BY LOGAN PAULEY
NANJING — Every year on the 15th day of the Han lunar calendar, China celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival, a holiday that commemorates the changing of the seasons and the interrelationship between the coming harvest and the moon. While typical celebration involves the unabashed consumption of mooncakes (ramekin-sized pastries filled with anything from meat to sweet red bean paste to fruit) and carrying lanterns, the HNC marked the festival with a bilingual variety show. The spectacle took place on the center’s second-floor veranda, a venue fit for faculty, staff, and students all to appreciate the full moon and festivities.
Unique to this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival party, the entirety of the show was held outside and encouraged participation and interaction from everyone in the crowd. Party MC Susan Wang reflected on her role running the show alongside classmate Quinn Campbell, avowing “…I wanted to make it not mundane for people”. Campbell proceeded to delineate his hosting inspiration, stating “I hoped to open the show with energy. Like with Hugh Jackman energy.”
And mundane it was not—performances included musical medleys, operatic singing, Salsa dancing, skits regarding the history of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and many more. Center student Cecilia Joy spoke of fellow classmate Slater Rhea’s Chinese opera performance, “[it] blew me out of the water… being Puerto Rican, to see someone engaged in intense study of language, politics, you name it, and earnestly learning [Chinese] art forms shows so much respect for the culture.”
Rhea elaborated on his performance, explaining his first song choice, “Xi Bu Fang Ge 西部放歌“is about developing the Chinese inland cities and provinces, which for decades have lagged behind the heavy development in the Eastern and Southern coastal regions. The song draws on Shanbei folk music.” Although Rhea has a background in violin, his Chinese opera ability is self-taught. Rhea’s second song, Er Xing Qian Li 儿行千里, functioned as a means to “honor all the parents and other family members we were away from during the Mid-Autumn Festival, a holiday usually shared with family.”
While members of the HNC community may be thousands of miles away from their family, the Mid-Autumn Festival party proved that the Nanjing center fosters a familial tenor; Student Council member and party DJ Deng Yitao described his elation for how the party was run, noting, “everyone, including Chinese students, international students, professors, and faculty members all participated.” Participation was garnered through spontaneous activities interspersed throughout the show, such as an impromptu Gangnam Style dance competition, a Reaggeton dance lesson, and a team-based ‘bobbing for apples’ competition. Following the completion of all of the acts, Deng continued to express that the show’s after party was his favorite part, an open dancing floor in which “helped everyone to get familiar with each other.”
The Mid-Autumn Festival party was a big step forward for the future of HNC events, but Wang noted that it was not without its faults: “…the show went great, but it obviously has room for improvement, next time we need to know what is being performed.” Two acts were cut and the MCs received the set list close to the starting time, but Wang felt at ease alongside her partner, expressing, “I liked Quinn’s sense of always thinking ahead”. Wang, speaking Mandarin, and Campbell, speaking English, often called upon the audience to assist them in language or cultural barrier issues, an effort both to aid in HNC’s language aims and to encourage an engaged viewership. Campbell echoed Wang’s sentiments, noting, “I could feel it.”
The HNC’s next party is Halloween, a party that tends to be one of the most popular events at the center. With the current student body’s new found organizational prowess and ambitious party-hosting hopes, everyone’s expectations are high. But at its roots, everyone’s baseline goal is just to have fun among friends and faculty; to recap this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival party, Joy summarized her experience as, “good times, good vibes… and good beer.”