Rhodes University Celebrating the 2019 Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

RU Staff at The Cock House (©Wu Pingping)
RU Staff at The Cock House (©Wu Pingping)

Friday 13 September was the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival celebration hosted by Professor Zhang Jun, the Head of the Chinese Studies at Rhodes University. The celebration was held at The Cock House with an atmosphere filled with laughter, food and an amalgamation of cultures and languages. The event was joined by various academic staff members in the department, namely Dr Undine Weber, who is the Head of the School of Languages and Literatures, and Professor Patrice Mwepu, the local Director of Confucius Institute at Rhodes University, as well as other invited guests. It was Friday the 13th but there were no bad spirits in the air, just festivities. The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is an important one in the Chinese calendar bringing together families and of course mooncakes!

In conversation with Mrs Fu Shuying, a DSG Chinese teacher, she spoke about how important this festival is for families. “It brings together families in China, and people go back to China to celebrate with their families”, says Fu. For many of the Chinese staff at Rhodes and other Chinese people who are far away from their families, celebrating with other people is like home away from home. This festival is usually celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, with a full moon at night.

RU staff and students (©Wu Pingping)

In the past, this celebration was a lot more about families coming together. Mr Zhou Xinglei, a Rhodes Chinese teacher residing in Port Elizabeth, says that this festival was in celebration of the harvest, and the Chinese people would worship the moon in appreciation for the good harvest season. So, what is the story behind the mooncakes? “A full moon represents prosperity and reunion for the family. Eating the mooncake during this time is complementary to the harvest moon in the night sky at the Mid-Autumn festival”, says Zhou.

RU Students at Chinese Studies (©Wu Ping Ping)

This celebration takes many forms; with the influence of the modernity, young people have changed things up a bit. Ms Wu Ping Ping, a Chinese 2 lecturer, says, “Young Chinese people celebrate by going out with friends to gamble for good fortune, taking part in the dragon dance and by lighting up lanterns at night”.

A Rhodes University Student at Chinese Centre (©Wu Ping Ping)

There are also new mooncake flavours which modernity has brought with it. Originally, the main flavours were white lotus seed paste, salty yoke, red beans and mixed nuts. Today, we have spicy mooncakes as well as pork mooncakes, adds Fu. Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival is important as it reminds Chinese people of their roots and culture. Considering the joy and happiness among people gathering that night, one can only conclude that Rhodes University was a home away from home for Chinese staff present at the event.

It should be mentioned that the Mid-Autumn Festival was also celebrated by learners from the Diocesan School for Girls (DSG) earlier that night at the Chinese Centre at Somerset Street.

RU Staff and DSG learners at the Chinese Centre (©Wu Ping Ping)

Source:  By Sacrée Kabeya, 3rd Year Law and Journalism Student

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