Zhong Qiu Kuai Le

It’s the evening of Mid-Autumn Festival day in Dalian, China. It has been a lazy but pretty day. Zhong qiu kuai le literally means “middle autumn happy”, the standard holiday greeting. We wandered through the nearby university on the way to the first restaurant we entered in this city, in September 2009. Then, an American veteran of the Dalian scene noticed us dazedly looking around, and came out of Fengxin Jiujia (literally “harvest money alcohol home”), a homey little restaurant/tavern with a menu in English. It’s been a mainstay since.

We’ve eaten a little bit of “mooncake” (yue bing), which is a little like what Christmas cake used to be in Canada — everyone gives them or serves them during the season, but many don’t actually like them. We smile, imagining the furious cross-country scurrying of couriers delivering elaborate and requisite mooncake gifts to people who then have a disposal problem. Some people love ’em, though, and there are decadent and non-traditional ones that my sweet tooth would likely savour. (This is a short greeting, so don’t be afraid to continue!)

(EcoBride’s latest dire statistic: “In Hong Kong alone last year, two million mooncakes were thrown out!” Which is to say nothing of the elaborate, face-building packaging that they come in; typically, these little hockey-puck pastries come in big colourful boxes and shiny paper.) This year, our school shocked us by giving us the annual mooncake in Ziploc bags. There’s been a government push about waste and excessive entertaining — some of the nouveau riche and government honchos go quite crazy in this form of conspicuous consumption — including, we hear, a new formula relating mooncake value and the maximum amount that can be spent to package them. Our school, it appears, is paying attention.)

I am summoned to the family gaming table. Settlers of Catan is our new board game of choice. Later, I will finish a re-read of Steinbeck’s great Of Mice and Men. It will end in pathos under a full autumn moon. I will be moved.

Zhong qiu kuai le.

Comment (1)

  1. April Ding

    I do not like mooncake, either. It’s too sweet and unhealthy! But I still paid 10 rmb for a mooncake as small as 1/3 of my palm. For me, even a small bite of it means I had celebrated. Sometimes, I have felt we can only experience through concrete things, in order to notice something invisible (or abstract), otherwise they will just vanish.

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