The Nanfang / Blog

Expats Celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival In Unique (and Disgusting) Ways

Posted: 09/11/2014 7:30 am

moon cake expats foreigners chinese customs

While China is somewhat accepting of foreign cultural influences, we know that Chinese culture will endure because of the series of customs that are repeated by each successive generation.

As a foreigner, you can get in on the fun as well! Earlier this week was Mid-Autumn Festival, and everyone should know the only proper answer to the question of how did you spend your holiday: reunited with loved ones, ate moon cake, and looked at the moon.

moon cake expats foreigners chinese customs

In what might be the strangest story regarding expats in China celebrating Mid-Autumn festival, three Russian models were photographed in Chongqing, dipping a moon cake into a hot pot:

moon cake expats foreigners chinese customs

They were reported to have eaten the hot-potted moon cake with “tears streaming down their faces” because it was so spicy. Oh my!

The models, and their unnamed male companions, were later seen dipping their sickeningly sweet and oily mooncakes in mayonnaise:

moon cake expats foreigners chinese customsmoon cake expats foreigners chinese customsmoon cake expats foreigners chinese customs

As fascinating as this story already was, it became even more interesting when Valeria, from St. Petersburg, told the Chongqing Evening Report that she celebrated Mid-Autumn festival as the locals did:

This is the first time we have heard of Mid-Autumn Festival. I have sent the pictures of us eating moon cakes to my father and mother so that we can be together on this Chinese reunion holiday.

moon cake expats foreigners chinese customsLess spectacular, but still deserving of important news coverage by iFeng, was how Georgian expats were photographed eating moon cakes at Shenzhen’s Windows of the World (above). Although nothing else was revealed about these people, including their names, we were told that they “love Chinese traditional culture”, something which their moon-caking ways surely demonstrate.

Hexun chose a more nuanced approach in showing how four expats in Ningbo celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival. The interview explored how they reunited with their family, ate moon cake and looked at the shiny moon. moon cake expats foreigners chinese customs

Malcolm Wilson (above), a 59 year-old English expat, hosted a party with his closest foreign friends in the absence of family. He has been eating moon cake since 2005.

Li Yuji, a Korean national, brings moon cake back to his family, who also celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival in South Korea, which suggests there may be a common origin for this festival.

Terri, a teacher originally from England, unfortunately did not mention moon cakes as part of her answer. However. Terri was still regarded as a “China expert” for her interests in Chinese tea, wearing qipao, and participating in line dancing in public squares with “dancing grannies”. Terri also married a Chinese national.

moon cake expats foreigners chinese customsIt was the last interviewee, however, that provided the best answer of all. Amar, a yoga instructor from India (above), explained that, for Mid-Autumn Festival, he not only ate moon cake and looked at the moon; but, most importantly, he spent time with his family. He also understood how to market himself, and his yoga classes, to a Chinese consumer:

Because Mid-Autumn Festival is a festival of reunion, this means that our double person yoga sessions have this meaning of ‘two becomes one’.

Sure, you may loathe participating in the act of exchanging moon cakes that you never intend to eat every year…but remember, you’re not just eating a moon cake:  you’re eating a moon cake just as innumerable generations before you expected you to be eating it.

Photos: Sina Education, iFeng, Hexun


Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival In A Place With No Seasons

Posted: 09/8/2014 1:42 pm

Today is a holiday in Mainland China as people around the country celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival. The holiday is celebrated by eating mooncakes with family and friends. 

To mark the occasion, The Nanfang is publishing a fictional account of Mid-Autumn Festival set well into the future. It is reproduced here with permission of the author. We hope you enjoy it.

In Lunar Colony 01111001, Mid-Autumn Festival is a special time of the year. Especially so in the colony’s festive Chinatown. One of the four great holidays of the ancient Chinese tradition, for the colonists now living where Chang’e once flew, it has become the highest day of all. The irony is lost on no one.

Parades of Chang’e robots and glittering jade rabbits adorn the streets. People take a break from their mining and export duties, children have no school, and people the moon over enjoy eating mooncake.

Mooncake manufacture is a good business to be in. Wang Xing, the owner of the largest gene-splicing grain and proteinstuffs factory in the colony, and has subdivisions in lotus seed splicing as well. Yet he finds he spends most of his time in Chinatown with his family in the humble bakery where he started it all, mentoring his niece and expanding relationships with the Lunar elites.

Guanxi is very important,” he would explain to young Xiao Yue, a first-generation Lunar and smallest of his family.

“Uncle, I’m very bored I want to play computer games!” she scoffed.

It was the night of Mid-Autumn Festival and mooncake sales were very high. A full Earth was up in the sky, and trading vessels carrying ingredients and life-giving essentials were flying in. Wang Xing had diversified investments in eggs, sugar, chocolate, and icings; vertical integration as they call it in the business community.

Many customers were Chinese, of course, the labor class and their ilk. But in a tightknit community of interlunar expats and the growing importance of Luna-themed holidays for the new culture, the bakery had a diverse cast of clientele. Mooncakes were a commodity with ever-growing popularity. One customer of particular concern was an American consulate representative, Wang Xing’s most important contact. As everyone knows, America as first flag-waver boasts official colonial sovereign power over all Luna and any influence (in business and otherwise) must be fostered through certain friendships…

“Valued customer, what would you like?” asked Wang Xing.

“Hello Mister Wang,” said the American consulate representative. “You are always so kind. A box of your finest iced cakes sir.”

“It is my pleasure, good sir.”

That was all. The American left, their brief acquaintanceship to be refurbished for another day.

“Pay attention,” Wang Xing said to his niece, “this relationship is like a seed. One day it will grow enormous fruits of wealth, of contracts and trade and untold fortunes, but in this early stage of growth only just the right amount of water and sunlight is needed.”

“What is a seed?”

“Oh my dear niece, your generation gives me worry.”

That night, the family gathered to the roof of the dome and watched the full Earth. They ate the highest quality mooncakes, and though the burning of incense was forbidden due to high oxidation, it was still as nice a Mid-Autumn Festival gathering as Wang Xing could have hoped for.

“Uncle,” asked Xiao Yue, ever precocious and curious, “why is this day called ‘Mid-Autumn’?”

“Because we celebrate the middle of Autumn, the turning of the seasons, for the sake of the farmer’s calendar. That is of the ancient calendar, which is in fact Lunar, and ties so into our peoples’ history. And we celebrate this day here on the colony because we are blessed to live in such times that we can enjoy being upon the moon itself.”

“But I still don’t understand,” she said. “What does ‘Autumn’ mean?”

He paused for a moment, and thought of what to say. “You poor youths these days. I keep forgetting. Autumn is a cyclic time on the Earth that signifies when the leaves fall from the trees, and we transition from the hot days of summer to prepare for the frigid nights of winter. The seasons change, and every year we have our accompanying rituals.”

“But what are seasons?”

“Something that only exists upon the Earth. Scientifically, it has to do with the axis of the poles in proportion to the rotation of the sun, and every revolution brings a cycle of temperature and weather patterns.”

“I see.  And all the Earth has these ‘seasons’, and we here in 01111001 just follow the pace?”

“Not just the pace of the Earth. Because even what time is night and day varies across the Earth. Here in our Chinatown abroad, of course, we go by Beijing Shijian.

At this time Xiao Yue was no longer paying attention. Apparently satisfied with the answer, she found herself distracted with video consoles. Wang Xing sat, sipped at his rice wine, and looked at the Earth, his mind filled with the memories when he was her age.

“Why don’t we have our own festivals Uncle?”

Xiao Yue pleasantly surprised him, and he suddenly awoke from his nap and turned to her. “A wise question, my niece. I presume, because we are an early culture still, we must wait for the culture to grow in its own time. For now, it is more prudent to respect the Terran past that has already been long-established.”

“Uncle, I have another question.”

“Yes, my niece.” The old uncle was infinitely patient.

“Is Chang’e real?”


“Is she real?”

“Yes I think so.”

“But how can it be that Chang’e and the jade rabbit truly came up to the moon four thousand and five hundred years ago?! I was made fun of at school, all the other kids said it is impossible! They said that was before jet propulsions, and in class they said the American Armstrong was the first in Luna. Why do we say Chang’e was here first?”

“In a sense, Xiao Yue, she is real.”

“What? But where is she now? Over in Colony 01101101, or on the dark side? Does she live in Tycho Crater? I think that would be a great hiding place!”

“Xiao Yue, she is not hiding in the Tycho Crater.”

“Oh,” she said with disappointment.

“Listen to me. There are many kinds of truths, many kinds of places. Cheng’e is true, but somewhere else.” Wang Xing smiled to her and tapped at his head. “There are scientific facts, of which you must study carefully and make good marks. And there is, in another sense, the metaphoric truth of mythology and dreams. I hope you can believe in symbols just as well. It is important. But it may take you a long time to realize this.”


“Do you understand?” he asked, knowing that she probably didn’t.

Xiao Yue confidently answered, “I understand.”



Home page photo credit:


100 Magicians Descend on Guangzhou for Magic Festival

Posted: 08/8/2014 9:47 am

GZ magic festival The Second Annual Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau-Taiwan Magic Festival of 2014 will be taking place at the end of the month in Guangzhou. From August 30 to September 3, over 100 magicians will be performing at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in the city.

As part of the festival, there will be magic competitions, magic salons, a magic prop exhibition, an awards ceremony and just about every kind of magic-affiliated activity that would draw the curiosity of your average magic aficionado.

Tickets start at RMB 80 and up, and knowing this is a magic festival, are liable to… vanish!GZ magic festival

Photo: Guangzhou Propagation


Tell the Difference Between Real and Fake Zongzi For Dragon Boat Festival

Posted: 05/29/2014 7:49 pm

zongzi real fake While I’m forced to indulge in my secret love of the universally panned mooncake in a darkened room during Mid-Autumn Festival all by myself, Dragon Boat Festival is the carefree holiday of the zongzi (粽子 zòngzi), a glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in leaves. Only a summer holiday like Dragon Boat Festival can have two festive foods and encourage a playful rivalry over which is the superior one: Team Salty or Team Sweet.

However, as Chinese relive an early millennial fad of the Great Zongzi War of Salty Vs Sweet, we need to remind readers that yes, like every other food in China, there are counterfeit versions that you should avoid at all costs.

zongzi real fake

As you enjoy your short vacation, here are the ways to differentiate between a real zongzi (seen above to the right) and a fake one (left):

  • zongzi that look especially green may have had their leaves dipped in chemicals during the soaking process. The typical chemical additives used are industrial copper sulfate (CuSO4) and copper chloride
  • as seen in the picture above, the leaves of the fake zongzi look unnaturally green. It looks unrealistic in the same way people’s skin looks unrealistic in skin care commercials or on clips of old Max Headroom episodes
  • when steaming regular zongzi, the color of the leaves will darken and get yellow, and the water below will become a light yellow
  • fake zongzi will have a sulphuric smell when cooked, and the water below will turn green like its leaves

We’re sure most people can tell the difference; after all, people lose their appetite when their kitchen smells like the Eye of Sauron. But then, advertisements and pictures on the internet may lead people to have certain expectations on what a zongzi looks like. For example, would you eat this?

zongzi real fake

Happy Dragon Boat Festival, everyone. Make Qu Yuan proud.

Photos: NMG News, XDKB, Sipac


6th Annual Latin Festival to Spice Up Guangzhou May 17

Posted: 05/10/2014 11:00 am

latin festival

Get out your castanets; take out your bolero hats. The 6th annual Latin Festival will take place in Guangzhou on Saturday, May 17.

This weekend event sponsored by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce (South Division) will take place indoors and out of the rain, and should be the spicy number you’ve been needing to brighten up your soggy blues.

This celebration of Latin art, fashion and culture will feature live music, dancing, food stalls, a lucky draw, and entertainment specifically for children.  This family orientated-affair will feature flamenco and salsa dancing as well as music performed by TUNA and Martin Reyes.

The Latin Festival will take place from 11am to 8pm at the Level 2 platform of the Canton Tower.

Tickets are RMB 80 in advance, and RMB 100 at the door.   Admission includes a drink, a ticket to the lucky draw, and admission to Level 2 of the Canton Tower.

For more details, please check out our listings.

Photo: courtesy event organizers

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