The lamps are about to be lit, shining a light on the golden threads of Chinese history that weave into the stories of the Cariboo. It’s time for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival on September 9th in Barkerville.
“The festival honours the Cariboo region’s Chinese community and includes festival-themed activities throughout the day, evening entertainment at the Theatre Royal, and a lantern parade at dusk,” said Stewart Cawood, spokesperson for Barkerville Historic Town & Park. “Mid-Autumn Moon festivals have been held in Asia for more than 1,000 years and they celebrate the abundance of the harvest with traditional music, martial art displays, lantern building, and the tasting of bean curd or lotus seed mooncakes shaped to reflect the harvest moon. According to ancient Chinese astrology, the moon is at its roundest in the middle of the autumn season. Since the round shape of the full moon symbolizes family reunion and togetherness in Chinese culture, one of the preeminent festivals in the Chinese calendar is the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.”
“This season’s festival is especially important as 2023 marks 100 years since the Canadian government introduced the Chinese Immigration Act, commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act,” says Dr. Ying Ying Chen, the coordinator for Barkerville’s Historic Chinatown programs. “From 1923 to 1947, Chinese immigration into Canada became illegal.”
In May of this year, Parks Canada minister Steven Guilbeault announced the designation of the exclusion of Chinese immigrants as an event of national historic significance.
“The Act was part of a long legacy of discrimination against Chinese people in Canada, including here in Barkerville,” said Cawood. “Directly following the Head Tax, which forced Chinese immigrants to pay as much as $500 to enter Canada, the Act intentionally disrupted family life by preventing Chinese men from visiting home or bringing family here.”
“Without descendants in Barkerville, the development of a flourishing Chinese community was hampered,” added Dr. Chen. “As mining slowed down in Barkerville, the Chinese community dispersed, and in 1934, only sixty Chinese people remained.”
In remembrance of this history, Barkerville will be celebrating its Mid-Autumn Moon Festival a little earlier than most to share this special day with the historic town’s summertime guests. This year’s event will feature lion and dragon dances, lantern making workshops, trivia contests, mooncake tasting, celebratory banquets at the Lung Duck Tong restaurant, and a spectacular parade of illuminated paper lanterns that will fill the night with equal parts revelry and reverence for one of BC’s oldest and largest ethnic communities.
For more information about Barkerville’s 2023 Mid-Autumn Moon Festival – the 23rd annual edition – please visit www.barkerville.ca, or phone 1-888-994-3332. For information or reservations for the Lung Duck Tong Mid-Autumn Banquet on September 9th, please call (250) 994-3458.