Chinese community gathers to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival away from home

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association hosted the annual event in Goldstein Auditorium.

With singing, dancing and traditional cakes, the Chinese community at Syracuse University celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival this weekend.

The Mid-Autumn Festival Gala, hosted by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, commemorates the traditional Chinese reunion festival each year. It’s one of CSSA’s biggest annual events, selling more than 350 tickets this year. The event brings SU students, faculty and staff, as well as the larger Syracuse community, together through the shared celebration.

Photo: Hong Gao
The gala featured contemporary as well as traditional performances.

“The goal of the event is to celebrate this festival with the community and promote cultural communication between various countries,” said Xinyi Gong, an applied mathematics senior who directed the gala this year as CSSA’s vice president. 

Traditionally, Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family members to gather, enjoy the full moon and eat mooncakes, or circular Chinese bakery products. In each mooncake, a thin pastry skin envelops a dense, sweet filling, with one or two whole salted egg yolks in the center to represent the full moon. In Chinese culture, the full moon is a symbol of “Tuan Yuan” — meaning “reunion” in Mandarin — so this festival is also called “Tuan Yuan Jie.”

Like Chinese Spring Festival and Lantern Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival follows the lunar calendar, which is based on the phases of the moon. Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on Aug. 15, according to the lunar calendar. This year this coincided with Sept. 8 on the Gregorian calendar, or the solar calendar system that us more commonly used in the U.S. The gala was held a few days later on the weekend, on Sept. 12.

Guests at CSSA’s Mid-Autumn Festival Gala were given one mooncake upon entering Goldstein Auditorium between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Then CSSA members accompanied them to their seats. Music played as everyone waited for the opening of the gala. Dr. Ruth Chen, a professor of practice at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science and wife of Chancellor Kent Syverud, sat at a reserved seat in front of the stage, speaking with professors and students before the gala.  

The lights dimmed at 7 p.m. to start of the show. In both English and Mandarin, the emcees introduced began to introduce the performances. All the student performers at Mid-Autumn Festival Gala were voluntary, Gong said. “CSSA is a non-profit organization. All of members volunteer to support Chinese community. We do not pay any for them,” she said.

Qizhen Li, an economics freshman, kicked off the gala with a Chinese folk song, “May They Live Long.” The lyrics expressed her homesickness and her love for her home country as well as her family members in China.

Next came performers from Cao Bao An Art and Cultural Center in New York City. Their performances included a duet, “Autumn Moon over the Calm Lake,” on two Chinese traditional musical instruments, the guzheng and the erhu; a Chinese opera called “Steal Fairy Peach and Immortal Elixir”; and a magic show called “Joyous Zhong Qiu.”    

In addition to traditional performances, the show included contemporary elements. Yue Wang, an illustration sophomore, played the theme song from the television series “Guilty Crown” on piano, and SU’s Ballroom Dance Organization performed Rihanna’s “Disturbia.” There was also a short play; a dance solo by Di Gai, a student at Onondaga Community College; and a vocal performance of the song “The Longest Movie” by Yiru Wang, an economics and accounting senior.

The Mid-Autumn Festival Gala concluded with a piano and violin duet, bringing the night full circle. Some guests said they were pleased with this show.  

 “The gala is exciting,” said magazine senior Nan Ding. “I did not regret attending the gala.”

“This is my last Mid-Autumn Festival Gala at Syracuse University,” said Yanfang Wei, an accounting graduate student.  “I think I will not forget such an amazing show.”

One of CSSA’s goals is to build a bridge between international students and American students. CSSA helps SU students navigate cultural differences by offering a community of support, said Chaochen Li, a host of this gala and a television, radio and film junior.

“No matter who you are, we are glad to bring you to our celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival,” Li said. “It is a stage for all people to enjoy wonderful performances.”

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