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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

15 Sep

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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.  

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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! 🙂 

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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. 

Medieval Castle Rebuilt with Medieval Technology

7 Sep

Life in China ~ Hungry Ghost Festival

17 Aug

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.

Our Delicious Dumplings 🙂 

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

 

 

4 Year old and her 6.5 year old sister. The older sister starts English classes tomorrow, and they both knew the ABC song!

 

 

 

Twin 4-year olds. They start Kindergarten this  year and are excellent Bubble-blowers!

 

Upcoming Event ~ “Taiwan Fest!”

11 Aug

Hey Folks!  

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.

You can see the schedule for August 26-28 here and September 3-5 here. Special events include an International Pan Asian Culinary event and “A Cultural Tango with Hong Kong Symphony” Check it out!

Who:  ACSEA (Asian-Canadian Special Events Association)

When: August 26-28, 2016 (in Toronto) &  September 3-5, 2016 (in Vancouver)

Where: 

Harbourfront Centre
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.”

“There’s a Dark History Behind the Glittering Olympic Games”

3 Aug

“There’s a Dark History Behind the Glittering Olympic Games”

By Simon Worrall via “National Geographic

Next week, the XXXI Olympiad will kick off in Rio. By the time the 10,500 athletes from a record 206 countries file into the Maracanã stadium, in front of a global TV audience of nearly one billion, the Olympics will have cost the Brazilian government almost $12 billion—$2 billion of it on security alone. Whole sections of the city have been reconfigured, new transport systems built, and tens of thousands of people uprooted.

This gargantuan spectacle is light years way from the original vision ofBaron Pierre de Coubertin, the French aristocrat who founded the modern Olympics, says David Goldblatt, author of The Games: A Global History Of The Olympics. Talking from his home in Bristol, England, he explains how the very scale and cost of today’s Olympics may spell their doom; why women were not allowed to compete in track events beyond 200 meters until 1968; and why Usain Bolt’s bid to be the fastest man on earth for the third time will be one of the greatest moments in Olympic history.

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Aer Lingus “Study in Ireland Program”

20 Jul

For my first return post, I thought I’d share a nice deal offered especially to Study Abroad Students!

According to their website, AerLingus (an Irish airline) is offering students studying in Ireland a special deal this summer through their “STUDY IN IRELAND Program.”

They’ll be offering “special airfares and a free date change to their return flight.” I like how it says you can change your return flight. Probably because so many students fall in love with Ireland and just want to stay a little bit longer (I know I did!).  Actually, it says you can even move the date of your return flight up (but who would want to?!?).  

The offer is for travel to or from Dublin or Shannon, Ireland on the following dates:

  • August 17-December 20, 2016 (Fall Semester)
  • January 6 – May 30, 2017 (Spring Semester)

Flights include those to/from Boston, Chicago, Hartford (as of Sept. 2016), Los Angeles, New York, Newark (as of Sept. 2016), Orlando, San Francisco, Toronto, and D.C.  Only individual students studying abroad get this special plan. 

However, the website also offers “special fares for Family & Friends Interested in travelling with or visiting the student while in Ireland (fares based on availability).” Awesome! Your best friend could come and visit you too!

For more details about the specifics and limitations, you can use the following resources:

If you try this program out, let us know how it goes! Excellent? Good? Bad? Terrible? Pass it on!

DISCLAIMER: This website is not affiliated with Aer Lingus in any way. My and my website are not responsible for anything AerLingus does or the program they are offering or anything else. I’m just letting you know what the website says.

Life in China ~ a Party v. the Party

10 Apr

LMAO!

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! 😛

 

Terra Cotta Soldier M&M

1 Mar

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! 

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Turkey: Church discovered in world’s biggest underground city in Nevşehir with never-before-seen frescos

24 Feb

“Turkey: Church discovered in world’s biggest underground city in Nevşehir with never-before-seen frescos”

by Matt Atherton via “IBT

Church fresco

An 1,500-year-old underground church has been discovered in Turkey with never-before-seen frescoes depicting Jesus and “bad souls being killed”. The church was found in the world’s largest known underground city in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey.

The frescoes have been described as depicting Jesus rising into the sky – known in Christianity as the Ascension – and the destroying of evil – known as the Last Judgement. The discovery of the church itself – which archaeologists suggest could be more than 1,500 years old – still has secrets to be revealed, as so far only the roof and uppermost part of the walls have been uncovered.

“Only a few of the paintings have been revealed,” said researcher Ali Aydin, who told the Hurriyet Daily News: “There are important paintings in the front part of the church showing the crucifixion of Jesus and his ascension to heaven. There are also frescoes showing the apostles, the saints and other prophets Moses and Elyesa.”

An urban housing project was taking place in the city of Nevşehir, where the church was found. It is part of a huge number of early dwellings, which form the largest known ancient underground city. The underground city itself was discovered in 2014, and around four miles of tunnels have been uncovered. The experts believe people lived here around 5,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have had to pause their excavations, however, as the winter humidity can damage the paintings. However, they have managed to reveal the ceiling of the structure which mainly sits underground, and were fascinated by the huge frescoes which can be found across the inside of the roof and top of the walls.

“We know that such frescoes have so far never been seen in any other church,” said Hasan Ünver, mayor of Nevşehir. “It was built underground and has original frescoes that have survived to this day. This place is even bigger than the other historical churches in Cappadocia.

“It is reported that some of the frescoes here are unique. There are exciting depictions like fish falling from the hand of Jesus Christ, him rising up into the sky, and the bad souls being killed. When the church is completely revealed, Cappadocia could become an even bigger pilgrimage center of Orthodoxy,.”

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22 Feb

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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!

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Always on the first full moon of the new lunar year.

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Lanterns are available for about ¥5, and come in many colors! Mine was red 🙂

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Lights are shining!

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Fireworks blasting!

Happy Lantern Festival!

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