First annual Tacoma Moon Festival at Reconciliation Park

The first annual Tacoma Moon Festival was held Saturday, Sept. 29, to celebrate inclusion and awareness of other cultures, bringing the community to the new Chinese Reconciliation Park, which opened earlier this year.

The park is part of a long effort by the non-profit Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation (CRPF) to create something in reconciliation for the expulsion of Chinese people from Tacoma that occurred in 1885. The CRPF website recalls that the expulsion materialized out of the growing anti-Chinese sentiment throughout the region due to the increasing number of Chinese immigrants.

According to Lotus Perry, a CRPF board member and Asian languages and cultures professor at the University, the CRPF “wanted to create more than a plaque, they wanted an actual place … The park offers a place for the CRPF to educate the community.

The CRPF has designed a park that illustrates the history of the Chinese in the Pacific Northwest.

The CRPF has been “very particular about what goes into the park because they wanted to create a symbolic place,” Perry said.

Upon entering the park, one encounters large stones dispersed across the path, which serve as a constant reminder of the challenges that early Chinese immigrants faced.  This section of the path is lined by stones with the carved silhouettes of the expelled Chinese people.

Additional significance lies in the hill in the park, termed “Gold Mountain.” The name alludes to the first wave of Chinese immigrants that flocked to the west coast in search of gold.  When standing on top of the hill, Commencement Bay unfolds before the viewers, who is situated in such a way that they are looking across the Pacific, toward China.

Perry said that the park is in progress, and there are still phases in the process yet to be completed. This applies to smaller unfinished details of the park, but also to larger goals, like building an educational center.

“In the near future,” Perry said, “the CRPF aims to create an educational packet that instructors can use in the classroom.” The park has already had visits from school groups.

The Moon Festival exemplified another way that the Chinese Reconciliation Park can educate the community.  Activities throughout the festival provided insight into Chinese culture and the traditions that accompany the Moon Festival. Festival-goers had the opportunity to practice Chinese character writing on the sidewalk and try on the lion dancers’ costumes, among other interactive and educational activities. There were a number of craft stations to acquaint children with Chinese culture, as well as an interactive computer game to teach children about the Chinese Moon legends.

According to Perry, the CRPF wanted “a place that celebrates people of all cultures.”  In fact, Perry said, the park was built “not just to remember the Chinese, but to get people involved from all backgrounds and provide a place that is open to all cultures in the community.”

In the future, the CRPF intends to build a multicultural pavilion in the park.

The Moon Festival demonstrated the value of embracing all cultures by bringing in Korean, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai performance groups, in addition to the numerous Chinese performances and cultural groups.

Frances Lorenz, the Chair of the CRPF Moon Festival Planning Committee, said that the Tacoma Moon Festival furthers the values of acceptance and inclusion of other cultures.

“When people from all cultures gather together to have fun, they gain a sense of common humanity and appreciation for one another,” Lorenz said.

The use of force to expel the Chinese in 1885 was termed “the Tacoma Method.” Theresa Pan Hosley, the CRPF President, said at an event at the park in Sept. 2011 that the Chinese Reconciliation Park represents “the new Tacoma method of inclusion.”

“The word community actually means ‘common unity,’” Lorenz said. “Community events (especially free ones like the Moon Festival) gather people together so that they feel unity with one another.”

The Tacoma community has certainly been unified in the process of creating the Tacoma Moon Festival, as the process has been a collaboration of the CRPF, the city, local business sponsors and community, cultural and performance groups.

The Tacoma Moon Festival embodied the values of awareness, inclusion and unity that are foundational ideas for the Chinese Reconciliation Park.

According to Perry, “the park sets a national reconciliation model.”  The Chinese Reconciliation Park stands as a model because it aims to go beyond reconciliation, to educate, include and engage the community.