Chinese students celebrate tradition

Ellen Li plays Bonfire Dance of the Yao People on a guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument, at the Chinese Moon Festival Gala held on Saturday. Trevor Greene

Ellen Li plays “Bonfire Dance of the Yao People” on a guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument, at the Chinese Moon Festival Gala held on Saturday. Trevor Greene

By Grace Rebekah Kenney

Nearly 1,700 people attended Saturday’s Chinese Moon Festival Gala, a traditional holiday celebrating the harvest.

“The Moon Festival is one of the four biggest festivals in China,” said Yang Jian Chao, graduate student and president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. “It started from maybe 1,000 years ago. People usually eat mooncakes and this is the festival for family gatherings, something like Christmas.”

Chinese students worked with local restaurants and businesses to produce a traditional Chinese cultural show at Foellinger Auditorium.

Yun Di, a graduate student and last year’s event director, said the purpose of hosting the festival is to help students who may feel homesick.

“This event actually helps to provide a sense of home, although all of us are thousands of miles away from home, and Moon Festival is a festival that the family is supposed to come together and celebrate,” Di said.

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The event cost around $10,000 to produce, which led students to look outward for sources of funding, said Yun Tao Jia, a Ph.D. student and vice president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association.

“We had to attract a lot of volunteers in this,” Tao Jia said. “We really had to work with the whole community to make it happen.”

Sponsors donated money for production and prizes for several lucky draws during the show. Jenny Jiang, a sponsor from American Family Insurance, said she wanted to give back to the community.

“You know China had an earthquake,” Jiang said, referring to the Szechuan earthquake in May. “So I want the people to recognize that insurance is important to their life, to protect them.”

Chinese students skilled in traditional arts, such as crosstalk, a comedic dialogue; minority dancing and folk songs, were also given a chance to show off their skills and entertain the audience.

Not only did Chinese students perform, but there were also non-Chinese performers. Dance 2XS, a University organization, was featured in a skit and multiracial students from the Illini Kung Fu Club performed. In addition, both Asian and non-Asian children from Countryside School in Champaign presented a Tai Chi performance.

Most of the audience stayed until the end of the three-hour performance.

Janet Fan, graduate student from Shanghai, China, watched the show and said she was impressed.

“I think it’s really great,” Fan said. “At first I felt a little uncomfortable because I’m away from my home. Now, I don’t think so, because so many Chinese people are around me, and also they presented such a wonderful show.”