One thing that China is well known for is the stream of festivals that pepper the year, and in the eighth lunar month the Chinese celebrate the mid-autumn festival at the full moon. The full round shape of the harvest moon indicates a full year, health and the hope for wealth and fullness in the coming year. In years gone by people gathered with family to celebrate the harvest, much like American thanksgiving. But much like American thanksgiving the traditions have shifted slightly with modern times. The celebration now is not to a symbol of gratitude for a rich harvest, but rather a chance to gather with family and celebrate the traditions of a time gone by in a new era of progress and constant forward momentum.
One tradition that remains is the gathering of family and friends in parks and other outdoor spaces to watch the moon and appreciate the blessings of the years. This used to be done through writing poetry to record the feelings of the moon, but is now often done simply through observation or by taking pictures of the bright full moon.
One poem, written in the Tang Dynasty, struck me with beauty and familiar emotion as I prepared to celebrate in as traditional a manner as is possible in the middle of the bustle of Beijing, far from family and friends.
The moon is shining bright in front of my bed,
I took it for frost upon the ground.
Raising my head, I see the bright moon,
Bowing my head, I long for home.
With all this fresh in my mind, prepared to enjoy the moon through the slight haze of light from the city, I headed to one of Beijing’s many historical parks, Beihei Park, recommended by elementary students excited to help “teacher” learn about their culture, armed with camera and pen to take pictures and write my own lunar poetry.
“Comfortable Light Of Home and Moon”
Though far away,
The cool yellow light,
Familiar from years of life,
Nights spent gazing up and dreaming
The craters as familiar as any pattern,
Burned into the routine of nights gone by,
Brings comfort when I’m lonely
When home seems more distant than the moon,
And loved ones too far to greet in thanksgiving
Under the light of the harvest moon.