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Moon festival celebrates Asian culture

Moon festival celebrates Asian culture

Ancient Chinese legend tells the story of Chang’e, the immortal Chinese goddess of the moon.  Today, various Asian cultures continue to celebrate this legend with the Mid-Autumn Festival.

UIS hosted this celebration on Sept. 21, an annual traditional holiday, sometimes referred to as the Moon Festival, in celebration of the goddess of the moon and Asian culture.  It is a time shared with family and friends to give thanks.

The legend, as recalled by UIS Chinese instructor for the Chinese Language Program, Hang Li states, “A long time ago, there were 10 suns in the sky. People were upset because of the high temperatures, it was very hot; then a man, a hunter who was good at shooting, used his arrows to shoot nine of the 10 suns out of the sky. He was a hero and was given a magic medicine that could make him and anyone who ate it, fly to the heavens, and live forever. His wife, Chang’e was curious about the medicine, ate it, and flew to the moon”..

Though there are many stories associated with this holiday, this is the one that she remembers. Li explains that the phrase, “Chang’e benyue,” Mandarin translation meaning, “Chang’e Flies to the Moon,” is often used when referring to the story. Tradition says that during the Mid-Autumn Festival, you can see Chang’e dancing on the moon.

The Mid-Autumn Festival happens during the time of the year when the moon is the fullest and there is harvest, comparable to Thanksgiving in America.  “It is one of the most important holidays in China,” said Li.

Many students of various Asian ethnicities recount their experiences with the Mid-Autumn Festival back home and in the United States. Senior Chinese students, Zitong “Sam” Zhang and Zhe Chen Chen, explain that it is a holiday dedicated to family. They gather together for dinner and give thanks to their ancestors. They take the traditional moon cake, cut it into slices and share it around the table. “Never taking a whole cake for yourself. It is always shared.”

Chen explained that it is difficult celebrating this holiday in the United States without his or her family, who are back home in China. Zhang, who moved to Chicago with her parents and younger sister, explains that they still celebrate the holiday every year.

In addition to China, Korea and Vietnam also recognize the Mid-Autumn Festival as a National Holiday. Many students recount a similar celebration in their home countries.

Korean graduate student, Paul Lee, who lived in Korea for 12 years with his family, sat around for dinner, gave thanks and shared traditional moon cake.

Vietnamese students, Son Pham, Aerie Nhung, and Phúc Hoàng explained that the Moon Festival is a significant holiday for them as well. Pham has been living in the United States for two years, and since he cannot celebrate the holiday with his family, who are still in Vietnam, he co-hosted and facilitated the Mid-Autumn Festival at UIS.

Nhung said that “the purpose is to let people know about Asia’s unique cultures.” The lanterns filled the room were placed by candles as an important symbol of the holiday. Nhung adds, “we have to have them.”

Hoàng added, by having the Mid-Autumn Festival at UIS, it brings everyone together “like a family, and people can understand Asian culture.”

The UIS Mid-Autumn, Moon Festival was hosted in association with the Asian Student Organization, Vietnamese Student Organization and Indian Student Organization.

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