On Thursday, September 22, 2016, the Mid-Autumn Festival, brought together by the Asian Studies Department and Wenzhou-Kean University Student Association (WKUSA), took place in the Miron Student Center (MSC) Atrium. Also known as the Moon Festival, the event brought together both Kean USA and Wenzhou Kean students.
This Chinese and Vietnamese event goes by many names such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Moon Festival, Reunion Festival, Harvest Moon Festival, Children's Festival or Mooncake Festival. This festival is considered the second grandest festival; the first being Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese New Year.
The titles for this day are derived from the many events that occur simultaneously. The moon is believed to be the fullest and brightest on this day, which brought ancient China great harvest. This brings back the tradition of moon worship or moon gazing while eating delicious mooncakes, a common pastry shared among friends and family during this night.
Everyone reunites for this holiday that is full of joy and happiness.
During this event, students from different backgrounds participated to learn more about Chinese festivities, taste mooncakes and win prizes such as WKUSA chopsticks or a phone holder. Some festivities included ping-pong ball challenge, Chinese zodiac character making, learning Chinese phrases, tea tasting, calligraphy and information on Asian Studies.
The event was organized so students could go around the atrium, visit each table and complete tasks to win prizes. The first table started with learning Chinese words. The three words were:
- hàowán, written as 好玩, meaning "fun" or "entertaining"
- hǎohē, written as 好喝, meaning "tasty" (for drinks) or "good to drink"
- hàochī, written as 好吃, meaning "tasty" (for food) or "delicious"
Xunlan Wang and Luojia Mei, Wenzhou students majoring in accounting, taught participants the Chinese phrases and how the phrases are written in Mandarin. Both Wang and Mei came from Jiujang, China and traveled to Kean USA to broaden their horizons and learn more about America.
Wang, a senior, has spent a year at Kean USA. Wang came to America to experience a different culture, and found Kean University as a good place to start.
"I like how this event gives us students from Wenzhou a way to communicate with other students. I like the food here in America and fried chicken is one of my favorite things to enjoy, as well as events like these," Wang says.
Mei, a junior, is currently spending her first semester here. She traveled to America to practice her English and improve her accent and pronunciation in the language. As much as she enjoys her time here, she misses the food at home.
"I feel this event is a good way to spread Chinese [culture] and learn English as well. America is very fashionable and the buildings, structures, lifestyle amazes me," Mei adds.
The next table gave students a chance to write their Chinese zodiac character with a paintbrush. If students did not know their Chinese zodiac sign, they could look at the list and find out through their birth year. Participants had to hold the paintbrush a certain way to properly write the character, which challenged some students who kept shaking or had problems writing in such a way.
Participants at the third table would write their Chinese name, or American name in characters on a scroll of white paper. Students were allowed to keep the paper in remembrance of the event.
The fourth table had students try green or white tea with a piece of mooncake. Many students tasted mooncake for the first time as it is not a common pastry sold in American bakeries or stores. The challenge at this table was to say the three words taught at the first table. If students could not remember it, they would not be able to proceed to the last table.
After visiting all these tables, participants ended up at the last table, which gave them prizes to choose from. Students walked away with either a phone holder or WKUSA engraved chopsticks.
A game at Mid-Autumn Festival was the ping-pong ball challenge. Students would have to use chopsticks to pick up a ping-pong ball, which is as difficult a it sounds. The ping-pong ball would slip and slide or people had difficulty holding the chopsticks. Not many were able to succeed, but it was entertaining to see people try.
Mei-Ling Cheng, the Managing Assistant Director of the Counseling Center and Organization Adviser for WKUSA, encouraged students to participate in the event and help promote the club.
"WKUSA started last year," Cheng recalls. "The point of WKUSA is to connect the Kean University here and the Kean over there [at Wenzhou]. This club helps share information, since students come and go from here to there and vice versa all the time. The information there will be shared here and vice versa, so any student who comes and goes know what is going on at each campus. This was just a new club in the spring semester of 2016 and we hosted so many activities, trips, events, meetings--this club is for anyone and everyone to join. It's like a melting pot full of Kean students."
Cheng has been in America for about ten years and is happy to help the students with the transition between the cultures.
"Every Wenzhou student comes and goes, usually for a semester or a year, and we help each other with the transition and culture like brothers and sisters. It's like we're a family," Cheng said. "I really enjoy this group because I have a huge heart for international students. When I was working at Seton Hall, there was a group similar to this and I loved to work with international students and lend them a helping hand. Teaching them the small things like opening up a bank account or how to buy a car really helps them feel comfortable during their stay."
Cheng notes that the group has grown from 58 students last semester to about 125 students this semester.
"Last Friday, Wenzhou students had a dinner to celebrate the Moon Festival and about a hundred students showed up and spent time with each other," said Cheng.
Both the Asian Studies Department and WKUSA club help students with questions about studying abroad in China and encourages American students be part of the Asian Studies major or minor.
Students can always expect cultural events at Kean University to bring people, near and far, together.