The Chinese Friendship Association (CFA) welcomed Atlanta’s Chinese and Taiwanese university population to a night of cultural gathering at the Mid-Autumn Festival Banquet this Monday, Sept. 27. With over 400 students, faculty, administrators and professionals from around Atlanta in attendance, including 96 just to run the event, that is quite a hefty lot of moon pies.
Zhengqin Fan, president of the CFA and an AP grad student, inaugurated the festival—the first such event at Tech—with an introduction to the holiday itself and the CFA.
“[Originally], people wanted to get together with family after a harvest, and the full moon is symbol of reunion because of the meaning of a circle. At Tech, we have total of 1200 Chinese students and scholars, and CFA has served that community for over 20 years,” Zhengqin Fan said. “We have been doing a good job in serving as a big family for Chinese people here, and in the future we hope they do a great job.”
Legends and lore of the Mid-Autumn Festival—a holiday celebrated in various forms by most cultures on the eastern Asian coast—date back to ancient China, including the significance of the moon cake.
When the China of the Middle Ages was under Mongol rule, rebels once hid messages in moon cakes, which the Mongols did not eat, distributed for the Mid-Autumn Festival that year to coordinate attacks against their rulers.
Emcees Fan Cai, Vivian Fan and Song Wang presented the night’s performers, a mix of professional and student groups from Atlanta, starting with a Chinese lion dance. Near the end of the dance, one dragon fed a banner reading, “Happy Mid Autumn Festival,” to Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.
One performance by Jason Cordero, ‘10 ECE alum, was a story of how he studied in China for nine weeks and found love. He explained how popular karaoke is and decided to impress a girl, Yaojun Ni, now his wife. While Ni sang “Fairy Tales” by Michael Wong, Cordero broke down in tears at such a sad song. The only way, he decided, that he could overcome it was to sing that song Monday night in front of his wife and the rest of the banquet. He sang the entire song in Chinese to near-immediate thunderous applause and cheering from the audience.
Other acts, including two by the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company who performed during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, featured dancing and music relevant to the holiday.
“It is the first time I spent moon festival in a foreign country. But it felt so good to be able to enjoy the holiday with so many nice people, nice food and a nice performance,” said Guang Zhu, an MSE grad student.
“I believe we will continue this in the future, since it’s an annual event, but the celebration could be in different forms. I don’t know if we will serve dinner next year, and we want to do it in a bigger place to involve more people,” Zhengqin Fan said.
Consul of Education Wei Liqing, from the Chinese Consulate spoke to convey the consulate’s greeting for the festival and to all Chinese students in Atlanta.
“Autumn is harvest time, a time for gathering and a time for home-seeking, especially for Chinese students who are away from their hometown. Though you cannot gather together with families in China, you can enjoy a friendship not only from friends, students and teachings in China but from America and all over the world,” Liqing said.
Peterson also spoke of leadership, a shared vision with partner universities and strategic plan.
“We have great relationships with several universities in China. This is an example of how we can work together with [Tech] students working in China and Chinese students at Tech. It’s an example of how we can transcend language and geographic barriers. We must extend our education partnerships with universities around the world…Here at Tech we’re committed to a global focus,” Peterson said.
“It was really good to see everyone and to see [Peterson] give a speech,” said Yutong Dong, a second-year IE major. “The Mid-Autumn Festival means a family reunion to me.”
Graduate Student Body President Anthony Baldridge spoke to the assembly as well.
“[They are] coming together with people they identify with in a challenging environment. I have to commend the organizations with strong members that let its goals come true,” Baldridge said.
CFA, the Atlanta Chinese Student and Scholar Association and the Chinese Student Unions of Emory, Georgia State University and University of Georgia organized the event.