This year marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Confucius Institute (CI) on the University of Rhode Island campus. Last Friday, students and faculty involved with the CI, in partnership with the Chinese Language Flagship Program, hosted the annual Chinese Moon Festival celebration in the Edwards Hall auditorium.
Zhenjiang University’s artistic prowess was on display that night, as their Wenqin Performing Arts Troupe traveled across the globe to perform various acts, all in celebration of the Moon Festival. The Moon Festival is a “traditional Chinese festival that celebrates family and friends,” announced one of the show’s master of ceremonies, and this was certainly reaffirmed by ensuing performances.
The orchestra division of the troupe played many sets, only using instruments that are native to China and traditional in their nature. Their performances were followed by acts of dance; hurriedly, they packed up their instruments, vacated the stage and the eloquence of the dancers captivated the auditorium. The orchestra brought the sounds of China to URI, and the dancers complimented them and brought the sights. Cultural aspects—like kung fu and tai chi—were incorporated into the choreographed pieces. Dancers wore traditional garb to solidify their performances. Furthermore, the troupe also exemplified ability to perform more modern dance styles; in particular, one act used dance as a way to tell a story of two lovers, without any spoken words at all.
All of Zhenjiang University’s performances were accompanied by a background video, projected onto the screen to convey images of China. As the orchestra played, the video gave their songs even more context. While notes were played or dancers moved, shadows lined and danced upon the auditorium’s walls, bringing the audience even closer to the stage.
After Chinese New Year, the Moon Festival—also called the Mid-Autumn Festival—is the second largest festival celebrated in China. It falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, following the Chinese lunar calendar. This year, the actual celebrations begin on Oct. 4th, and people across all of China will celebrate the holiday for a few days while the moon is at its roundest and brightest in the night sky.
In addition to the performance, students and faculty involved in both the CI and the Chinese Language Flagship Program served traditional Chinese food at the entrance to the auditorium. Students also had areas where calligraphy and paper folding were being taught and demonstrated. Attendants had all five senses complemented at this year’s Moon Festival—tasted the food, smelled the food, touched and folded paper, heard traditional music and saw brilliant dance. On the 10-year-anniversary of the establishment of the Confucius Institute at URI, the Moon Festival they held was certainly a success.
Former university president Robert L. Carothers played a pivotal role in the establishment of the CI here at URI. “In 2007, URI became one of 20 Confucius Institutes in the United States and one of 150 in the world,” according to their website. The CI “creates formal ties between the University and China’s Zhejiang University to strengthen and promote educational programs and exchanges, broadening global opportunities for students, faculty, and the larger community.”