special Events Association) and they are putting on what sound’s like a really cool event in Downtown Toronto and Vancouver! 🙂
Each year, this organization hosts the annual TAIWANfest, and this year it’s going to be called “Dialogues with Asia” starting with “A Cultural Tango with Hong Kong.” The event’s purpose is the “engage Torontonians and Vancouverites in a cultural dialogue to better understand Asian cultures.” But I’m sure they’d love for people of all locales to stop buy and participate! Sounds like a great opportunity to learn more about not only Taiwan (an awesome place – most of my students say that it is actually more like old-style, traditional China than even the mainland) but also other countries in the Asian sphere.
Who: ACSEA (Asian-Canadian Special Events Association)
When: August 26-28, 2016 (in Toronto) & September 3-5, 2016 (in Vancouver)
235 Queens Quay W
Toronto, ON M5J 2G8
The Centre / Granville Street / QE Theatre Plaza
Vancouver Playhouse Annex
More Information: Here.
“TAIWANfest returns to Harbourfront Centre and Downtown Vancouver this summer and begins its “Dialogues with Asia” series with “A Cultural Tango with Hong Kong.” One of the great ways to experience the culture is to take part in the Friendship Picnic – a program designed to cultivate new friendships over food. Mark down the dates and get ready to meet someone from Taiwan or Hong Kong. If you’re a little more adventurous, try the Hakka nutritional beverage called Lei-Cha, made from ground up seeds and nuts. For some great stories, check out the full Experience HAKKA! Redefine your understanding of Asian cultures with exhibits and films August 26-28 at Harbourfront Centre and September 3-5 in Downtown Vancouver.”
I was asking my students on our WeChat group (like a Group Chat) if they had class Monday night so we can schedule our exams.
D quickly replied “No, I have a party class.” 0_0
Party class? Say what!?! And I wasn’t invited? How rude!
The group erupted with 63+ Chinese-language messages in a matter of minutes as the class leader started with “What the HE** is a party class.” Another “ooh, class on how to dance.” “Let’s Party!” “Can I come?” “Do you get to drink?” Lots and lots of laughing pictures and emoticons.
At the same time a whole line of students with”I don’t think the teacher will understand.” “Oh, that’s a bad translation.” “The teacher is going to think you want to go party.” “This is very bad.” “You shouldn’t say that. You cannot trust translation my dear.” “Don’t you know to stop and check every three words? D replies again–“Oh, no! Now I think the teacher will misunderstand me!” (Horror Face).
At which point, the whole group started posting a series of Chinese phrases that have really bad English translations. Like “My father-in-law isn’t coming” which translates as “The father-in-law will not be coming to my bed.” It was bad 😛
My response: “Is that a class party? Party during class? Class about how to party?” This sounds fun and now I’m sad I wasn’t invited to the party lesson! 😦 😦 😦 ” LOL
Finally, one of them came back with a screen capture of the definition and translation in the Chinese-English dictionary of “Communist Party”–“It’s this one teacher, not a “party class” it’s THE Party class.” Ah! Makes Much More Sense. . . . And a much better reason for not being able to make the Exam on time! 😛
I believe we all feel MUCH more secure knowing that this worthy warrior stands guard. My China experience is now better for having met this Terra Cotta M&M!
According to traditional custom, today is the Chinese lantern festival! It’s a day when they light the paper lanterns and send them up as symbols of hopes and dreams for the future. A beautiful tradition!
Always on the first full moon of the new lunar year.
Lanterns are available for about ￥5, and come in many colors! Mine was red 🙂
Lights are shining!
Happy Lantern Festival!
Archaeologists have uncovered the world’s oldest set of tea leaves from the tomb of an ancient Chinese emperor!
Living 2,150 years ago in the Western Han Dynasty, Emperor Jing was a major fan of the delicious drink. Like all the rest of us tea lovers, Emperor Jing understood the power of the tea leaf and its healing/renewing abilities.
The collection of tea leaves was 42 feet x 8 inches. That is a major tea haul! If you ever tried drinking tea from leaves rather than a lipton bag, you’ll know that it only takes a small amount to go a long way. This amount probably lasted him a long while in the afterworld!
This particular type of tea, Camellia Sinesis, comes from a type of small evergreen shrub known as a tea tree. The leaves and buds of the tree are used to create a special, expensive green tea. There are actually two varieties of the tree–one is used to create the Chinese teas (such as White Tea, Oolong, Pu’er, Green Tea, etc.) and the other is used to create Indian Assam teas. The leaves of the tree have long been applied in Chinese traditional medications and as a caffeine provider. I’m guessing it was pretty easy to bring the emperor over as a tea supporter 🙂
The tomb was located in Xi’an, China. Xi’an is now world-famous due to the discovery of the Terra Cotta army buried under the local hills and is only about an 8 hour drive from where I live! I’m really excited; maybe I could see this tea pile 🙂 Emperor Jing’s tomb contained “50,000” terra cotta animals and statues, along with other great treasures.
The extra amazing thing about the tea beyond its age is the fact that it is some of the earliest proof that researchers have about the Silk Road. It is believed that the emperor may have traded his tea with Tibet where similar tea remains were found dating not long after. This shows the the Silk Road probably moved thorugh Tibet at the time.
Where? ~ Kaifeng, Henan, China
How? ~ Fly into Zhengzhou (an international airport). Grab the train or a bus to Kaifeng (takes about 2 Hours)
Recommendation ~ Don’t go later in the winter than November 20th or so. All the cultural sites will be winding up their activities and events, so you’ll miss all the fun things to do there. For example, we caught the last showing of the Millennium Park War (a major thing to see).
Cost ~ Please note that the costs below are what was reported to me. To be honest, costs vary from week to week here. So it could be as much as 20CNY higher or lower (about $4) for each place, or it could be what I told you. It really depends on the day.
The Ancient City of Kaifeng 开封 (kI fuhng) lies in the heart of central Henan Province, China and trails just south of the Yellow River. The local Henan people speak of Kaifeng, the capital of six different dynasties and a town filled with beautiful flowers and famous dishes, with the greatest respect and awe.
“Open and Shut”
Dating to 364BC, a small city of canals and waterways linked to the Yellow River was created. This little town would eventually morph into a thriving business and merchant city, now home to almost 6 million people. The city would be destroyed, abandoned, and re-built many times in the following centuries, and remnants of these cultures can still be seen at the local cultural sites and the city museum. In fact, for about 114 years, Kaifeng was the largest city in the world! The tour guide compared it to Tokyo, New York, and Paris in its time.
The characters in the name Kaifeng represent the phrase “Open and Shut.” Officially, this name represents the fact that Kaifeng represents open and shutting doors. Kaifeng has always been open to new ideas, new theories ~ a center of business, technology, and politics. But it is also closed, remaining true to the traditional values and beliefs of its ancient inhabitants. This is why when you visit, you can find both Ancient villas that appear unmarked by the intervening centuries and modern Shopping.
Secretly, our guide says “Open and Shut” is the name because if you open up the windows in Kaifeng, you’re blown away by the winds. Perhaps true, it was seriously freezing and the wind could have cut through a sheet of glass. Continue reading