Staten Island celebrates Chinese culture

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a Chinese holiday that marks the time of year when the full moon appears at its largest size. On September 17, more than 600 people celebrated the festival with traditional Chinese dance, martial arts, calligraphy and costumes in the Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Staten Island’s Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden.

Local Chinese restaurants provided food and drink for the guests, while students from local Chinese schools provided entertainment.

“This is an annual event. We’ve been collaborating with the garden for 6 to 7 years,” said Ning Ding, 54, president of Hua Xia Chinese School in Staten Island. Twenty of her students performed in the dance. The semester began one week early to prepare the 9-11 year old students for the performance.

Many of the guests came from out of town.

“I found there are many more people from outside of the island today than in previous years,” Yanni Ding said.

Ding drove three hours from Connecticut with her husband, Chester Lee, and three friends to celebrate the festival.

“We came here to support our Chinese culture,” she said, looking a bit tired but excited.

Zoe Shen, a teacher, helped organize the event via social media. She posted an article about her garden on her Chinese-language blog to promote the Mid-Autumn Festival event at the request of Ron Altman, one of the garden’s main designers and keepers.

“I’m just surprised that there are so many friends coming today,” she said. “Every sale and donation we get tonight will be given to the garden to renovate and maintain its construction.”

Hosting the festival was a financial boon for the Suzhou-style garden, which Shen says has been struggling recently due to a lack of operating funds.

The president of the garden, Charles P. Wang, said they were expecting to receive $10,000 that night from sales and donations, which would be the highest amount in their 12-year history.

The garden had also opened up a corner to sell children’s books for charity. By the end of the night, they had sold 129 books.

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