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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

Image result for mid-autumn festival

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.  

Image result for chinese moon cake bean

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! 🙂 

Image result for chinese woman one the moon

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. 

Upcoming Event ~ “Taiwan Fest!”

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.”

 

 

7 Times Someone (Accidentally) Ruined a Valuable Work of Art

“7 Times Someone (Accidentally) Ruined a Valuable Work of Art”

by Olivia B. Waxman via “Time”

Whoops.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reports that security camera footage appears to show a young man falling into and punching a hole through a painting said to be worth $1.5 million. Flowers, a 17th century oil painting and one of the few signed works by Italian master Paolo Porpora, was on display at “The Face of Leonardo, Images of a Genius” exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei, according to CNA.

Below is a glimpse at other reports of tourists being clumsy at museums:

• In May, two tourists reportedly broke off the crown atop “Statue of the Two Hercules,” which sits in Piazza del Comune, a medieval square in Cremona, Italy, when the pair allegedly tried to climb it and take photos.

• Also in May, the Greek Culture Ministry said a tourist tried to touch a prehistoric, Minoan-era vase at the Museum of Iraklio and knocked it over, suffering a minor leg injury.

• Last March, a student reportedly climbed onto a 19th century statue depicting a “Drunken Satyr” at Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan, Italy, to take a selfie and broke it.

• Last July, an American student got stuck inside Pi Chacan, a stone sculpture of a vagina by Peruvian artist Fernando de la Jara, which sat in front of Tübingen University’s Institute for Microbiology and Virology in Germany.

• In 2006, a man was arrested for smashing three 17th century Chinese porcelain vases said to be worth £500,000 (about $789,000) at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. . . . .

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TaiwanFest showcases culture, art, and paper cranes

“TaiwanFest showcases culture, art, and paper cranes”

by Alison Shouldice via “The Star

Harry Chen folded 2,345 paper cranes while recovering from kidney cancer.

For Harry Chen, a folded paper crane is a hope for many things: freedom, democracy, world peace — and his own good health.

Chen, a Taiwanese-Canadian, has recently made a habit of folding small origami paper cranes.

He has also spent the last two years living with kidney cancer.

“When I was in the hospital, I started to fold those things,” he said, but it’s a skill he’s had for some time. At six years old, his kindergarten teacher first taught him origami to stop his crying.

After undergoing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Chen’s cancer is now under control. In July 2014, when he was out of the hospital but still recovering, he began folding more cranes in his spare time: on the bus, in the doctor’s waiting room and while out shopping with his wife.

He was inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who famously attempted to fold 1,000 paper cranes in 1955 for good health. Sasaki developed leukemia after she had been exposed to radiation from the Hiroshima atomic bomb as a young child.

With Sasaki in mind, Chen kept folding, and just 10 months later, he stopped at 2,345: a representation of Taiwan’s 23.45 million population.

Chen is displaying his cranes, attached onto mobiles, at TaiwanFest this weekend at the Harbourfront Centre. On Friday evening, a crowd had already gathered around Chen’s display.

Organizers expect up to 50,000 people to pop in between Friday and Sunday for the festivities.

In addition to Chen’s mobiles, there are several other art and cultural pieces on display throughout the Harbourfront grounds. The festival is multidisciplinary, incorporating art, music, culture and food.

It’s held for two weekends back to back: this weekend in Toronto the next in Vancouver. The guests tend to be Taiwanese-Canadians coming from all areas of the city, according to the festival’s managing director Charlie Wu.

But the event is also for Torontonians who may not know a lot about Taiwan.

“It’s important for TaiwanFest to be in downtown venues,” Wu said. “We always feel that Taiwanese-Canadians and Asian-Canadians like to share their cultures in a more mainstream environment where other Canadians get to see it.”

Diverse programming is the key to attracting non-Taiwanese Canadians to the festival, he said. For instance, this year, they are hosting a fashion designer whose heritage is of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, who dwelled on the island for thousands of years before the now-predominant Han Chinese began arriving in numbers in the 17th century. It’s hoped that presence of the designer, known simply as Andre, attracts Torontonians with a general interest in fashion or indigenous peoples’ culture and art. . . . .

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