The first week in October is called “The Golden Week” in China. It’s the largest national holiday after Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and thanks to the combination of Mid-Autumn Festival with National Day (the day the PRC was founded) everyone gets a full week off from work and school. It’s a crazy time to be in China, or anywhere in Asia really, as the increasingly mobile and prosperous Chinese people have a full week to travel.
But I want to talk about Mid-Autumn Festival specifically as that is the more interesting of the two, especially in Fujian Province where I live. Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional holiday celebrating the end of summer and the impeding winter. Basically a harvest festival celebrated on a night of the full moon.
The full moon is a key element, and people eat mooncakes (not to be confused with moon pies, mooncakes are dense round pastries filled with egg, beans or other fillings. Personally I am not a fan and even eating a little piece can leave you feeling very full) and you are supposed to stand outside and gaze at the full moon. This is the traditional all across the country.
But in my little neck of the woods we have an added tradition called Bobing 博饼。It’s a dice game and was originally meant gambling for mooncakes. But these days mooncakes take the back burner and now it’s winning stuff like rolls of toilet paper, olive oil and cash.
As it is a major tradition in Fujian Province, my province, all my badminton friends get in on it and I had two bobing nights: One with my group of Taiwanese and Chinese friends (my old group) and one at my coaches gym.
You pony up to play, between 50 and 100 rmb based on the prizes and someone prepares gifts of varying levels. There is a red bowl with 6 special dice in it. (The fours are red while the other colors are blue). You take turns rolling and if you get one four, you get the lowest level of prizes, two fours a little higher, three fours higher and so on. If you get 1,2,3,4,5,6 you get a big prize.
The first several rounds is really fun as it’s quite easy to get the lower level prizes so your just getting a ton of stuff with pretty much every roll. As only the top prizes are left, as rolling four 4’s is harder, it gets a little boring just to keep rolling the dice, sometimes for 5+ minutes with no one winning anything, but as long as you are with friends it is fun.
My old group and I had a dinner and bobing event at our favorite Taiwanese/Japanese restaurant. The prizes ranged from toilet paper to badminton grips and birdies. Originally one of the guys won the top prize, about 300 rmb ($60) but everyone was in a good mood so he added 100 rmb to the pot and we continued. Someone else won it again, but he also wanted to keep it going and he added 100 and we kept going. Personally, it seemed like whoever won was actually kinda punished as they would have to add 100 rmb of their own money, but we kept going around and around until lo and behold…I won the money! Luckily cause I was a girl, or a foreigner, or for whatever reason me winning signaled the end of the game and we packed up and went home.
A few days later I played in the badminton courts and while I didn’t win as big, I still walked away with a mug, badminton socks, another grip, and some more goodies.
It’s a fun tradition and one people take very seriously here in Fujian Province. I tend to take short videos during events so I made a very short one to commemorate bobing at my coaches court. It’s shot pretty poorly and I didn’t translate anything but you can get the idea of what was happening. The last clip is from the night with my friends, but again, it’s pretty poor.
It’s nice to get a chance to participate in all the culture events because of badminton. While I have played Bobing every year I have lived here (you literally cannot get away from it as it is in every workplace and every shop) it’s nice to have a new experience and do things with my badminton buddies. It makes badminton more than just a sport to me.
Have a happy Mid-Autumn Holiday!