A tour of some of Tucson's oldest Chinese markets is the first event that celebrates Chinese culture at one of its most important times of the year.

The Autumn Moon Festival, often compared with Thanksgiving because of its spirit of gratitude, food and homecoming, coincides with the harvest moon - the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox.

It's also associated with poetry and music, and there will be plenty of both during the Chinese Culture Festival that launches Sept. 22 with a health expo at Reid Park. Sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona, the festival includes lectures, poetry and a film screening before culminating Sept. 30 with a concert that ends under the full moon.

Organizers expect about 4,000 people to attend the various events, and plan to make the festival an annual fall event, with different themes each year.

Robin Blackwood, who heads the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center's history committee, is organizing Saturday's "Beyond Groceries: Rolling History Party." The tour through five of Tucson's oldest neighborhoods also coincides with Mexico's Independence Day, which is Sunday, to celebrate diversity.

"This would have been a very special time of year for the Chinese grocers because they would have been thinking about their families at home in China and watching that harvest moon and knowing that it was the same moon" that their families were watching, she said.

While there will be displays and entertainment throughout the day, the biggest party will be at the last stop at the Lalo Guerrero Barrio Viejo Elderly Housing Center. There's room for a stage and a grassy area for watching performances by acts such as the Mariachi Nueva Melodia.

There also will be food samples. The Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum will display the carriage that Lee Goon, who owned Lee Hop Market, sold to the parade committee before he returned to China in the late 1930s.

"It will be a nice place to spend a couple of hours," Blackwood said.


Beyond Groceries: Rolling History Party

• What: Tucson Chinese Cultural Center celebrates the city's tradition of Chinese grocery stores with an entertainment-filled tour to five historic neighborhoods. The tour bus is full, but the public is invited to participate at the stops.

• When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: 10 a.m. at Grande Tortilla Factory, 914 N. Grande Ave.; 11:15 a.m. at empty lot across from Anita Street Market, 849 N. Anita Ave.; 12:45 p.m. New Empire Food Market, 526 E. Ninth St.; 2:15 p.m. at La Primavera Market, 1600 S. Ninth Ave. (at 100 years, it is one of Tucson's oldest continuously operated neighborhood stores); 3:45 p.m. Lalo Guerrero Barrio Viejo Elderly Housing Center, at West 18th Street and South Convent Avenue.

• Admission: Free.

• More information: 292-6900

Chinese Culture Festival

• What: The Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona is launching new festival that showcases Chinese wellness, poetry, film and music, with experts from China and the United States. A variety of UA colleges and programs, and community groups also are involved.

• When: Sept. 22-30.

• Where: Various locations.

• Admission: Free.

• Learn more: confucius.arizona.edu

The schedule

Chinese Health Day

• 8 a.m.-noon. Sept. 22.

• Where: DeMeester Performance Center, Reid Park near East 22nd Street and South Country Club Road.

• Explore Chinese martial arts and tai chi with masters Junmin Zhao and Junjie Feng from Shaolin, China, who performed at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony. Learn about traditional Chinese medicine and how to cook healthy Chinese cuisine.

Chinese Martial Arts

• 3-5 p.m Sept. 23.

• Where: UA Student Union, Ballroom South, 3rd floor

• Junmin Zhao and Junjie Feng lecture on the history and the development of martial arts. Includes live demonstration of traditional Chinese weaponry.

Traditional Chinese Music

• 11 a.m.-noon Sept. 25.

• Where: UA Crowder Hall, 1017 N. Olive Road.

• Lecture on Confucius ceremony music and Lu-Nan traditional Chinese instrumental music by Huiqing Cheng, a professor from Shandong University of Arts.

Chinese Cinema

• 3:30-6:30 p.m. Sept. 26.

• Where: UA Ballroom South

• Wu Tianming, who directed "King of Masks," and Tan Ye, a professor from the University of South Carolina, talk about Chinese film. Includes free screening "King of Masks."

Chinese Moon Festival Poetry Concert

• 7-9 p.m. Sept. 27.

• Where: UA Poetry Center, College of Humanities, 1508 E. Helen St.

• Chinese vocal and instrumental music, along with a lecture on ancient and modern Chinese poems by UA Professors Brigitta Lee and Dian Li.

Recent Efforts in the Search for Remote Human Ancestors in China

• Noon-2 p.m. Sept. 28.

• Where UA Student Union, Kiva Room.

• Lecture by Xing Gao, an archaeology professor from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Chinese Language Day

• 9 a.m.-2p.m. Sept. 29.

• Where: Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Road.

• Students test their knowledge of the Chinese language.

Moon Festival Concert

• 7-9 p.m. Sept. 30.

• Where: UA Crowder Hall

• Chinese traditional music, folk songs, and choral masterworks. There will be samples of moon cake.

Read more about the festival in next week's Caliente.

If you go

The Chinese Cultural Center's Autumn Moon Dinner follows Chinese Language Day events and is from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 29. The dinner, which includes moon cake is $15; $5 age 12 and under or free if the child brings a paper lantern. Make reservations at 292-6900 by Sept. 26.