Chinese Culture: Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day

Zhongyang Street Shop Nationalistic Poster

While my friends and I were walking down Zhongyang Street to a restaurant to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, we noticed the street was draped with hundreds of Chinese flags. They hung above the thousands of pedestrians who were also celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. We walked by this clothing store that had this sign. It reads: “China’s heart, China’s trade…Fishing Island  is our country’s! I love China.” The National Holiday (the day after the Mid-Autumn festival) has come during a tumultuous time this year. Recently, there has been controversy over the ownership of small, uninhabited islands northeast of Taiwan and Southwest of the Ryuku Islands. The Japanese call the islands Senkaku and the Chinese call it diaoyu (fishing). They supposedly hold natural resources (oil) that both countries desire.

From what I have read, Japan has official ownership of the islands through the Okinawa Reversion Treaty between the United States and Japan (after WWII surrender). However, Taiwan and China claimed the islands centuries before. Recently, the Japanese government announced that they bought the islands from a private Japanese owner, which has sparked protests all around China, including Harbin. Harbin Institute of Technology has even been affected. There were pamphlets around campus saying not to buy Japanese items and red banners that mocked Japan and idealized China.

What a time to celebrate the CCP’s birthday! Anger and nationalism put into one cake.

Emily and Me at Bingfengtang

We finally made it to the restaurant Bingfengtang, a southern-style Chinese restaurant. It was delicious! We ate peanuts, chicken buns, fried fish, tofu in brown sauce, and caixin (vegetable hearts). After the meal, I looked out the window and saw a stream of red lights floating toward the stars. I realized that they were setting off red lanterns from the river. We quickly walked over to find hundreds of locals writing their wishes on the lanterns and then preparing them to take off. I had never seen something so beautiful in Harbin. There are not many stars here, but the lanterns looked like a brilliant red Milky Way in the sky.

Eating a Yuebeing with the Full Moon and Lanterns

Emily and I decided to send off our own wishes. We purchased a lantern for 10kuai ($2~) and wrote our wishes onto the red paper. We then lit a white cube (made of flammable material) and waited as the lantern filled with air. We then set it off. It joined the rest of the lanterns into the sky. I wonder where they go? Sending off red lanterns is a tradition for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Many families wish for good health and peace, others may wish for their deceased to be happy.

Lantern Lifting Off with Full Moon in the Background

I felt so alive participating with the other hundreds of people in the tradition. Though I may have seen 100+ lanterns take off, each one was mesmerizing. When the lantern slowly lifted into the sky, it made me smile. And seeing it turn into a red star with the hundreds of others in the distance was awe-inspiring. I had a lot of fun hanging with my friends along the river. We set off lanterns, played with sparklers, laughed about almost anything, and strolled along the river. It was a great night. I am not going to forget it…I was so happy. I am so fortunate to be in China and to be given this opportunity to study and do research.

Celebrating with Friends: Elise, Bryan, Brian, Emily, and Su-Yee

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