Today, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, many East and Southeast Asian families are gathering for a millennia-old holiday celebrating the harvest season. In Korea, festivities for Chuseok, or Korean Thanksgiving, began yesterday. In China, lanterns have lit up the skies for the Mid-Autumn Festival, or the Mooncake Festival. Both have their own unique set of traditions that are observed today that trace back as early as the first century.
While similar in the sense that these holidays bring families together and celebrate love, good fortune and gratitude, a deeper dive into their origins reveal individual tales of heroism and mysterious events that highlight the countries’ rich histories.
Sohn Kee-chung, an ethnic Korean marathon runner, is a poignant reminder of his country’s dark past. His record-breaking performance in the 1936 Berlin Games was widely celebrated, but there was one caveat to those looking on at his success from home — Sohn had no choice but to represent the Japanese empire.
Born in 1912, just two years after Japan’s annexation of Korea, Sohn had only ever known living under colonial rule when he entered the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Still, a dedicated nationalist, he signed the roster for the Games with his Korean name along with a small drawing of the Korean flag. Officially, he was recognized as a member of the Japanese delegation with the romanized Japanese name “Son Kitei.” To this day, Sohn is listed on the official Olympics website with these attributes.
Yumi Nu, who recently became the first Asian American curve model for Sports Illustrated, has spoken out about fatphobia, revealing how bullies used to call her “Godzilla” and “Yao Ming.”
On representation: Speaking to NBC Asian America about her cover feature, Nu explained how as a child there was hardly any representation of women who looked like her. Among the few Asian American women in the media, she noted that there wasn’t any diversity with respect to their sizes.
Mitsuye Endo is an unsung hero who was the only plaintiff to win a court case that led to the process of ending Japanese American incarceration during World War II.
Life before concentration: Endo was born on May 10, 1920, in Sacramento, Calif., to Japanese immigrant parents and graduated from Sacramento Senior High School.
Larry Itliong dreamed of becoming a lawyer when he immigrated to the United States as a teen in 1929. However, the circumstances of being a Filipino American worker at the time would eventually lead him to a higher calling.
Itliong started young in leading the fight for migrants’ labor rights during a tumultuous period in America, according to the Smithsonian. While a growing number of people recognize him now as a key figure of the Asian American movement, many are still unfamiliar with his story.
Young adults in China have recently embarked on a new trend called “tang ping,” the supposed antidote to the societal pressures of finding a good job and clocking in long hours.
In essence, “tang ping” (躺平), which literally translates to “lie flat,” is a deliberate rejection of the notorious rat race — a movement that does not advocate laziness but “having different choices,” as some put it.
Before Brown v. Board of Education, These Chinese American Parents Fought for Desegregation in 1880s SF
A Chinese American family from San Francisco won a lawsuit in the 1880s after the eldest daughter was denied admittance to an all-white school, creating a vital civil rights case for Asian families in America.
Barred from an education: Joseph and Mary Tape, who had both immigrated to the U.S. at a young age, were not allowed to enroll their 8-year-old daughter, Mamie, in Spring Valley Primary School in September 1884 because she was of Chinese descent.
Meet Patricia Chin, the Jamaican Woman Who Escaped Political Violence and Helped Bring Reggae to the World
Patricia Chin, also known as Miss Pat, is an influential figure in the reggae community and the woman who helped popularize the genre in the United States and around the world.
How it all started: Miss Pat’s journey to reggae began when she and her late husband Vincent “Randy” Chin opened their music store called Randy’s Records in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1958, where they sold jukebox records, according to Rootfire.
Joseph Pierce is a Civil War veteran who is believed to be the highest-ranking Chinese American soldier in the Union Army.
The history: There are conflicting reports of how Pierce arrived in the U.S., according to Ruthanne Lum McCunn‘s “Chinese in the Civil War: Ten Who Served.”
Why this matters: The incident, known as Bellingham’s “anti-Hindu” riots, is a dark chapter in Asian American history in which law enforcement allegedly cooperated with racists under the guise of “protecting” immigrants.
The first permanent Asian American settlement was a village in 18th-century Louisiana where Filipino fishermen resided.
What was Saint Malo: The Manilamen were part of a group of people who created the first Filipino and Asian American settlement in North America, according to History. Their settlement — named after Juan San Maló — was a fishing village along the shores of Louisiana’s Lake Borgne.
A centuries-old tradition at a town in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture has a quirky and fun way of welcoming new husbands into married life.