It’s finally beginning to feel like fall on campus, which has us celebrating—but not every autumnal celebration has to include pumpkin spice. The Interdisciplinary/International Studies and Asian Studies Programs at UNC Asheville hosted the Mid-Autumn festival on September 20, 2018. Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration is held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month in the Chinese culture. People gather together, light lanterns, eat mooncakes, drink tea and appreciate the full moon with the company of friends and family.
Students at the festival enjoyed hearing the story of the Chinese legend, learning about the different kinds of mooncakes eaten in celebration of the holiday, tasting tea from the UNC Asheville Tea Club.
“The culture is really interesting and I really liked the festival. The story behind it was like a little love story and it was cute,” said SJ Purcell, a new media sophomore at UNC Asheville.
This is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the Chinese culture, and is considered a harvest festival and the festival of reunion, as the moon is a symbol of reunion. The festival focuses on a Chinese legend of a hero, Hou Yi, and his beautiful and strong wife, Chang-E. In the story, the hero shoots nine of the 10 rising suns in order to protect his people from the heat. The queen of heaven offered him an elixir, which would grant immortality and send him to heaven, but the hero hides the elixir in order to stay on Earth with Chang-E.
However, one of Hou Yi’s apprentices new learns about the immortality-granting elixir, and threatens Chang-E in order to force her to hand it over. Rather than surrender the elixir, she drinks it herself. She flies out to the heavens, but her love for her husband lands her on the nearest celestial, the moon. Hou Yi offers his wife’s favorite foods to the alter after seeing her shadow across the moon, and others soon join him in offering these sacrifices out of sympathy. The story spread and the sad ending became a reminder of the importance of sharing life with the people you love.
The UNC Asheville Tea Club provided three different teas from the Chinese culture to share during the festival, sharing “how important the tea culture is to the people of China,” according to Nicole McDonald, environmental science senior and Tea Club treasurer. The Tea Club meets every week and discusses different types of tea, where they come from, the story and history behind it, how much to pour, and how to create a tea ceremony.
The festival not only introduced students to the Tea Club, it also offered a glimpse of the university’s Asian Studies Program, as well. Jinhua Li, Associate Professor of Chinese Studies and Language and International/Interdisciplinary Studies, described the Asian Studies Program as rigourous, particularly with the high demand of courses and cultural engagement activities, but finds the diversity and expertise of the faculty to be rewarding with the different critical perspectives.
“Our students are simply amazing! Their enthusiasm and dedication have never ceased to inspire me. My colleagues are extraordinary as well, and we are always trying our best to serve our students,” said Li.
For more information about UNC Asheville’s Asian studies program, visit https://www.unca.edu/programs/interdisciplinary-studies/curriculum/asian-studies/.