The Mid-Autumn Festival（中秋节）zhōnɡ qiū jié, also known as the Moon Festival, , is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese people. It is held on the 15th day of the eighth month （(八月十五) in the Chinese calendar. The eighth month is also called zhònɡ qiū (仲秋), so 中秋节 also called 仲秋节.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important holiday in China, as the Spring Festival is the most important. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, , and eat moon cakes, dates, pomegranate and other fruits.
Stories of the Mid-Autumn Festival：
—-Houyi and Chang’e (后羿- hòu yì和嫦娥- chánɡ é)
There are so many variations and adaptations of the Chang’e legend; here we share one of the more widely-known and accepted versions：
Once upon a time, the earth had ten suns. They burned the crops and people suffered from famine. Houyi, a lesser god and a highly-skilled archer, felt sorry for mankind, so he decided to shoot down nine of the suns. After he shot down the suns, he became a hero. He had a beautiful wife name Chang’e (also a lesser god) and they lived happily together. Houyi gathered many followers and one day they all went hunting together regularly. One day, on Houyi’s way back home the Jade Emperor (the highest god) gave Houyi a pill which granted eternal life as a reward for shooting down the suns. He warned Houyi, “Make no haste to swallow the pill.” Houyi loved Chang’e very much and did not want to leave her, so he gave the pill to Chang’e and let her store the pill in a safe place. Chang’e put the pill in her jewelry box. But one of Houyi’s apprentices, Peng, discovered this secret. He decided to steal the pill.
One day Houyi and some other disciples went to the mountain. Peng pretended he was sick so that he could stay at home. Everyone went to the mountain except Chang’e, who stayed at home. Peng burst into Chang’e’s room and forced her to give him the pill. Chang’e knew she was no match for Peng so she took flight and flew far away. She did not want to leave her husband, so she stopped at the moon which is close to Earth. After Houyi discovered what had happened, he was very angry and heartbroken. He looked up into the night and called Chang’e’s name. He saw that on the moon there was a shadow that looked like Chang’e, so he ran and ran and tried to get to the moon. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t reach the moon.
As for Houyi, he built himself a palace inside the sun as “Yang”-阳 (the male principle), with Chang’e as “Yin”-阴(the female principle). Once a year, on the 15th day of the full moon, Houyi visits his wife. That is why the moon is full that night.
The moon cake (月饼- yuè bǐnɡ):
The moon cake is a traditional symbol of the Mid-Autumn Festival. There are many legends surrounding the moon cake. In one tale, moon cakes originated in ancient times to pay homage to the moon. According to other sources, the moon cake was invented as a way to honor the Moon Goddess Chang’e. In what is perhaps the most famous tale, it is said that during the end of the Mongolian- ruled Yuan era Han Chinese rebel Zhū Yuán Zhānɡ distributed a secret message baked in moon cakes giving the instructions “revolt on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month”. On the night of the brightest moon these revolutionary fighters successfully attacked and overthrew the Mongolian army.
Traditional moon cake fillings:
The most common fillings are Lotus seed paste, （莲蓉- lián rónɡ）Sweet bean paste,（豆沙- dòu shā）Jujube paste（枣泥- zǎo ní）and five-kernel （五仁- wǔ rén including rice, two kinds of millet, wheat grain and beans）. I personally like Jujube paste filling the most even though I usually don’t eat it that much.
Here is a video that gives you an overview of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the moon cake:
Hope you have a great Mid-Autumn Festival! Let us know what fillings you had and what your favorites were in the comments.