URI to host annual Chinese Moon Festival, Sept. 26

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KINGSTON, R.I., Sept. 16, 2015 – Centuries ago, the Chinese gathered annually in the fall to celebrate the harvest and honor the moon – bright and full at that time of the year.

The Moon Festival is still held today in China and in Chinese communities throughout the world. The University of Rhode Island celebrates, too.

On Sept. 26, artists from Shandong Normal University in China will perform traditional Chinese music and dance in Edwards Hall, 44 Upper College Road on the Kingston campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Mooncakes – a pastry with a dense, sweet filling – dumplings, spring rolls, scallion pancakes and other Chinese food will be served at 5 p.m. in the lobby.

At 5:50 p.m., children who are members of URI’s Chinese Culture Club and students in URI’s Chinese Language Flagship Program will perform “Little Apple,” a popular group dance in China. The Shandong artists will start performing at 6 p.m.

The Moon Festival is one of the most important celebrations in China – similar to Thanksgiving in the United States. The event has a history of more than 3,000 years, dating back to the ancient Shang Dynasty.

Initially, it was held to give thanks for the harvest and moon, a symbol of peace, harmony and unity in Chinese culture. Over the years, it has evolved into a gathering for family members to eat dinner, make mooncakes, light up Kongming lanterns and celebrate the joy of life. In China, the day is an official holiday off from work.

“We invite the community to join us for this joyful and culturally enlightening event,” says Wayne Wenchao He, director of URI’s Chinese Language Flagship Program and URI’s Confucius Institute. “The Moon Festival is a wonderful celebration in the Chinese culture, and we want to share it with our friends.”

A Chinese restaurant in Middletown will make the food. A Chinese market in Boston will provide the mooncakes – available with red beans, lotus seeds or almonds. Green tea will also be served.

Here are performance highlights of the 25-member Shandong troupe:

* Kungfu, performed by Wang Haiou, Yankai, Sui Zehong, Wang Rongen, Ji Weixiang. Kungfu is combined with long-style boxing and Taiji boxing to showcase Chinese boxing: a blend of firmness, flexibility and free-flowing style.

* The Cooing, performed by Song Chunyan. The lyrics of The Cooing are from The Book of Songs (or Shijing), the earliest poem collection of Han Chinese. The love ballad describes the cooing and love between waterfowls, metaphorically expressing how a man might woo a lady. It also reflects the lovesickness and affection between lovers.

* The Soul of Terracotta Warriors, performed by Zhang Ke, Yang Shuai and Cao Fei. The dance is based on one of the world’s eight wonders, the Terracotta Warriors and Horses of the Qin Shihuang Mausoleum. The dance shows the bravery of ancient Chinese soldiers.

* Chinese Lantern Festival, performed by Wang Zixuan. The horn solo is re-arranged from the melody of the song-and-dance duet in northeast China. The bold tone displays the expansiveness of the northeast. In contrast, the soft and gentle tones reflect joyful occasions when families celebrate the Lantern Festival by going out and lighting lanterns in winter.

* Life of Peking Opera Actors, performed by Wang Xi, Xue Zhaoxuan, Zhang Shuya and Fu Rong. The piece combines cha-cha and rumba with the culture of Peking Opera.

* Apparatus, performed by Yan Kai, Sui Zehong, Wang Rongen and Ji Weixiang. Apparatus is performed in pairs with swords, scimitars, double swords, double scimitars, whips and fans. The performance embodies the fierceness and agility of Kungfu apparatus: scimitars as violent as tigers and swords as endless as flowing water.

* My Sun, performed by Liu Zihao. My Sun is an Italian Napoli folk song composed in 1898. The piece has been performed by many famous tenors but also has been recreated by popular singers.

* Dance Galaxy – Uighur, Mongolian, Dai, Korean and Tibetan, performed by Jiang Lin, Yang Shuai, Wang Yu, Cao Fei and Ding Quanjie. Drawing upon thousands of years of history, Chinese culture is a mix of traditions from 56 Chinese ethnic groups, providing a diversity of styles. Dance Galaxy showcases several Chinese folk dances.

* A Tender Night, Ten Thousand Steeds Gallop, performed by Gao Yunshan. Erhu is a unique Chinese folk string instrument more than 2,000 years old. It is often called the Chinese violin. A Tender Night is a joyful gathering of friends.

* Jasmine Flower and Drinking Song, performed by Song Chunyan and Liu Zihao. Jasmine Flower is about a beautiful jasmine flower, more fragrant than the scents of all other blossoms. Drinking Song is from the opera “The Lady of the Camellias.” The hero, Alfredo, toasts at a party hosted by the heroine, Violetta, and they express their love for each other by singing.

* Pretty Hua Dan, performed by Ding Quanjie, Jiang Lin and Wang Yu. The song is one of the traditional Chinese opera roles, usually played by young girls. The dance, Pretty Hua Dan, exhibits the charm of nimbleness and the beauty of innocence.

* Pair Exercise and Interaction, performed by Wang Haiou, Yan Kai, Sui Zehong, Wang Rongen and Ji Weixiang. The performance is a drama about the beauty of Kungfu morality that supports justice and helps the weak.

* As Red as Fire, performed by Wang Xi, Xue Zhaoxuan, Zhang Shuya and Fu Rong. The dancers wear red costumes that symbolize fire, and their dance shows elements of Latin dance.

* Half of the Moon Climbs Over Mountains and Oh! Susanna, performed by Huang Mingshui, Qiu Zhaowei, Song Chunyan and Liu Zihao. Half of the Moon Climbs Over Mountains describes a scene where young people, happily in love, anticipate a tender night. The second piece is an intepretation of the American song, “Oh! Susanna,” by Stephen Foster.

* Folk Dance in Shandong, China—Love Each Other, performed by Ding Quanjie, Jiang Lin, Wang Yu, Zhang Ke, Yang Shuai and Cao Fei. The piece focuses on staying close with family and friends, despite living apart.

For more information, contact He at 401-874-4708 or waynewenchaohe@uri.edu. Professor He also teaches Chinese in URI’s Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures.

Photo: Dancers and singers from Shandong Normal University. Photo courtesy of URI.