Chinese Festivals - Mid Autumn (Mooncake) Festival
Mooncake Festival ('Zhong Qiu Jie' 中秋节)
The mooncake festival (Zhong Qiu Jie) falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. It is an occasion for family members to get together over mooncakes, fruits and fine tea and have "moon appreciation" (赏月) sessions. With its association with mooncakes and lanterns, Zhong Qiu Jie is also called Mooncake Festival or Lantern Festival other than Mid-Autumn Festival.
It probably began as a harvest festival where Chinese agrarian communities celebrate and rejoice over their harvest.
The legend of Chang-E (常娥) and Hou Yi (后翼) goes like this: the earth once had ten suns circling it, each taking its turn to bring light and warmth to earth. However, one day all ten suns appeared together. The heat was so scorching and unbearable. A strong archer named Hou Yi came out and succeeded in shooting down nine suns. He was later made the emperor but after that he became a tyrant.
He wanted the elixir of life so that he can continue to rule forever. In order to save the people from his tyranny, his wife Chang-E stole the elixir and comsumed it herself. She then floated to the moon taking along her pet rabbit with her. Hence started the legend of the lady in the moon with her Jade Rabbit.
Zhong Qiu Jie was given new meaning during the 14th century when Zhu Yuan Zhang (朱元章) plotted against the Yuan dynasty started by the Mongolians. The rebels hid their messages in the mooncakes. Zhu eventually succeeded in overthrowing the Mongolian rule and became the first emperor of the Ming dynasty. Although Han rule was taken over by the Manchus in the 17th century (Qing dynasty), Zhong Qiu Jie continues to be a commemoration of the overthrow of the Mongolians by Han people.
Zhong Qiu Jie is quite extensively celebrated in China. Mooncakes and lanterns are put up for sale as early as a month before the festival.
People buy mooncakes not only for personal consumption, but also as offerings to ancestors and gifts to senior relatives. The pomelo fruit is another of the popular gift to go along with the mooncakes. The Cantonese name for pomelo is "yow" which has the same meaning as "have".
Children are happy because they have mooncakes and pomelo to eat and also have lanterns to play with. For the adults, they take part in lantern-making competitions and exhibitions. Traditional games such as "deng mi" (lantern puzzle / 猜灯迷) whereby verses of puzzles are hung on lanterns for people to solve.
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