Mid-Autumn Festival Held at Smith

Jinglin Huang ’14
Contributing Writer

Last Saturday, the Chinese Inter-Regional Student Cultural Organization (CISCO) held their celebration of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. The festival, a popular harvest festival celebrated in both China and Vietnam, is typically held during a full moon and celebrated with the consumption of mooncakes, which hold much symbolic importance in the celebration and with various performances. These traditions focus on the three main concepts of the festival: gathering, thanksgiving and praying.

The tradition of eating mooncakes has a long history in China. In ancient China, mooncakes were used as a tribute to the Moon God, who is worshiped during the Moon Festival, and later became a popular food. In the Han Dynasty, Zhang Qian, the first official diplomat of China introduced sesame and walnuts, inspiring the invention of mooncake stuffing. In the Yuan Dynasty, mooncake played a political role: in order to share information among their allies secretively, they would use the mooncake to deliver information by concealing slips of paper in its stuffing.

Mooncakes are consumed during the Moon Festival as a symbol of reunion. The mooncake’s round shape corresponds to the Chinese symbol for “reunion” and represents the hope that on the same day each year families will come together and reunite. At CISCO’s event on Saturday, mooncakes were served with various stuffings including lotus, red bean paste, rose and eggs. Many students at the event expressed curiosity about the lotus stuffing, which has a very unusual look and texture. It is made from mashed lotus nuts that are fried with a mixture of sugar and oil and create a jelly filling.

There was a strong turnout at the event and, in addition to the focus on the mooncakes, there were many performances including the “Gee” dance put on by CISCO first years, a calligraphy show, a fan dance, singing, poem recitation and musical instrument performances.

Some performances featured songs entirely written by students, such as “Moonshine” a song written and performed by Yunzhu Chen ’16 and Tiantian Zheng ’16. One dance, entitled “The Romance of Falling Flowers,” was a modified version of a dance performed by Chinese pop group Seven Sense, giving attendants a glimpse of international pop that also featured traditional Chinese dance techniques.

CISCO’s goal in celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival as well as various other Chinese traditions at Smith is to provide a window into Chinese culture for all Smith students, as well as to help those members of CISCO learn more about their cultural customs despite currently living in a Western country. They also enjoy finding ways to merge their traditions with traditions found in America and encourage more students from different cultural backgrounds to join CISCO and share their diverse points of view.

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