Chinese heritage celebrated on the Hill

Miles Schroader

The WKU Confucius Institute hosted a Moon Festival celebration at Helm Library on Monday afternoon in honor of the traditional Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, is an inherited custom of moon sacrificial ceremonies, according to Travel China Guide. The Moon Festival is celebrated annually at the time of year during which the moon is at its roundest and brightest, the guide explains.

Haiwang Yuan, professor and coordinator of web and emerging technologies at WKU Libraries, gave a presentation discussing the history and meaning of the Moon Festival, a celebration of what the moon represents traditionally in Chinese culture.

Yuan said to many Chinese people, the moon represents home, one’s loved ones, and even one’s name. When people lookup at the moon, they know their loved ones can see the same thing, giving it a symbolic meaning, he explained.

“My interest of research as a Chinese national, now an American, is to be a bridge between the two different cultures, China, and the West,” Yuan said. “I’m really trying to promote diversity by doing things like this and publishing several books.”

Yuan has authored/edited and co-authored/edited six monographs, including “This is China: the First 5,000 Years” and “Holidays around the World: Celebrate the Chinese New Year,” according to his biography on WKU’s website.

Yuan said he would be interested in giving a similar presentation again in the future.

Ke Peng, associate professor of Chinese, said she organized the event to introduce students on campus to Chinese culture, engaging them and enhancing their understanding of cultural differences.

She also wanted the event to promote the Chinese major and minor programs on campus, offering a learning experience to give context on the background of Chinese culture.

“So they are not just learning the language, but also, through the lecture and talking to people in the Chinese community, so they can have a better understanding,” Peng said. She added that the Confucius Institute is organizing several outreach initiatives alongside the Chinese Flagship program, promoting collaboration between different units on campus.

David Laney, observatory education scientist of physics and astronomy, said he came to the Moon Festival Celebration to learn more about his interest in cultural astronomy.

“When I lived in South Africa, which I did for 26 years, I investigated African legends about the sky,” Laney said. “Stories about the sun, the moon, the stars and that sort of thing.”

Laney said he recently became aware of the Chinese Moon Festival, and has spoken about in some of his planetarium presentations. He said he learned a great deal about the cultural history behind the festival by attending the celebration.

“I would want them to be open-minded,” Peng said. “To learn something different, through the lesson, you will be able to have a deeper understanding of people elsewhere.” He added that as long as people have an open mind and are willing, they will have a better understanding of people and new experiences in life.

Reporter Miles Schroader can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected].