The moon shines bright, and the fragrance of flowers waft throught the warm air – during the Chinese traditional Mid-Autumn Festival SUSTech held a variety of typical festival activities. On the evening of October 4, teachers and students gathered under the full moon, making lanterns and moon cakes, guessing riddles, watching movies, welcoming new friends. During this traditional festival, the spirit is one of gathering and sharing, and teachers and students enjoy their time together.
Making moon cakes
Moon cakes are one of the traditional foods of the Mid-Autumn Festival, a symbol of reunion and harmony. In the student dining hall, Shude Residential College students prepared the ingredients for the moon cakes, so that the rest of the teachers and students could experience the fun of making the delicacies. Before the event began, the restaurant master first demonstrated how to make “ice skin” moon cakes. Students watched carefully, and then picked their choice of ingredients. Kneading the dough, moulding the pastries, embossing the traditional chinese patterns on top, and then removing them from the mould – the 4-step process looks easy but presents its challenges. However inspite of these, the students' enthusiasm was unstoppable, and by helping each other and sharing experience, they finally produced a delicious batch of moon cakes.
2017 undergraduate student Li Daifeng was among the students to participate in the activities. “This is the first time I am so far away from home for the Mid-Autumn Festival, I miss my family a lot. But gathering with the other students and teachers here makes me feel very happy. It's also the first time I make moon cakes, and we all help each other, it's the closest feeling to being with family” he explained.
Hungarian student Janka was also present and said “It is the first time I experience the mid-Autumn Festival, and I also miss my home a lot”. She made her first attempt at making moon cakes, and the cooperative spirit between students made her feel very warm and happy about this holiday, and she said she hoped more foreigners would come to experience this aspect Chinese culture.
In addition to the traditional way of making the cakes, some students improvised their own recipes with the stuffing. They tested out different kinds of hard and soft stuffing, and various colors as well. Exchanging ideas and then cakes with each other, it is the traditional way to offer one's best wishes during the festival. The moon cakes were put in the oven, and soon the air was filled with a delicious smell of cooking and laughter as students played games and gave each other riddles, in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Some students who are astronomy aficionados even brought out a professional telescope to observe the full moon.
Guess the riddles
As the sun was setting on the horizon, the Residential Colleges started installing and lighting their traditional Chinese lanterns. Each one has a tail hanging from it on which a card bearing a riddle is attached. As the last sunlight gave way to the night, the lanterns lit up the gathering in a soft glow and attracted curious students and teachers who were passing in the vicinity.
Curiosity then tempted all the students to gather around the lanterns, as each riddle on the cards was quietly read and studied. Students in small groups or alone walked from one to the other, frowning as a sign of being deep in their thoughts. If they didn't manage to guess the answer, they would call on their fellow students to discuss the riddles enthusiastically, even pulling out their smartphones to research the question in depth. If they managed to get the right answer, they'd gleefully pull off the card and keep it as a souvenir. Other students were also frowning, deep in their thoughts, trying to figure out which flavor of moon cake they wanted to try next.
The riddles captivated the young participants attention, and even that of some of the university professors and their families who were wandering close by. Professor Cheng Zhi and Yu Cong brought their children to the party and joined in the festivities. The children played under the lanterns, and gave some of the riddles a shot. The prizes were lining up, the boxes of moon cakes dwindling, and more and more cards went missing as the students solved the puzzles and took them as souvenirs.
One student's mother came form her hometown to accompany her child during the holiday. She said “It is the first year that my child is not at home for the Mid-Autumn Fesitval, so I was a little bit worried, naturally. However I see that the university is carefully organizing these lovely activities, it makes me feel that the students here are taken care of, which is important for their physical and mental health, and their development, and that greatly puts my mind at ease”.
With a couple of bamboo strands, white paper film and a bit of elbow grease, at the entrance to the Residential College activity room, students are making their own lanterns.
Later in the night, the moon emits a soft warm light, reflecting in the students concerned eyes because they can not guess the riddles, but mainly reflecting the warmth and happiness that that they all felt gathered together. The Calligraphy and Painting Society then started their activities, teaching students to write and draw traditional Chinese art.
As the light from the lanterns quietly faded, teachers and students lit up the last ones and enjoyed the last snacks, walking in the faint moonlight, enjoying the wonderful night scenery around them.
During the later part of the evening, for the ones who were still up there were indoor and outdoor movies to watch. In the activity room, a warm little space, teachers and students watched comedy movie "Rise of the Guardians", enchanting the audience into another world. Meanwhile near the Teaching Building N°1 entrance, the movie "Zootopia" was screened outdoors for teachers and students, filling them with courage and joy. A 2017 Freshman said: "My hometown is in Sichuan province, and there every Mid-Autumn Festival, families move chairs into the courtyard to gather together. Some people are responsible for hanging lanterns, some are responsible for organising a movie to watch, while others hand out moon cakes. Basically, this holiday is all about coming together and sharing happy moments with each other. This is a new Mid-Autumn Festival experience for me, it feels very different from the previous ones because we are all students here studying related scientific and technical subjects, so it is easy to talk to other people. At the same time, to get together with professors to watch movies reminds me also of my hometown's feelings, so it is really a profound and valuable experience. "
The bright moon brings the wishes
2016 undergraduate Hu Jin said that for two consecutive years, he spent the festival apart from his family, who he missed a lot. 2017 freshman Chen Yanwei said: "In the past we would all spend the festival with our parents. Now that we are on our own in Shenzhen, we think about them a lot and miss them." She used the opportunity to send them a message of blessing for the holiday : "I am sorry that sometimes I will provoke you and make you angry, but really, Mum & Dad, I love you!". Another student - Zhou Qinqi – also had an emotional message to share: "I miss my friends far away, and yet in the past month, I appreciate so much the charm of the University, and made many new friends here”.
In the student dining hall, teachers and staff also told about how their children have just left to go to college, and that they miss them. “I hope I can let students feel at home at every meal" From Henan province, Han Yingying said that although she couldn't go home for the holiday to see her family, she still didn't complain : "I hope my parents are healthy and have an optimistic, happy life" she said with a smile.
Phengsrun, a student from Cambodia, happily shared his "month of worship" from his hometown with his new friends. It is his first Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Sofiia, a student from Ukraine, said that the Mid-Autumn Festival in China had made a great impression on her. She enjoyed the atmosphere of the festival and the feeling of sharing with others as with family. Overall, the students said that the memory of the Mid-Autumn Festival at SUSTech will never be forgotten : "May we share the happiness, year after year, at every mid-autumn festival", "with your friend, your neighbor, always remember this warm moment spent together, this beautiful friendship”.
Text: Chen Weitong Hong Yaohua Ning Shuo Chen Zhenzhen Zhang Zhan Sun Jialu Huang Nan Li Lingqi
Photo: Chen Zihao Dong Ziyu Wang Xiangyuan