Friday, September 18, 2015

Let’s Celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival on 9/27/15
 by  Winny Lin 林龍素華

On the night of September 27, when the harvest moon appears abnormally large and bright as “blood moon”,Chinese all over the world will celebrate the second biggest festival of the year, “Moon Festival”, as it is August 15 on the lunar calendar.  While some of you are admiring supermoon eclipse, I probably will look for Chang’e, the beautiful Chinese Moon Lady somewhere on the moon.

The legend says thousands of years ago, the world had 10 suns that burned down the plants and people were starved to death. But along came Hou Yi in China, he shot down 9 suns with his bow and arrows and became a hero. People admired him and made him their ruler. However Hou Yi changed his temperament for the worse and wished for immortality. He found a magic elixir from a Goddess in Heaven. Before he could take it, his beautiful wife, Chang’r took it instead to spare the people from the rule of her cruel husband.  Immediately after she took it, she flew to the moon taking with her beloved house pet, the rabbit, for company.  Now she and the Jade Rabbit live forever in the cold and desolate palace on the moon.

Other than the folktale of the Moon Lady (Chang’r), Chinese also celebrate the holiday with moon cakes. My husband and I have already sampled a couple of fresh moon cakes from a popular bakery in Oakland, CA.  Yummy! $3.50 each. But the ones in the boxes are more expensive, especially the ones imported to the States from Hong Kong. The legend also says that during Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 AD), the Hans plotted a revolt against the Mongols by concealing their message in the moon cakes. Talk about an interesting filling!
The Moon Festival is also a perfect time to teach students a poem by a famous Chinese poet Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty.  His poems are simple, romantic, but beautiful!

by 李白 Li Bai

床前明月光  Moonbeam by my bed,
疑是地上霜  Or frost on the ground?
舉頭望明月   I look up at the bright moon,
低頭思故鄉   I bow my head and think of my hometown.

Tonight we just bought a box of moon cakes to share with all who will come this Sunday to our monthly meeting. Enjoy!
In China, Moon Festival is the time for family gathering, when women (not men) worship the Moon with food, flowers, incense, and pomelo fruit.  I know I will look at the fullest moon on September 27, and search for the beautiful Moon Lady (Chang’r), what will you be doing?


Friday, September 11, 2015

WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall in SF Chinatown
By Winny Lin林龍素華

We never know what adventures we will run into in the 24 square blocks that make up San Francisco’s hustling, bustling and, above all, touristy Chinatown!  It is a place that I absolutely adore.

It was pure luck that we discovered the WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall while strolling on Grant Avenue with some friends.  It was even more amazing that we met Florence Fang, the founder of the memorial (see photo #1) and some of the very enthusiastic student volunteers from San Francisco Academy of Arts who help out as docents at the museum. 

The Memorial Hall is a museum devoted to remembering the Chinese experience during World War II and it is the first of its kind outside of China.  Now the exhibit houses hundreds of photos, artifacts, weapons and sculptures, in a 5,000 square ft. facility. The museum opened on August 15, 2015, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s signing one of the key surrender documents that ended the war in the Pacific.  The founder looks and acts far younger than her 80-plus years and I wonder if I will ever have the energy and determination to take on such a huge task when I get to her age.

The artifacts and exhibits are definitely amazing.  It took Ms. Fang over a year to gather and organize them.  As a whole, the Hall certainly accomplishes her major objectives in creating this museum: Helping the younger generations to understand what happened during the war, to learn its true history, and to realize the importance of maintaining peace.  Two bright red banners announce these objectives to visitors when they first enter the building.  尊重歷史(right) 珍惜和平 (left)To show that I understood the lesson, I hit the gong, “I got it!”  (photo #2)

 Ms. Fang’s dedication to this project is personal.  As she said in a recent interview, “Everybody lost their family members, everybody. Three of my brothers went to army and they give up their study in the middle high school, university, they went to join the army to protect their own country, protect their home.” The invasion of China began in 1937 and a total of 35 million lost lives during the war.

Although I did not lose any of my family members during the war, I did hear terrifying tales about it from my elders.  My mother repeatedly told me about fleeing from the Japanese soldiers by hiding in the rice paddy in Guilin and how the leaches sucked her blood along her calves. Yuck!  I also remember growing up with stories of Colonel Claire Chennault and Flying Tigers, a group of American fighter pilots who volunteered to fight with Chinese pilots side by side in WWII.  Mrs. Chennault, a Chinese-American, visited Taiwan and was in the news many times when I was a teenager. Photos and other artifacts of Flying Tigers are prominently featured at the Memorial Hall. 

One tall black cabinet at the entrance really attracted my attention.  Student  volunteer Jiang explained that during WWII, Chinese-Americans saved one bowl of rice daily, 一人一碗饭, and sent the money to the newspaper “Kuo Min Yat Po” 國民日報for them to keep in the safe to donate to China in the fight against Japan’s invasion. (photo #3)

When the Hall was officially opened on August 15, the Chinese consul general in San Francisco was a featured speaker and he addressed a large audience that included young and old, including many WWII veterans.  I am happy that I bumped into this place and met Ms. Fang and the enthusiastic volunteers.  Maybe you would like to visit there too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Enchanted Evening with the Summer Quartet

Thanks to Peninsula Symphony Cellist Alan Bien, we had quite a treat at Lucille and Billy Lee’s home on August 23rd. Mr. Bien invited three of his musician friends to make a “Summer Quartet.” Violinist Cathie Lowmiller of the Peninsula Symphony led the group, and added explanations to all the pieces. Another Violinist Hazel Keelan, who performs with various chamber groups including the Redwood Symphony, played first violin interchangeably—and beautifully-- with Cathie. Violist Goetz Leonhard, who plays with Mission Chamber, demonstrated his wonderful skill when he played the solo piece, “Jamie’s Waltz,” written by Cathie Lowmiller.
Thanks to all the quartet members for entertaining our group. Thanks also to Lucille and Billy Lee for opening their home to us.

Cathie Lowmiller (left) and Hazel Keelan (right)
The talented quartet
Billy Lee introducing our guests

A table of Friends
Vice President Winny Lin thanking guests