Hope College students came together in the first floor lounge of Cook Hall last Monday to celebrate the annual Mid-Autumn Festival, which was hosted by the college’s Chinese program. Mid-Autumn Festival (zhōng qiū jié) is an annual Chinese tradition, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which is distinct from the Gregorian calendar the West uses. Participants were treated to a short presentation on what the Mid-Autumn Festival entails with a small reception following the event.
Running for approximately an hour, virtually all students who attended were able to leave with a better understanding of Chinese culture. Different elements of the festival were explained during the event’s beginning by department TA’s, Ce Gao and Erica Rogers, who are both Chinese. They discussed important aspects of the festival, such as its difference between American traditions, such as Thanksgiving. “I enjoy how many different people come out to the festival” Said Erica Rogers, a senior. “We get to learn about it in class, but for [most] of Hope’s students, this time is their [only] opportunity to hear about the stories and traditions of Chinese culture.” The festival is often referred to as the Moon Festival because of its emphasis on lunar imagery, as the moon is said to be at its most complete and luminescent.
The familial relationship that the moon symbolizes is a strong point of emphasis; regardless of your respective locations, both you and your family members see the same moon at night. The moon also symbolizes a bountiful harvest. By far the most memorable reason for the moniker of Moon Festival, however, comes from the story of Chang’E. According to the legend’s most popular variation, Chang’E was the wife of legendary hero HouYi, shooting down nine of the ten suns to prevent an all-consuming wildfire on earth. HouYi has later gifted a holy elixir that would grant him godly immortality. HouYi, unwilling to take the potion and leave his wife without him, tasked her with protecting it from those who would use its power for harm.
One day when HouYi was out hunting, a villain broke into the yard demanding that Chang’E surrender the elixir. Knowing she was outmatched, Chang’E drank the elixir to prevent him from obtaining it and was whisked away as a deity to the closest realm to earth: the moon. To this day, it is said that Chang’s waits there for her husband, able to bridge the gap only once a year, during the Mid-Autumn Festival Stories such as this help to contribute to what makes the festival so special. Those interested in learning more are encouraged to consult Professor Chuang and to mark their calendars for the Chinese New Year on Feb. 5.