Mid Autumn Festival Or Zhongqiu — Holiday of Reunion and Mooncake

What and when is the Mid Autumn Festival?

 

Mid Autumn Festival, also named Moon Festival or Zhongqiu Festival, is on the 15th of August of Traditional Chinese Calendar

 

It is one of the most ancient, biggest festivals in China, which celebrates reunion and harvest.

 
 

When and how did the Mid Autumn Festival originate?

 

In ancient China, sovereigns would hold grand ceremonies to worship the sun in spring, and the moon in autumn, to pray for blessings and celebrate the good harvest.

Later, more legends concerning the moon became popular, and more rites and meanings were added to the full moon in the middle of autumn.

Till the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), Mid Autumn Festival became popular, when most traditions and celebrating activities were gradually formed since then.

 

What are legends of the Moon and the Mid Autumn Festival?

Fairy Chang E:

Chang E, the wife of hero Hou Yi, took an elixir and flew to the moon. Afterward, she became the Goddess of the Moon.

Her husband on earth, one day, saw her silhouettes on the moon. So Hou Yi placed all of his good food on the table, hoping Chang E could share them with him, and see his eternal love. 

Afterward, this date became Mid Autumn, also named the Moon Festival.

Jade Rabbit:

Jade Rabbit, also named Moon Rabbit, is the mythical animal that lives on the moon.

 

Some people believed that the Jade Rabbit is Chang E's pet that accompanies her in the cold Moon Palace. 

As a mythical creature, the Jade Rabbit kept pounding medicines to make elixirs. Gradually, the Jade Rabbit became a symbol of the moon.

Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicines Earring, Unearthed from Grave of Wanli Emperor (1563 — 1620) — Dingling Museum

Wu Gang:

Besides Chang E and Jade Rabbit, a giant Laurel is standing next to the Moon Palace (Guanghan Gong). 

Wu Gang keeps cutting the Laurel, as a punishment of having made some mistakes. However, this magical laurel keeps growing too. 

Hence, Wu Gang would spread laurel seeds on earth during this period and could make tasty Osmanthus wine.

Emperor Xuanzong of Tang:

Li Longji (685 — 762), respected as Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, in some legends, had visited the moon once, with the help of two Taoists, or in his dream. 

During his trip, he was welcomed by Chang E, visited the Moon Palace (Guanghan Palace), tried a moon-shaped delicious cake and Wu Gang's Osmanthus wine, and impressed by fantastic music there. 

Later, he wrote the famous Nichang Yuyi (also known as The Feather Dress Dance or The Song of Enduring Sorrow), based on what he remembered the music on the moon. 

This legend might not real, but Nichang Yuyi is one of the most outstanding court music in Chinese history. 

His favorite concubine Yang Guifei (719 — 756) danced to it and impressed everyone with her astonishing beauty and dancing skills. 

 

Customs and traditions for celebrating the Mid Autumn Festival

 

  • Worship the moon using sacrifice offerings, include Mooncake and seasonal fruits;

  • Have feast dinner with family;

  • Eat Mooncakes;

  • Make and hang up lanterns, and guess lantern riddles;

  • Appreciate beautiful moon, drink Osmanthus wine, chatting with family;

  • Eat sweet-scented Osmanthus made candy and cake.

Since When, and Why eating Mooncake at Mid Autumn Festival?

Originally a type of sacrificial offerings to the moon, Mooncakes was later made into the moon's shape and became the representative of the reunion since the Song Dynasty (960 — 1179).

Since the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644), eating mooncakes became on Mid Autumn Festival became quite popular. This is believed to memorize uprising against the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368), under the command of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (1328 — 1398).

When Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder emperor of the Ming Dynasty, was planning to rebel, they needed to send info to those who hated the Yuan's reign and wanted to join. 

Under the strict surveillance of Yuan's government, Zhu Yuanzhang commanded to hide a note in many mooncakes, writing "will rebel at night of 15th of August". 

 

After those mooncakes were sent to cities, they were successfully delivered to uprising armies, who participated and won that battle.

A few years later, the Ming Dynasty was established, and Zhu Yuanzhang became Hongwu Emperor or Emperor Taizu of Ming.

 

To memorize the braveness of his soldiers, and their final success, Zhu Yuanzhang regulated mooncakes as the most important food of the Mid Autumn Festival. 

Since then, more types of exquisite mooncakes have been invented and popularized, which include various crusts, fillings, flavors, regions, decorations, and so on.

However, there's one thing that had never changed: it is the most important representative of the reunion. 

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