Moon Festival in Mid-Autumn
On the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, the moon is round and the Chinese people mark their Moon (or Mid-autumn) Festival. The round shape to a Chinese means family reunion. Therefore the Moon Festival is a holiday for members of a family to get together wherever it is possible.
On that day sons and daughters will bring their family members back to their parents' house for a reunion. Sometimes people who have already settled overseas will come back to visit their parents on that day.
As every Chinese holiday is accompanied by some sort of special food. On the Moon Festival, people eat moon cakes, a kind of cookie with fillings of sugar, fat, sesame, walnut, the yoke of preserved eggs, ham or other material. In Chinese fairy tales, there live on the moon the fairy Chang E, a wood cutter named Wu Gang and a jade rabbit which is Chang E's pet. In the old days, people paid respect to the fairy Chang E and her pet the jade rabbit.
The custom of paying homage to the fairy and rabbit is gone, but the moon cakes are showing improvement every year. There are hunderds of varieties of moon cakes on sale a month before the arrival of the Moon Festival this year. Some moon cakes are of very high quality and very delicious. An overseas tourist is advised not to miss it if he or she happens to be in China during the Moon Festival.
In Mid-autumn, farmers have just finished gathering their crops and bringing in fruits from the orchards. They are overwhelmed with joy when they have a bumper harvest and at the same time, they feel quite relaxed after a year of hard work. So the 15th day of the eighth lunar mounth has gradually evolved as a widely celebrated festival for ordinary people. Night falls. The land is bathed in silver moonlight. Families set up tables in their courtyards or sit together on their balconies, chatting and sharing offerings to the moon. Together, they enjoy the enchanting spell of night. Naturally, they are reminded of beautiful legends about the moon. The most popular one tells how a goddess named Chang'e ascended to the moon.
a long, long time ago, a terrible drought plagued the earth, Ten suns burned fiercely in the sky like smoldering volcanoes. The trees and grass were scorched. The land was cracked and parched, and rivers ran dry. Many people died of hunger and thirst.
The King of Heaven sent Hou Yi down to the earth to help. When Hou Yi arrived, he took out his red bow and white arrows and shot down nine suns one after another. The weather immediately turned cooler. Heavy rains filled the rivers with fresh water and the grass and trees turned green. Life had been restored and humanity was saved.
One day, a charming young woman, Chang'e makes her way home from a stream, holding a bamboo container. A yong man comes forward, asking for a drink. When she sees the red bow and white arrows hanging from his belt, Chang'e realizes that he is their savior, Hou YI. Inviting him to drink, Chang;e plucks a beautiful flower and gives it to him as a token of respect. Hou Yi, in turn, selects a beautiful silver fox fur as his gift for her. This meeting kindles the spark of their love. And soon after that, they get married.
A mortal's life is limited, of course. so in order to enjoy his happy life with Chang'e forever, Hou Yi decides to look for an elixir of life. He goes to the Kinlun Mountains where Western Queen Mother lives.
Out of respect for the good deeds he has done, the Western Queen Mother rewards Hou Yi with elixir, a fine powder made from kernels of fruit which grows on the tree of eternity. At the same time, she tells him: "If you and your wife share the elixir, you will both enjoy eternal life. But if only one of you takes it, that one will ascend to Heaven and become immortal."
Hou Yi returns home and tells his wife all that has happened and they decide to drink the elixir together on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon is full and bright.
A wicked and merciless man named Feng Meng secretly hears about their plan. He wishes Hou Yi an early death so that he can drink the elixir himself and become immortal. His opportunity finally arrives. One day, when the full moon is rising, Ho Yi is on his way home from hunting. Feng Meng kills him. The murderer then runs to Hou Yi's home and forces Chang'e to give him the elixir. Without hesitating, Chang'e picks up the elixir and drinks it all.
Overcome with grief, Chang'e rushes to her dead husband's side , weeping bitterly. Soon the elixir begins to have its effect and Chang'e feels herself being lifted about towards Heaven.
Chang'e decides to live on the moon because it is nearest to the earth. There she lives a simple and contented life. Even though she is in Heaven, her heart remains in the world of mortals. Never does she forget the deep love she has for Hou yi and the love she feels for the people who have shared their sadness and happiness.
For thousands of years, the Chinese people have related the vicissitudes of life changes of the moon as it waxes and wanes: joy and sorrow, parting and reunion. because the full moon is round and symbolizes reunoin, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the festival of reunion. All family members try to get together on this special day. Those who can not return home watch the bright moonlight and feel deep longing for their loved ones.
Today, festivities centered about the Mid-Autumn Festival are more varied. After a family reunion dinner, many people like to go out to attend special performances in parks or on public squares.
In Guangzhou in South China, a huge lantern show is a big attraction for local citizens. Thousands of differently shaped lanterns are lit, forming a fantastic contrast with the bright moonlight.
In East China's Zhejiang Province, watching the flood tide of the Qiantang River during the Mid-Autumn Festival is not only a must for local people, but also an attraction for those from other parts of the country . The ebb and flow of tides coincide with the waxing and waning of the moon as it exerts a strong gravitational pull. In mid-autumn, the sun, earth and moon send out strong gravitational forces upon the seas.
The mouth of the Qiantang River is shaped like a bugle. So the flood tide which forms at the narrow mouth is particularly impressive. Spectators crowd on the river bank, watching the roaring waves. At its peak, the tide rises as high as three and a half meters.
People in different parts of China have different ways to celebrate the Mid-autumn festival. But one traditional custom has definitely remained and is shared by all the Chinese. This is eating the festive specialty: cakes shaped like the moon.
There is this story about the moon-cake. It says that in the 14th century, Chinese peasants could no longer bear the cruel rule of the Mongolians. They secretly planned an uprising on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The peasant leaders took advantage of the custom of sending moon-cakes as festive presents. They left messages on paper about the plan and placed the messages under the moon-cakes. So all the peasants were informed about the uprising and finally, they won the battle.
Originally, moon-cakes were a family tradition . But gradually the began to appear at market and stores. the moon-cakes make in various parts of the country have very different flavors. For instance, Beijing moon-cakes have a thin crust and fillings of bean and jujube sweet and salty taste, and fillings of bean and jujube pastes. So they are very sweet. Suzhou moon cakes have a special sweet and salty taste, and fillings of meat and ham are the local people's favorite. Guangdong moon-cakes are perhaps the most delicately make. The fillings are carefully selected and include sesame, almond and walnut kernels, shredded coconut, lotus seeds and egg yolk. so don't forget to taste all the delicious moon-cakes at the Mid-Autumn Festival.
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⇐ Chinese Festivals - Mid Autumn (Mooncake) Festival
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