By Judy Hohmann, contributor
The fall season brings many Minnesota traditions, old and new. Why not make fall a reason to celebrate Chinese culture, too?
Start with the tradition of a changing Minnesota landscape, as it transforms from green to brilliant displays of red, orange, purple and yellow. Whether on paved walkways along urban lakes or wooded trails, you will feel the magic of Mother Nature’s most colorful season. Two serene spaces at opposite ends of the metro area infuse the beauty of Chinese culture: The new St. Paul-Changsha, China Friendship Garden of Whispering Willows and Flowing Waters at Phalen Regional Park — in an urban neighborhood of St. Paul; and the University of Minnesota-Shaanxi Provincial People’s Government, China Garden of Harmonious Beauty at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum — in the growing southwest community of Chanhassen, showcase distinctive interpretations of the classic Chinese garden design. Each garden prominently features gifts from Chinese government partners, ranging from a gilded pavilion to three mountainous rocks. The harmony with nature in the form of water, rocks and plants will uplift your mood and cultural pride.
Red pagoda at the Landscape Arboretum, Chaska
Eat up the fall tradition of the harvest bounty, whether at farmers’ markets or family and friends’ gatherings. In Chinese culture, the reunion of families celebrating fall harvest are rituals dating back centuries to ancient Chinese emperors and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Eating moon cakes has evolved with flavors of white lotus and red bean to chocolate, cream cheese, custard, green tea and fruity options. While the Autumn Moon Festival was commemorated this year on Sept. 13 with a full moon, moon cake aficionados can indulge year-round.
Fall traditions are about seasonal pairings. One pairing is food and Chinese art. While Minnesota is renowned for its expansive Chinese culinary talent, the art of Chinese culture paired with food took to the streets this year. The legendary “Eat Street” in Minneapolis, dating back five decades, is described as “the several-block stretch along Nicollet Ave. that is home to more than 50 restaurants, with cuisines representing a wide variety of places around the world: China, Germany, Greece Jamaica, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, and more.” It is here that Rainbow Chinese Restaurant, owned by chef Tammy Wong. -- a local pioneer in cooking with local and sustainable foods, and in “greening” the Eat Street landscape with plants and sidewalk gardens -- for 27+ years, first introduced a street mural featuring a family of Chinese pandas. In Fall, 2019, Wong enlisted artist Erin Sayer to reproduce a new version of the street mural. Indoors or out, Rainbow offers a tasty menu from dumplings, noodles and more—even a mocktail named after Chinese-American actress Lucy Liu.
New mural on Nicollet Ave.
Rainbow Chinese Restaurant on Nicollet Ave.
Another fall pairing: Chinese food and sport. Fall 2019 features Minnesota Vikings football with Chinese chow. Enjoy the first-ever pairing of Chinese food from David Fong’s Restaurants (of Bloomington, Prior Lake and Savage) at U.S. Bank Stadium Level 3 during Vikings home games. Choose Chinese sesame chicken, vegetable fried rice and five-spice chicken wings — the “newest home-town flavors” from a restaurant first founded in 1958. For longtime Vikings fans, another tie to Chinese culture -- NFL linebacker Kailee Wong played for the Vikings from 1998-2001, selected by the Vikes in the 1998 second round NFL Draft.
Fong’s at US Bank Stadium
Perhaps the most enduring Fall tradition is the spirit of learning and renewal. Paired with Chinese culture, it is that desire to explore and learn more about heritage, history and contemporary life. Get started with these:
Minneapolis Institute of Art presents a free exhibit of Chinese art, “An Art as Lyrical as Poetry,” featuring recently acquired Chinese paintings, through Nov. 24.
Theater Mu presents “Fast Company” by Carla Ching, American playwright, at Dowling Studio/Guthrie Theater, a dramedy about a family of swindlers hoping to pull off their best con, Nov. 8-24.
Walker Art Center presents “Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection” exhibit in Galleries 4, 5, 6 with Wing Young Huie as one of the artists, thru Sept. 26, 2021. A Duluth native and son of Chinese immigrants, Huie’s work includes Frogtown and Lake Street outdoor photo exhibits. and memoir “Chinese-ness.”