Under the same moon — Confucius Institute event unites cultural groups at Mid-Autumn Festival

As homecoming decorations came down around campus, members of the Confucius Institute and the Moscow community came together for a different annual celebration.

Gathering in the Bruce Pitman Center International Ballroom for a sold-out event, students, families, community members and faculty welcomed the “brightest and roundest” moon of the year, according to the folklore of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

“We didn’t imagine so many friends would come tonight,” said Hexian Xue, co-director of the University of Idaho Confucius Institute.

Xue and a team of seven faculty members had been working to plan the gala since last semester.

Alexandra Stutzman | Argonaut
A group of volunteers play a game during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival Sunday evening in the Bruce Pitman Center.

“The traditional festival is on the fourth of October,” Xue said.

The decision to put the UI celebration off until the weekend was intended “to make it less stressful for students and faculty to attend,” she said.

It seems Xue’s strategy worked, as tickets at the door sold out early in the event and event organizers had to continue to bring in food for the full house of attendees. In addition to Chinese rice and noodle dishes, event-goers were also treated to traditional mooncakes.

“Everyone likes mooncakes because they’re sweet,” Xue said. “Sweetness makes people happy, so mooncakes mean happiness.”

In addition to the exciting food, event-goers looked forward to the traditional musical performances following the dinner. Joann Muneta has helped coordinate the gala in the past, and said watching the dances and seeing the different traditional dresses were her favorite parts of the night.

“It’s so wonderful that everyone in the Moscow community gets the chance to experience Chinese culture,” Muneta said.

She said she is a regular attendee to the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala and said she looked forward to supporting the event by showing up.

The after-dinner performances embraced the multicultural theme of the evening. Co-masters of ceremony introduced each performer in both Mandarin and English, and acts included traditional folk songs and dances, an interpretation of 1930s Shanghai night club dancing and a number of instrumental solos.

Among the musical performance groups was the UI World Beat Ensemble. Integrating their West-African drumming with traditional Chinese melodies, the group sought to create “an appreciation of different styles of music that cross borders,” said Barry Bilderback, a professor in the Lionel Hampton School of Music and leader of the UI World Beat Ensemble.

Along with Xue, Bilderback was part of a delegation that went to China in 2015. Now, he said he wants to bring the West African music he studies and Chinese music together.

“Integrating the African drumming into Chinese songs brings more representation of music to the community,” Bilderback said.

The African drumming sandwiched between a Shanghai-inspired dance performance and a violin and guitar duet titled “Twilight” may have seemed out of place at another event. But Xue said the event was about celebrating “one global village” and bringing “friends together, united as one.”

Before the final song of the evening, “My Motherland and Me,” the co-masters of the ceremony said goodbye to the crowd. Echoing Xue, they said, in both Mandarin and English, “no matter where you are, or where you’re from, we always share the same moon in the sky.”

Beth Hoots can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu


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