Mooncakes for Democracy
In Chinese tradition, the mooncake is an important part of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Mooncakes for Democracy references an old legend about how mooncakes were used for revolution: When the barbaric Mongols took over ancient China, they killed ruthlessly and ignored the civilians, allowing poverty, disease, and famine to spread. The Mongol emperor was a tyrant. Rather than trusting others to help him govern, he murdered all of the Chinese nobles and replaced them with only his closest family members to make governing decisions, fulfilling his thirst for control. Finally, the commander of the rebel army came up with an idea to save the people: Spreading a rumor that the people had to eat special mooncakes to prevent illness, the rebels, disguised as merchants, would deliver these mooncakes with hidden messages that instructed the people to revolt on the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival. On the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the people came together, overthrowing the Mongols and their tyrannical emperor. After successfully reclaiming their nation, the people celebrated the Festival every year with mooncakes.
This piece references several craft forms, including book arts, Chinese paper folding (or what is better known as origami), Chinese decorative paper-cutting, and paper dyeing, as well as the traditional methods of making Chinese mooncakes. In making this work, Evelyn Wong wanted to highlight her own cultural history and its ties to Chinese craft traditions, while using contemporary Western methods of approach to book arts as a way to acknowledge her own Chinese American background. The story of mooncakes is one of subversion that utilizes an old Chinese tradition to bring about an uprising. Here, she uses some of these old traditions to deliver the message to people as a reminder to “VOTE” and bring about our own change.
Evelyn Wong, Mooncakes for Democracy, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist
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