Mid autumn festival – 中秋节

中秋节快乐(zhōng qiū jié kuài lè) Happy moon festival! The Chinese Mid autumn festival is almost over for this year. The festival typically lasts for three days and today is the final day of this year’s celebrations.

The Mid autumn festival takes its name from the fact that it falls on 15th day of the 8th lunar month during the middle of autumn. It is also called the Moon festival because this is the time when the full moon returns to the sky. I wanted to share with you the story behind the festival but like many other traditions, the Mid autumn festival has numerous origin stories. There are many well-known legends that give reason for celebrating the occasion such as the Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine, Wu Gang Chopping Laurel Tree and Zhu Yuanzhang and the Moon Cake Uprising; however the story that I shall go on to detail is the most widely accepted story of Chang E flying to the moon.

It is said that in the ancient times there were ten suns that were causing trouble for people due to the intense heat that burnt their plants. This was until a hero called; Hou Yi used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of the suns from the sky and save the people of the earth. One day while Hou Yi was on his way to meet his old friend, Wang mu the queen of heaven came down and offered him an elixir that would grant him immortality and a place in heaven as a god. Hou Yi did not wish to become immortal because of his love for his wife Chang E, so he asked his wife to look after it instead. Many people came to know of his strength and wanted to thank him for what he had accomplished. People came from far away places to seek him and ask for him to be their Master. Hou Yi accepted most of them as his pupils but some of them did not have sincere hearts, particularly his student Peng Meng. Unfortunately Peng Meng had seen Hou Yi present the elixir to his wife, so three days later he pretended to be ill whilst Hou Yi went hunting with his other students. As part of his plan, Peng Meng went to Chang E and demanded that she hand over the elixir. However knowing that she could not win over his strength, Chang E drank the elixir and became immortal herself. As soon as she drank the elixir she flew out of the window and higher up into the sky till she reached the moon, which is the closest place on earth to heaven. Hou Yi was grieved once he found out what had happened so he called out to the sky and was astonished to see a figure resembling his wife printed on the moon. Soon after, he went to an altar and sacrificed different foods that Chang E had liked to eat, and other people joined him in offering sacrifices once they learnt that Chang E became a goddess. Since then it has become a custom to offer sacrifices to Chang E and pray to the moon for peace and safety.

The main theme I found when researching the different stories was togetherness. One of the reasons why the transport is at its busiest during this festival is because families come together to appreciate the moon and follow the other customs of the festival.

One of the main customs of this festival is to enjoy eating Moon cakes 月饼(yuè bǐng). A moon cake is a pastry desert, which is traditionally made witha red bean or lotus filling. They usually have a circular shape in order to signify a sense of ‘reunion’ and to also mirror the shape of the moon when it is it’s fullest during the time of the festival. You may also find moon cakes with slightly different ingredients; however they usually share the same colour, texture and engraved designs. I do recall also seeing some frozen moon cakes as well as a special type known as Snow moon cakes. Earlier today I looked in my kitchen cupboard and miraculously found a small moon cake! It was an extra that I had from when I had taken some into college to share with curious students and let them try a Chinese delicacy, and give to one of my Chinese teachers as a welcoming gift.

This is my moon cake still in its packaging:P1030463 You can find more elaborate moon cakes closer to the time of the festival, but I was lucky enough to find this outside of festival season.

A Chinese saying related to the mid autumn festival; ‘’十五的月亮十六圆‘’. The translation is; ‘’The moon of the fifteenth, the roundness of the sixteenth’’ which is used to convey that our life may be better tomorrow, just like the moon on the fifteenth of the lunar month may be not be as round as it is on the sixteenth.

Whilst doing some searches I found a site that has kept records of the date of the Mid Autumn festival from the year 1990 to the date that it shall fall on in 2020. If you’re interested in that then take a look: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/china/mid-autumn-festival . I also happened to find this video of different animals being fed moon cakes which you can also take a look at over here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NsyuSvE6vZE . Lastly I also found an exploration of the customs of the Chinese ethnic minorities during the festival, which I found the most interesting out of the other links that I have provided; http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/mid-autumn-customs2.htm

Now I’m off to try my moon cake (which reminded me of peanut butter the last time I tasted it).

If you ever celebrate the Mid autumn festival, goodluck 世界.                                                                                                     从欣妍 – From Xinyan.


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