Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perfect Mid-Autumn Day

Yesterday, September 22nd was the annual 中秋节 (zhōngqiūjié, Mid-Autumn Festival).  The festival occurs every year on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, right in the middle of the autumn season.  On this day, the Chinese celebrate with many moon-themed itens, such as eating moon cakes and sitting under the moonlight at night, both of which we took part in.

There are two reasons that the Chinese celebrate the moon.  First, it is said that the moon is at it's brightest and fullest on this day.  I would have to agree with this -- the moon was very round and very bright that night, and in Kaifeng there were very few clouds in the sky, so we were able to see it perfectly from campus.

Second, they tell the story of 嫦娥 (Cháng'é, a moon goddess).  The story of 嫦娥 starts with her husband, 后羿 (Hòu Yì), her husband.  后羿 is a famous archer, who is known for shooting down nine out of the ten moons that were scorching the earth, leaving the final one for the people.  One day, 后羿 received an elixir from the Empress of Heaven.  The elixir had the power of ascending whoever drank it immediately to heaven, and they would become immortal.  Of course, one of his disciples, named Peng Meng, heard about this elixir and demanded it from Chang'e.  Chang'e thought quickly and drank the elixir, immediately ascended to heaven and settled down the moon, the place in heaven closest to Earth.

When 后羿 returned, he looked at the night sky in search for his lost wife.  To his surprise, when he saw the moon he saw a moving figure, which looked exactly like 嫦娥.  After this night, he arranged an incense table in his backyard, where his wife could see it, so he could express his affection to her.  When others heard about this story, they also set incense tables in the moonlight and prayed for her.

You can read more about this story, and other Mid-Autumn stories and traditions, from the article "When the Moon Is Perfect", in the September 17th edition of the Beijing Review.

The day started out a little rough.  When I went to take a shower in the morning, I noticed that we didn't have any water.  A little nervous, I put my clothes on and went down to meet Marlie for our plans that day.  Our plans included lunch with a common friend, 张苏 (Zhāng Sū), and her family.  As we went outside the gate, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful the weather was.  The high was in the 70s, and there was a little bit of wind, and barely a cloud in the sky.

After meeting 张苏 at the south gate, we walked to the bus stop for Bus #28, which goes from the campus, through 鼓楼, and then to the west side of the city, south of 金明广场 (jīnmíng guǎngchǎng, Jinming Square).  While here, we first checked out 金明池 (jīnmíng chí, Jinming Pond) and some of the sights around it.  The weather made for beautiful pictures.

A view of Jinming Lake


After visiting 金明池, we bought some drinks and started heading for 张苏's house.  The house was beautiful, the floors were so nice and clean, and everything was organized so neatly.  One of the rooms in the house was a study, which had a bookcase all the way across one side of the wall.  It was through this bookcase that I finally realized how hard 张苏 worked to get her English level to where it is.  The bookcase is divided into three equal parts, one for her father (a medical professor), one for her mother (a physics professor), and one for her.  Her bookcase was completely full of books relating to English, the TOEFL, and the GRE.  This, along with the many bookstores around campus, inspired me to read more.

The food that her family served was very delicious.  Amongst other dishes, they had spicy peanuts, a cold beef dish, some green beans, and a type of eggplant.  It was all very delicious, her parents make excellent food.  Afterward, we started chatting in the living room.  Her father wanted to test my Chinese level.  I think I did ok, but was nervous nonetheless.  We discussed buying a table, since I want to turn my front porch into a kitchen.  I'm still not sure where I can find one in the city, hopefully soon I can get one.

A view outside Zhang Su's apartment
After dinner, we checked out a car show in 金明广场.  The show was somewhat interesting, they had all sorts of brands of cars there, including Chevrolet, Nissan, Toyota, and some other brands not found in America such as Peugeot and some Chinese brands.  We only stayed a few minutes, enough to walk through some of the cars (and get a few glances from the models).  After the car show, 张苏 walked us to the bus stop, where we would get on the bus to head back to campus.

Once arriving on campus, we found Josh and Jon-Michael playing frisbee with Josh's language partner and her daughter, as well as a few other people who came to play.  We decided to join in, and then we started having a full Ultimate Frisbee match on the field.  Earlier, I had mentioned how the weather was perfect for an autumn football game, now we're putting it to the test.

A 5-on-5 game of Ultimate Frisbee
In the end, our team won, although Josh's team had put up more points (at one point we decided "next point wins", where our team won).  Finally, during the night we had all gathered to watch the full moon set at night.  We took some 月饼 (yuèbǐng, moon cake) and went to a central park on campus, which ironically had nobody there.  We sat in the park and enjoyed the watching the round, bright moon in the night.  The day ended with a call from a close friend, one I haven't heard from in months... at least since I arrived in Kaifeng.

Pictures courtesy of Marlie's camera.

1 comment:

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