Author: Laura Matheson (page 1 of 5)

Music in the Moonlight: Mid-Autumn Festival Virtual Concert

On Friday 17th September 2021, we were delighted to host a very special online concert in celebration of Mid-Autumn Festival. Talented performers from across came together for Music in the Moonlight, and hour of Chinese music and song.

Haihao Zhao supported the concert as a volunteer, and shares her highlights of the event here:

Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most important traditional Chinese festivals, is a day when friends and families reunite. On 17th September 2021, Ricefield Arts hosted a one-hour online concert, introducing wonderful music including classical opera and modern songs to over 100 attendees from across the world.

The event was organised by Ricefield Arts, in partnership with the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow, Wing Hong Chinese Elderly Centre and Harmony Ensemble. At the beginning of the event, Else Kek, Chairperson of Ricefield Arts, and Nathan Woolley, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow sent us their holiday wishes.

The first performance, by Harmony Ensemble, featured the famous classic song ‘The Moon Represents My Heart’ and a Tang Dynasty poem ‘Recalling Jiangnan’. One audience member said, “I always wanted to know the name of this song because I really loved it when I heard it somewhere.”

Next, Ling Guo, Co-Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow told us more about the traditions of the Mid-Autumn Festival. We learned about the origins of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the most important customs: eating mooncakes and watching the Moon, as a symbol of harmony and unity.

Eddie McGuire then impressed us with his amazing dizi (bamboo flute) skills. ‘Panda Dance’, ‘The Dark Island’ and ‘Radiant with Joy’ had all the attendees in high spirits, even their pets: “My dog is howling in the background with Eddie.” 

Accompanied by violin, drums, and the traditional Chinese instrument zhongruan, Fong Liu and her son Robin Lumby presented three Chinese folk songs: ‘A Half Moon Rising’, ‘Jasmine Flower’, one the most famous pieces of Chinese music and, ‘The Love Song of Kangding’. The beautiful songs and melodies let us feel calm and joyful in the warm night.

Amy Li-Man, Centre Manager of Wing Hong Chinese Elderly Centre showed us how the local Chinese elderly community celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival. Especially in this uncertain period of pandemic, the wellbeing and health of elderly are vitally important.

Then was an opportunity to learn more about Chinese Opera by listening to Quan Gu’s performance ‘Flower Duet’ in Huangmei opera-style. The performance was intriguing: he could sing in both male voice and female voices, acting as a man farming and a woman weaving.

Alongside the traditional Chinese music, Linfeng Wang, a singer, composer and music producer also brought us two pop songs: an original song ‘Pieces of Memory’ expressing his affection to parents and ‘Suddenly Missing You So Badly’ from popular Chinese band Mayday, recalling the beautiful memories of first love.

The last act, performed by Else Kek, combined ‘Whisper of Pipa’ and the poem ‘Moonlight of My Hometown Tonight’. With the melodic pipa sound, the harmony expressed the feelings of missing family far away. 

Watch more Music in the Moonlight highlights here:

Thanks to our event partners the Confucius Institute and the University of Glasgow, Wing Hong Chinese Elderly Centre and Harmony Ensemble for their support.

Our engagement activities are funded by Glasgow City Council’s Glasgow Communities Fund.

Virtual Wishing Tree

A highlight of Ricefield Arts’ Chinese New Year celebrations each year is displaying our own wishing tree in Kelvin Hall, Glasgow. Visitors to our annual activity day write their wishes and tie them to the tree, before enjoying an afternoon of fun games, sports and crafts.

With many restrictions in place over the Spring Festival period, this year we invited you to make your wishes for the Year of the Ox online. We were touched by the warm and thoughtful messages we received, with many wishes asking for good health for family, friends and the wider community. It’s clear that the Covid-19 crisis has altered our priorities, and given us a new appreciation for smaller joys and quality time with loved ones.

Take a look at our virtual wishing tree – the words hanging from it appeared in many of the wishes and represent our collective vision for the year ahead. Below we’ve highlighted some inspiring wishes from members of our community, received between 4th February and 1st March 2021. We sincerely each one comes true, and that we’ll be reunited together in person soon.


‘My wish for this year is that we are all able to gather together once again as a whole community and to be able to celebrate the good times ahead.’
Aswad Choudhry, Glasgow

‘Wish all my families good health and happiness in 2021! Hope the pandemic will be over soon!!! 希望作为医护工作者的妈妈可以不用继续那么辛苦,希望爸爸不用凌晨送妈妈去上班,家人健康平安幸福。希望可以早日回国和亲人相聚!’
Rita Chen, Austria

‘Wishing everybody good health, happiness and prosperity! 万事如意! 步步高升!’
Andy L, Glasgow

‘That people will be able to hug friends and family soon’
Ruth F, Glasgow

‘I wish for all my friends & family to overcome any hardships and sadness the past year has brought and for 2021 to be a year where they begin to feel joy again.’
Grace Silvestro, Glasgow

‘May this year have opened our eyes to less craving and attachment, and more understanding of how all of us are linked together.’
Darla Lammers, Arizona

‘For a long life to walk alongside my beautiful daughter.’

 ‘My wish would be for a swift end to Covid and getting to spend time with my mum again.’
Jade Graham, Glasgow

‘I wish to give thank for the many blessings in my life. To wish everyone health, perseverance and a good outcome during the pandemic and beyond. Wishing many more happy times volunteering with my friends at Ricefield. Finally, to get my new teeth in June!’
Kathryn Munro, Glasgow

‘I wish for love & respect for all and people connectivity for next year!!’
Anonymous, Edinburgh

‘Wishing that the year of ox fully loaded with happiness, love, good health and great success.’
Angie S, Glasgow

‘Health for the entire world.’
Juliana Brandes, Los Angeles

‘My wish for this new year is the health & happiness of my family and a special wish for my daughter with her choice of High school. Happy New Year.’
Jill Robertson, Belfast

‘Wishing everyone I know good health and happiness.’
Lily, Glasgow

‘Wishing covid is over soon and everyone has jobs. Wishing my daughter will be healthy minded and my son is able to figure what programs to study for next year. Wishing good health to all my family members.’
Huynh, Ontario

‘Wishing all a great year blessed with abundant happiness, good health, wealth, luck and fortune. 牛年行大运!’
Eilidh Hong, Glasgow

Chinese New Year Celebration 2021

On Friday 26th February 2021, Ricefield Arts hosted our very first online Chinese New Year Celebration. We celebrated Lantern Festival and the arrival of the Year of the Ox with friends from around the world, while our talented performers showcased the breadth of Chinese culture. The hour-long programme featured live performances of classical dance, martial arts, traditional instruments and lots more.

Watch some of our highlights here:

Philippa Barclay attended the event, and has kindly shared this blog post about her experience.

Ricefield Arts and Cultural Centre and the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS) hosted a special Chinese New Year online event to mark the last day of Spring Festival, known as the Lantern Festival. I joined in on the online celebrations from the comfort of my home and am excited to share my experiences of the evening’s festivities.

The online celebration was held over Zoom and attracted over 360 guests joining from across the globe to watch the performances which showcased Chinese culture in a variety of formats including dance, musical instruments, martial arts, song, and poetry.

The event opened with speeches from Else Kek, Chair of Ricefield Arts & Cultural Centre and Fhiona Mackay, Director of CISS. We were then entertained by Shengnan Qiu playing some lively music on the erhu, a Chinese national orchestral instrument, with a vibrant performance of “Onwards and Upwards”.

Next on the programme was an opportunity to experience a powerful martial art display of a complex Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu fighting form called Small Plum Blossom Fist. The form is popular for public events, and Pui Lee’s impressive and complex performance took place outdoors.

We then moved on to some gentle singing by Fong Liu of three melodies which are popular for the Spring Festival period: “Congratulations”, “Sweet Honey” and “Winter Jasmine”. The recital was performed in traditional dress with beautiful lanterns in the background adding to the visual experience. Poetry recitals came next from Xiaochun Shen, with subtitles describing joyful scenes on New Year’s Day and the author’s positive expectations for the year ahead.

An interesting part of the evening was an introduction to a traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony showcasing the art of Chinese tea with beautiful Chinese art and music in the background and traditional tea sets. Being an avid tea drinker myself I enjoyed watching Shanshan Jiang’s detailed preparation and the intricate steps involved in presenting and serving the tea.

Lawrence Dunn performed two lively Dai folk songs on the sheng: “Mangshi Dam Tune” and “Wedding Banquet Song”. The sheng is one of the oldest musical instruments in China dating back to 1100 BCE. This was followed by another remarkable Chinese martial arts performance by Hing Fung Teh, this time in the form of a more soothing display of extracts from both the 24 and 42 Steps Tai Chi forms, with guests remarking on “music so peaceful it touches your soul”.

Annie Au gave a wonderful performance of the “Butterfly Lovers” fan dance which is a rendition of a folk tale of two lovers unable to be together who were reunited as butterflies, and lastly the event finished with a lively and upbeat performance from Eddie McGuire. He ended the show with “Purple Bamboo Melody” played on the dizi bamboo flute, accompanied by some chimes.

All in all, it was a lovely opportunity to connect with people from all around the world and experience a really enjoyable evening, getting the chance to experience some of the history of this important annual Chinese festival and the unique and beautiful traditions which accompany it.

We were delighted to partner with the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools for this event, which allowed us to reach new audiences who are engaged in language learning across Scotland.

Our Chinese New Year Celebration was supported by Foundation Scotland and Glasgow City Council‘s Glasgow Communities Fund, as part of our Community Recovery & Wellbeing project.

An Introduction to Wishing Trees

For our latest blog post, work placement student Xiaochun Shen writes about the origin of wishing trees, a traditional custom during Chinese New Year celebrations.

There is a beautiful tale about the origins of the Wishing Tree.

At the end of the Qing Dynasty, in a small village, there lived a young man, named A Jun and a young woman, named Feng Er. They loved each other. When A Jun was 18, he wanted to participate in a naval battle. The two were reluctant to be separated and spent their last moments together under a tree in the village, before A Jun left. Alone, Feng Er went to the tree every day and wrapped a strip of yellow cloth on a branch, wishing that A Jun would return soon.

However, five years passed and A Jun did not come back to the village. The girl still waited for him. Finally, her parents forced her to marry another man. Feng Er tried to refuse the marriage but failed. The night before the wedding, Feng Er put on her wedding dress and went to the tree alone. On the day of the wedding, the whole village gathered to celebrate. However, they found Feng Er dressed in a bright wedding dress, lying quietly under the tree, with her eyes closed gently and a smile on her face. She slept forever.

While people witnessed this scene in surprise, the yellow cloth strips on the tree suddenly flew into the sky. At this time, the villagers watched as the yellow strips flying in the wind turned into an image of Feng Er and A Jun. They held hands and flew into the sky. From that day on, the legend states that if people hang a yellow cloth with their wishes on the tree and pray religiously, their wishes will come true. Over time, this has become a custom.

Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree in Hong Kong, 2019

This year, we’re inviting our community to make your wishes online on our virtual wishing tree. What are your dreams for the Year of the Ox? Submit your wishes here.

Make Your Own: Firecracker Knot

In this video workshop leader Xiaochun Shen guides us to make a quick and colourful firecracker knot, using Chinese knotting cord. These make great decorations for Chinese New Year!

You’ll need:

  • 2x 50cm strands of knotting cord (two different colours preferred)

Make Your Own: Paper Lantern

Make your own paper lantern at home – a perfect craft for Chinese New Year!

Based on her popular origami lantern workshop, Yuen has created a short video for you to follow along with at home.

You’ll need:

  • 1 sheet of A4 (21 x 29.7 cm) paper (colour of your choice)
  • 1m piece of thread (colour of your choice)
  • Pen
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Hole puncher
  • LED tealight candle/other small LED light (optional)

Get started:

  1. Place your A4 paper horizontally and measure 11.7cm from the bottom.
  2. Mark this point and fold the top of the paper down along the full length of the paper.
  3. Unfold and cut along the crease to remove the top rectangle.
  4. You will be left with a rectangle for use with the below folding template (punch small holes where indicated)

Watch the full video below:

Express Yourself Art Competition Winners

In December 2020, we hosted our very first Express Yourself Art Competition. This was part of our Community Wellbeing & Recovery project, supported by Foundation Scotland.

Open to all participants of our Art for Wellbeing workshops, we wanted to see how you had been inspired to get creative during lockdown (and beyond!). We were truly delighted by the high quality, colourful entries we received. Our judging panel carefully reviewed each artwork, and scored them on creativity, skill and theme. Thank you to our special guest judges Lin Chau, Pui Lee and Fiona Tong for their support.

It’s now time to announce our three lucky winners! Congratulations (in no particular order) to Sintija Plāce, Samantha Ann Robson and Maria Frank. Take a look at their artworks below, and read more about their inspiration.

Sintija Plāce – Self Portrait

‘The submitted work is one of the many that were created during the Blind Drawing/Connecting with Yourself workshop … As I was not glimpsing, nor trying to make my drawing visually direct or pleasant on purpose, I felt as if I did let go of my ‘persona creating self’. … Last portrait was accompanied by colours and shades which represented my mood of that night. … This exercise perfectly shows that the best unintentional results come when we allow our senses and emotions to flow without strain in our minds and no eraser by our side.’

Samantha Ann Robson – Beach Treasures

‘I found both … classes helped me build my confidence in drawing and expressing myself through art, as well as giving me some really helpful tips for improving my drawing. I also found them really calming during this very frightening time, and gave me a sense of being in contact with others. … I chose the beach treasures, including shells and a wooden ice cream spoon for my still life subject, as it expresses how everything really is in the eye of the beholder. … A little wooden ice cream spoon may look like rubbish to or act as a reminder of a blissful day at the beach… It’s all in the perception. ‘

Maria Frank

‘The drawing I submitted includes my real furry family of two cats and one dog enjoying a moonrise. … My subjects include nature, animals, and everyday things in life. … I found these workshops inspiring and they re-energised my desire to create art and to learn more about technique, perspective, materials, etc. … I’ve been yearning to draw and learn how to paint, and the pandemic provided time and opportunity (via online workshops) to do so. … The instructor’s very positive approach to drawing helped me work through self-criticism and encouraged me to stick with my work (i.e. work through seeming “mistakes”) until satisfied with the result. … They have made a huge difference in my life during this difficult time for the world.’

An Introduction to Dongzhi Festival

This year Dongzhi Festival will be celebrated around the world on 21 December 2020. This very important festival marks Winter Solstice, and is inspired by the yin and yang philosophy of balance and harmony – the longer days following the solstice mean an increase in positive energy flowing in.

We’re happy to welcome back Ricefield volunteer Xiaochun who has written us a short blog introducing the history and customs of winter solstice in China.

Origins of Dongzhi Festival

This year in the Northern Hemisphere, winter solstice will occur on Monday 21 December. The winter solstice is the shortest day and the longest night in all parts of the northern hemisphere; the further north, the shorter the day. Dongzhi Festival is one of the eight key festivals of the year. The ancient people of China developed a tradition of worshipping their ancestors on the winter solstice to show their filial piety and to remember their roots. However, due to regional differences in rituals and customs, the forms of ancestor worship are also different in different areas. Alongside the worshipping of ancestors, in some places people also worshipped the gods of heaven and earth.

The winter solstice is regarded as an important winter festival. In ancient times, people who drifted out of the country were expected to go home for the winter festival. There is a saying that ‘the winter solstice is as important as (Chinese) New Year’, which is widely circulated in some parts of southern China. As soon as the winter solstice arrives, the Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and so the ancients believed that Dongzhi Festival is no less important than the New Year. Nowadays, many places still maintain the traditional custom of offering sacrifices to heaven and ancestors during the winter solstice.

Customs in South China

Many places in southern China will celebrate the winter solstice, and many areas along the southern coast uphold the traditional custom of worshipping ancestors. Each family will have ancestor statues in the upper hall of their homes, set up offering tables, arrange incense burners, make offerings and so on. Alongside worshiping the ancestors, some places also worship the gods of the heavens and the land to pray for good weather and prosperity in the coming year.

Cantonese people eat roast meat and ginger rice during the winter solstice. The Hakka people believe that during the winter solstice the taste of water is the most mellow, so it has become a custom for the Hakka people to make wine in this period. From the late Ming and early Qing period until now, Hangzhou people will eat niangao (Chinese: 年糕) during the winter solstice; they will make three meals of niangao with different flavours. In Sichuan, it is the custom to eat mutton soup, as mutton offers the best nourishment in winter. In Hubei, Hunan, you must eat red bean glutinous rice during Dongzhi Festival.

In some parts of the south, it is more popular to eat rice balls, known as tangyuan (Chinese: 汤圆) which means reunion. Eating tangyuan on the winter solstice is a traditional custom, and it is most common in the Jiangnan region.

Bowl of tangyuan

Customs in North China

In northern China, there is a long-held custom of eating dumplings every winter solstice. According to the legend, the medical sage Zhang Zhongjing saw the people who were suffering from frozen weather and he used lamb, some cold-fighting medicinal materials and dough to make dumplings. These dumplings resembled ears, in honour of the frostbitten patients he treated. This medicine was called qu han jiao er tang (Chinese: 驱寒娇耳汤) and he gave it to the people to eat. Later, every winter solstice, people imitated this treatment and cooked their own dumpling soup. Most parts of the north eat dumplings on this day because the word for dumplings has its origins in “eliminating the cold”.

Chinese Ghost Stories: October 2020

On 29 October 2020 we had a lot of fun hosting Chinese Ghost Stories, an evening of storytelling and music. Over Zoom, our talented performers shared spooky tales from both China and Scotland, and we learned more about Chinese traditions and festivals.

The programme included a performance of Pu Songling’s The Painted Skin, alongside The Legend of the White Snake, A Ghost’s Promise, Solomon Ghost of the Panopticon and a very special guqin musical interlude.

Check out the video below for some of our highlights:

We would like to thank our performers: Yan Shi, Annie Au, Pui Lee, Judith Bowers, Andrew Glass, Xiaochun Shen, Menghan Sun, Mike Nelson and Lawrence Dunn.

The event was delivered in partnership with Britannia Panopticon, the world’s oldest surviving music hall. It was part of our Community Wellbeing and Recovery project, supported by Foundation Scotland and the Glasgow Communities Fund.


An Introduction to Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋节

This year Mid-Autumn Festival takes place on Thursday 1st October 2020. It celebrates what is said to be the fullest moon of the year – families typically come together to share the autumn harvest, eat mooncakes and light lanterns. The festival has a long history, with its origins in the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BCE).

Below is a short introduction to the history and customs of the festival, written by Ricefield volunteer Xiaochun Shen.


The Mid-Autumn Festival has a long lineage back to ancient celestial phenomenon worship, the custom of respecting the moon. In the autumn equinox (秋分) season of the 24 solar terms, it is the ancient Moon Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival comes from the traditional Moon Festival. The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar with a full moon at night, corresponding to mid-September to early October in the Gregorian calendar.

The Mid-Autumn Festival became an officially recognised national holiday, probably in the Tang Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty, the customs of the Mid-Autumn Festival became popular, and the custom of admiring the moon was combined with myths and stories such as Chang’e Flying to the Moon and Yang Guifei Turning into the Moon God.

The Mid-Autumn Festival brings together families for a yearly reunion. On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, all families will appreciate the moon and eat moon cakes.


Worshipping the moon

Worshipping the moon is an old Chinese custom, which can be traced to the ancients worshipping the the Moon God. Since ancient times, in some areas of Guangdong, people have worshipped the moon god on the night of Mid-Autumn Festival. The whole family will worship the moon in turn, praying for blessings.


On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, there is a custom of lighting up lanterns to complement the moonlit scene. Every family uses bamboo sticks to make lanterns more than ten days before the festival. Various lanterns are made to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Moon cakes

Moon cakes were offered in ancient times as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival worship. Moon cakes symbolise family reunion and in present day have become a festive food of Mid-Autumn Festival.

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