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 in the Traditional Chinese Calendar.
It is one of China's most ancient festivals, celebrating 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, 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.
Until the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907), the Moon Festival became famous, and most traditions and celebrating activities gradually formed.
Legends of the Moon and the Mid Autumn Festival
Fairy Chang E
Her husband on earth, one day, saw her silhouettes on the moon. So, Hou Yi placed all his excellent 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, also named Moon Rabbit, is a mythical animal that lives on the moon.
Some people believe 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.
Besides Chang E and Jade Rabbit, a giant Laurel stands next to the Moon Palace (Guanghan Gong).
Wu Gang keeps cutting Laurel as a punishment for 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 delicious moon-shaped cake and Wu Gang's Osmanthus wine, and was impressed by the 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 from the music on the moon.
This legend might not be 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, Traditions, And Celebrating Activities
Worship the moon using sacrifice offerings, including Mooncake and seasonal fruits;
Have a feast dinner with family;
Make and hang up lanterns and guess lantern riddles;
Appreciate the beautiful moon, drink Osmanthus wine, chat with family;
Eat sweet-scented Osmanthus-made candy and cake.
When and Why Eating Mooncakes at Mid Autumn Festival?
Originally a type of sacrificial offering to the moon, Mooncakes were 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 at the Moon Festival became quite popular. This is believed to memorize the 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 asked his soldiers to hide a note in many mooncakes, writing that "will rebel on the 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 the Hongwu Emperor or Emperor Taizu of Ming.
To memorize his soldiers' braveness and their final success, Zhu Yuanzhang regulated mooncakes as the essential food of the Mid Autumn Festival.
Since then, more exquisite mooncakes have been invented and popularized, including various crusts, fillings, flavors, regions, decorations, etc.
However, one thing that had never changed: it is the most important representative of the reunion.
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