30 September 2006

Under the Autumn Moon

Chinatown Lamppost
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
Autumn in the Pacific Northwest has been ushered in with spectacular weather: blue skies, high temperatures, and the glow of amber and crimson leaves.

This weekend is the Autumn Moon Festival in the Chinatown/Old Town section of Portland. It’s a celebration of tradition and history, as well as shaping a path for continued appreciation of culture and diversity.

For the past several years, the city has been busy with a development project in Old Town. They’ve installed more of the uniform red lampposts throughout the district, as well as updated signage, poured new curbs and sidewalks, installed public art and historical markers, and planted over 100 new trees. The festival was a way to reintroduce the public to this revitalized area.

Two different stages for musical entertainment anchored the festival streets along Third and Fourth Avenues. In between, you’ll find an assortment of curios shops, restaurants, and even an herbalist. The Hailin Temple, an unassuming storefront from the street, was conducting a Zambhala Dharma Assembly. A look inside reveals bright colors and ornate decorations lining this inviting space.

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association was the hub for youth-oriented activities, including origami. Two large dragons, which no doubt had danced in the streets during the morning parade, remained on display in the hall. One could also watch or join in various games using mahjong tiles.

An indoor warehouse was converted into a global bazaar space for the weekend. One could sip the milk out of a whole coconut, then return to have the vendor split the orb in half to enjoy the tender meat inside. Along with art, pottery, and imported food stuffs, one could also touch the soft and pliant texture of clothing woven from bamboo fiber. Throughout the bazaar, little girls in silk kimonos with baskets wandered around proffering fortune cookies to festival goers.

On the adjacent plaza, the pungent aromas of food vendors mingled with the steady rhythms of the cooking demonstrations and the beats rising from the World Stage. I enjoyed watching several numbers performed by Portland Taiko, a local ensemble that practices and teaches this traditional Japanese drumming performance art.

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