Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! 中秋快樂!

October 2, 2017 | Nicole

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With the Mid-Autumn festival fast approaching, people across the city are eating moon cakes, hanging lanterns, guessing riddles...traditions that bring the Chinese community together to cherish the moment with their families and loved ones.

Want to try some riddles? Here are a few (find the answers at the end):

  1. Twin brothers, both sturdy and tall. They work together and go everywhere together. But they only go near solid food and do not care for soup. Who are they?
  2. What building has the most stories?
  3. It’s been around for millions of years, but it’s no more than a month old. What is it?

For the Chinese, the Mid-Autumn festival means family reunion. It is also called Moon Festival as it is celebrated when the moon is believed to be the biggest and fullest – the moment homes should be their “fullest” as well. One of the most famous poets from the Tang Dynasty, Li Bai, composed a poem that every Chinese person celebrating the Moon Festival can recite:

Head up, I watch the moon; Head down, I think of home (舉頭望明月, 低頭思故鄉).

Yet, family reunions weren't as easy for early generations of Chinese newcomers landing in Canada. Since the launch of the Chinese Canadian Archive at the Toronto Public Library, we continue to collect material that bears witness to the struggles Chinese immigrants have faced. One of the many stories we've learned from donors to the Archive is the "Paper Son" story. At a time of great desperation, "Paper Son" was an illegal way to immigrate to Canada under the discriminatory Chinese Immigration Act, which banned virtually all Chinese immigrants to Canada between 1923 and 1946. These 'Sons' adopted surnames of people who were entitled to come to Canada but did not, then entered Canada with fraudulent documentation in order to be reunited with their families. They had to use their fake identities after arrival and often kept their real names secret for many years, even from their descendants.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Nearly one hundred years have passed; the Paper Sons have grown their families across several generations in Canada. Their once-hidden stories are being rediscovered and retold through records, photos and art that narrates what happened. At the recently-opened art exhibit Far and Near: the Distance(s) between Us, on view at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, eleven Canadian artists of Chinese descent are telling the history of Chinese-Canadians through their work...

As the moon shines over the sea, far away you share this moment with me.
As the moon shines over the sea, once again you share this story with me.

Upcoming program
Henry Heng Lu
Chinese Canadian History through the Lens of its Art
Saturday, October 14, 2-4 p.m.
Toronto Reference Library
Hinton Learning



Riddle Answers: 1. Chopsticks; 2. A library; 3. The moon.