Multilingual conversation invigorated the space as hundreds of students and faculty, including President Sue Thomas, took seats at round tables in the Georgian room. More and more students pooled into the room while Chinese music played through the speakers. As the room slowly darkened and quieted to a mere whisper, the hosts of the evening took the stage to welcome various performances from students. All this excitement was in celebration of the Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, a time to celebrate the unity of families and friends with the blessing of a bountiful harvest.
The Society for Sino-American Studies hosted the event Sunday, Sept. 29 from 5:30-8 p.m. SSAS President Youxing Yang said the organization helps those who don’t understand Chinese culture and traditions but have an interest in learning more. Yang said it also helps Chinese students learn English and American culture, acting as a bridge between the two.
Food ranging from egg rolls and rice to pork dumplings, noodles and the traditional desert, the mooncake was offered after the performances, . Yang said the festival was a way to share more than just Chinese culture. Traditions and holidays from other countries like Vietnam and Korea were discussed by the hosts on stage to further emphasize the idea of unity beyond culture.
“I think it gives everyone a glimpse of what region culture is,” Yang said. “Just about every Asian country celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival in some form, so bringing that to Truman [State University’s] campus and showing people that have never seen that kind of stuff before can help connect and show them, ‘Hey, this is something people do just like Thanksgiving and all the other major holidays.’“
Yang said there are a few stories surrounding the Moon Festival, but the most widely known is that of the goddess Chang E’s ascendence to the moon. Legend has it that 10 suns existed before the hero Hou Yi shot nine of them with his mighty bow to stop the intense heat, and then married Chang E. In reward of such a feat, Hou Yi was presented with an elixir which would bring him to heaven. A villain named Pengmen attempted to steal the elixir, but before he could take it, Chang E. drank it herself to prevent the villain from ascending. In the end, Hou Yi offered food annually in honor of Chang E., who grasped onto the nearest thing she could find in the sky: the moon.
Senior Shori Inomata said being able to attend and watch the performances and listen to the information of the hosts helped him learn more about what Chinese culture looked like.
“Before I came here, I didn’t know anything about Chinese culture,” Inomata said. “Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve learned a lot. All the performances, decorations and food was really cool and informative.”
Inomata said he was invited by a friend to attend the festival. Without an expectation of what was to come, he came and sat down next to friends and strangers alike to watch performances and try delicious food. He said one of his favorite performances was of a guitar player singing because he always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, and he thought it was beautiful.
With the tantalizing promises of delicious food and stage performances, students obtained their tickets early to get the chance to come to the festival. Sophomore Harshavardhan Shahi said the event was a perfect example of the diversity of Truman’s campus.
“I thought it was amazing,” Shahi said. “I saw some amazing things from different cultures that I didn’t even know. I thought it was just going to be Chinese, but it was Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese culture. I really didn’t know the festival was that important.”
Shahi said these sort of events across Truman’s campus can help remind people that Truman doesn’t only have students from America. Students from all over the globe come to learn on Truman’s campus.
As the night slowly came to a close, everyone was invited to stand close together on stage for one large group picture. This further supported the Moon Festival’s way of uniting those of different backgrounds for one big night of celebration and unity.