china edition


Mid-Autumn Festival

Date: 15th day of the 8th lunar month
Venue: Nationwide

This festival originated in a fairy tale and is also known as the Moon Festival. A hero named Hou Yi saved his people by shooting down the other 9 suns that burned his people to death. He was then bestowed with the elixir of immortality by the Queen Mother of the West. He did not want to consume the elixir and leave his beautiful but very mortal wife, Chang Er, so he gave the elixir to his wife for safekeeping.

Mid-Autumn FestivalUnfortunately, Hou Yi's disloyal apprentice forced Chang Er to swallow the elixir. She then became a supernatural being. She flew to the moon, and from there watched her husband. Knowing that his wife had now been separated from him, Hou Yi was crazed with grief. Looking up at the moon one night, he saw a figure like his wife. He hurriedly took cakes and succade (preserves in sugar, whether fruits, vegetables, or confections) as offerings to his wife. Upon hearing this, people developed the custom of watching the moon and eating moon cakes annually on this day.

During this festival, there are ceremonies to make libation and sacrifices to the moon, and watching the moon while enjoying moon cakes. Moon cakes are pastries filled with gooey sesame, red bean, and walnut meats.

There is always something dream-like and romantic about Mid-Autumn Festival, on account of its close association with such Chinese fables as Chang'e fleeing to the moon, the man Wu Gang performing the unending servitude to cutting an osmanthus tree, and the Jade Rabbit pounding medicinal herbs with a pestle. For men of letters the festival is an occasion to get together, improvise poems over a cup of wine and recite them to each other.