Each year around end of August and beginning of September, people in China begin to take time off from work to go home for the Moon Festival, or Mid-autumn holiday, which falls on the 15th day of the 8th moon by the Lunar Calendar. Of all the full moon nights why is this one more important? Because it is traditionally a time in the year after harvest to gather with family in a circle to view the special full moon, drink tea and eat moon cakes after a family dinner. In Chinese, we call it "Tuan Yuan", 團圓, meaning everyone is together and everything is full and perfect. That is also why most Chinese dinner tables are usually circular for good luck and practically because it can fit more people than a square table also. This holiday is almost as important as the Chinese new year for the Chinese families.
When we were kids in China, this was usually a cooler evening with crickets chirping, fire flies glowing in the dark, and the bright moon huge and round in the sky. We would sit on bamboo or rattan garden chairs sipping tea and munching on little pieces of moon cakes. My grandmother would use her huge goose feather fan to chase away mosquitoes or other insects while she told stories about Chan Er, the lady in the moon, and her jade rabbit assistant who is stirring herbal medicine in a pot.
Legend has it that Chan Er was the wife of a famous archer, Hou Yi, who shot down several suns in the sky to save the people from dying of the draught. However, after he became the hero of the nation, he turned mean and selfish. He went to the Jade Empress of the Western Skies to seek immortality potions because he thought he was so great that he should live forever. But he had become a menace to his family and the people. So Chan Er did a courageous thing by hiding the potion from Hou Yi. But when he used brute force against her, in a panic, she swallowed the potion instead. To her surprise, she began to ascend to the heavens and ended up in the Jade Palace in the moon. The Jade Empress gave her the job to be the keeper and to work on healing herbs to benefit humanity with the assistance of her Jade Rabbit. Needless to say, Hou Yi did not gain immortality except to pine for his lovely wife and died in regret and sorrow.
Like most Chinese fables, there is always a moral to the story. This particular version is different because of the twist in the ending. It seems an interesting story with multifaceted lesson and food for thought for everyone. So, tea, moon cakes and stories, anyone? 0ops, did I just make a "Pun"? I like this English word also because "Pun" happens to be "Bread" in modern Japanese. The multicultural connections continues. Happy autumn, everyone, I am signing off in Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A.
May the 5th in Chinese Luna Calendar marks the day of ancient rituals and seasonal change. Many people think this is only the special day to remember a famous poet, Qu Yuan. Actually, this date was always an ancient folk feast day to mark the change of seasons and to deal with nature's challenges. When did this old custom start, no one really know; but it was a lot older than Qu Yuan's era. Some say it was created by the ancient tribal leaders for the welfare of their people. It is now known as "Dragon Boat Festival" all over the world. People are rowing and racing their boats on this day in Australia, Singapore, United States and even Russia!
Zhongzi, sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves steamed to perfection is among my favorite foods from home. On this day, my Grandmother made plain ones to dip in sugar, or salty ones with meat or nuts stuffed inside the rice. There was always a feast with lots of food set out on round tables waiting for family, friends to drop in and enjoy. The boat race was all important as it involves the reputation of the village or a county. Men folks were serious about their team work and winning was everything.
Ladies and young girls made embroidery sachets containing fragrance and spices to hang for protection against evil spirits. Their various creations became works of art. Calamus and Moxe branches were hung on doorways. Realgar wine was used for disinfecting purposes. It was splashed in corners and on door steps. We children usually had our foreheads marked by this wine to keep us from insect bites. Summer heat was a concern for people's health in ancient China. Families relied on the seasonal advice from the Farmer's Almanac to deal with various issues of diet, living habits, medicine and spiritual worship to the Gods. I suppose in every culture there are these so-called "Old Wives' Tales". Ah, but these stories and memories being passed down are the fabrics and strength of our cultural background. While we forget sometimes, they are being woven into our modern day lives because it is deeply ingrained in each of us.
There is a Chinese saying: "Don't put away winter clothes until after you have had Zhongzi and watched the Dragon Boat Race". I didn't get to see a race for many years now; but I have had Zhongzi, and I have my healthy saches hanging. Now I can at least safely say, summer is finally coming.
Old and new friends gather at RuYi Studio new location to celebrate and exchange.
Year Of The Wood Horse
Jia Wu Nian
January 31, 2014
Why is Chinese New Year on a different date in the western calendar? This is often asked and not always answered satisfactorily even by Chinese folks. As a child growing up in China, this special event has been a tradition, and a seasonal celebration. This is the time for going home to be with family, pay respect to ancestors, to relax, eat good food, wear new clothes and be ready for the new year. Myths and folklores about Chinese New Year have been translated by western scholars in various formats. Images of Chinese New Year celebrations are readily available these days on the internet.
For me, a native Chinese transplanted to the United States for half a life time, the Chinese New Year has become much more meaningful than just a date on the calendar.
The Chinese consider this special date the most important seasonal occurance, which is called "Jie Qi", 節氣, "The Seasonal Life Force". From as early as the Xia Dynasty (2205-1784 B.C.), the first spring moon cycle was adopted as the equivelanet of the western month of January. For thousands of years, Chinese New Year usually occures on the second new moon after the winter solstice by the western calendar. From ancient agricultural tribal traditions, this is the time to celebrate the end of a hard working year when nature and living creatures felt the first signs of awakening from the long winter sleep. It is the season of new birth which would be the most important celebration of survival in a primordial and tribal tradition in all regions where mankind had lived.
Today, most people know about the Lion and Dragon Dances with firecrackers in China Towns all over the world. Most people even can say "gong he fa choy" in Cantonese dialect, which means: "contratulations on becoming rich" instead of what is assumed to be "happy new year". Here is the difference of a commercial promotion in comparison to what is going on in a Chinese home during new year's.
Even though most Chinese families are living a modern and somewhat westernized life style these days; but during Chinese New Year, a large percentage of folks still perform ancestral worship on new year's eve. This is a traditional ritual to show respect and to recount our year's work and any accomplishments as an offer to thank our ancestors for what we have today. After the Ritual, the family can relax and enjoy a feast, play games and wait until midnight when firecrackers are lit and one can say with a happy sigh: "New Year Is Here"!
November 1st, 2013 - Ru Yi Multicultural Studio sponsored and showed the award-winning movie "Chess Kids" in Taos. Director Lynn Hamrick joined us in person to speak about her filming experience with the young players. This re-released special edition included additional footage and personal interviews with the star players almost 20 years later. It is a fascinating movie with so much humanity in the story and artistry of story telling than just the game of chess.
Director Lynn Hamrick also spoke about her new feature film with Academy Award winner, Viola Davis, to be filmed in New Orleans. She is currently in pre-production of another documentary film about a Japanese restaurant owner in Los Angeles. You can find more information about Director Lynn Hamrick and her work at: www.lightheartedfilms.com.
With her gracious permission, we were able to send the donations from this event to Metta Theatre in El Prado to support young artists in Taos. Thank you so much, Lynn.
A few copies of this wonderful film is available at Ru Yi Studio with Director Lynn Hamrick's gracious permission.
Contact us for more information.
Master Deng Ming-Dao gave a lecture/demonstration at Ru Yi Studio, Taos on October 11, 2013 and taught a movement workshop at the Taos Convention Center the next day.
Master Deng discussed the practice of Taoist masters as well as the connections between Taoist and Zen Buddhist practices in China. His main topic was about how these practices can help us obtain a healthier life approach and find harmony in today's life styles.
During the movement workshop, we were shown several Taoist Qi Gong movements and ways to apply them.
Bill Porter (a.k.a Red Pine) is an American author who translates under the pen-name Red Pine. He is a translator and interpreter of Chinese texts, primarily Taoist and Buddhist, including poetry and Sūtras.
In September, 2013, we invited him to visit Taos. He gave a lecture and slide presentation on his travels to China where he encountered Taoist Hermits and visited Zen Buddhist temples. Seeing the beautiful images of Chinese landscape and how the hermits and monks live and practice was very inspiring.
This time our annual benefit Potluck and Sale was enriched by guest artists of Autonomous Playhouse, who gave us a wonderul Puppet show with songs and lyrics created from their interest in organic gardens and their work with the "food-not-bombs" organization. In addtion, we enjoyed music by Reuben Medina and Friends who always support our events. Other art/craft artists who participated were: Lorraine Ciancio, fibre arts, Christine Autumn, Richard Brooks, Pearl Huang, multicultural arts, Lynn Woznick, native drums, Marie Claire Maurice, jewelry.
Thanks to all for helping and bringing such wonderful food items to make our Potuck so tasty.
On June 6th, 2013, our musician friends from Dharma Realm Orchestra came to share their traditional Chinese music with us.
Taos International Society sponsored this event at Ru Yi Studio with support and participation from our community. Leitang Leong plays the Er Hu. She is an overseas Chinese from Malaysia. She teaches at a middle school in San Francisco Bay area. Kathryn Chong, also plays the Er Hu, is an overseas Chinese from Vietnam. She is retired from insurance comany work, enjoys Chinese opera and traditional music. Marion Kwan plays the bamboo flute. She was born and raised in San Francisco. She is retired from education work, and lives in San Francisco and in Taos. Orlon Ryel is from Texas and plays the Chinese Moon Lute and drums. He now lives and works in San Francisco as a community organizer.
Dharma Realm Performs at Ru Yi Studio
Chinese calligraphy for "Love" created by Pearl Huang. c. 2013
From May 3rd to May 12th, 2013, was our Spring/Mother's Day Special event at Ru Yi Studio. Textile, jewelry, art and unique gifts were shown during this event.
A special shirt with brush calligraphy of "Love" in red on black, was created by Pearl Huang to express the moving energy and loving spirit in this calligraphic art design for this unique comfortable shirt. It is a 100% cotton, crew neck, long sleeves shirt for casual wear and for special events.
Local artist, Teri Patton also joined us to exhibit her beautiful jewelry designs. Teri's new work include hand-made, one of a kind cards with unique earrings cordinating with the cards' design and color scheme. Meaningful words are woven in the multi-dimentional card to send a special message for the recipient. These unique pieces are truly fine works of art to behold, own or send as a gift to a special person.
Pearl Huang's design of Taos Mountain and Energy T-Shirt for Taos International Society c. Pearl Huang 2013
A special T-shirt was also designed by Pearl Huang for Taos International Society to celebrate the multicultural essence of Taos. The Society's mission is to promoting art, education, and sharing our diverse culture and life force energy from Taos with the globle community.
Pearl Weng Liang Huang, Founder of
Ru Yi Studio of Multicultural Arts