In 2016 Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th of September. Since 2008, this festival has been designated as a legal holiday in China. Just as a poem reads: Upon the sea shines the moonlight; poles apart we share the night.
Mr. Zhang, CEO of a Beijing-based foreign enterprise, will fly back to his hometown on the very 15th August of the Chinese lunar calendar, along with his wife and also with piles of gifts. “Although it is tiring to take rushing trips, it is nice to enjoy such an important day with my parents. Tired as I am, I feel happy,” said Mr. Zhang in excitement.
A day for family reunion, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th of August of the Chinese lunar calendar (which is usually around mid- or late September in the Gregorian calendar). With the clear sky, the smell of laurels permeates the air. The festival coincides with the middle of autumn, hence the name.
“Brightest is the moon on the night; when people far from one another share the light”. Although mankind shares the same moon, legends about the moon varies with countries and peoples. In different cultures, the moon is imbued with different meanings. Each civilization has their unique “lunar history”. The Chinese one can be traced to remote antiquity.
Stories about the moon have been around for ages. From time immemorial, ordinary folks have had the custom of worshiping the moon and enjoying the moon. Chinese people believe that everything has a soul. The moon is no exception.
Legend has it that a pretty immortal being called Chang’e lived on the moon. She enjoyed eternal youth because she drank an elixir designed exclusively for the Queen Mother of the West. To keep her company, a jade rabbit was later invented in the story. Mild and meek, the rabbit in the moon palace was given the task of pounding medicine. Gradually a rabbit deity, who has the body of a man and the head of a rabbit emerged. Also on the moon was a 500-meter- tall laurel whose wounds would heal magically as soon as it occurred. The tree exuded an aroma all year round. Hence the customs of admiring laurels, drinking wine fermented with osmanthus flowers, while enjoying the full moon.
Stories about the moon have been around for ages. From time immemorial, ordinary folks have had the custom of worshiping the moon and enjoying the moon. Chinese people believe that everything has a soul. The moon is no exception. Therefore, they will offer sacrifice to the moon on this Mid-autumn night, or the night of the autumn equinox, praying for prosperity, peace, and favorable climate.
Nowadays, moon worship has long been abandoned. Playing in the moonlight does not prevail as it did before. Most prized is the family reunion on this special occasion. Sitting together at a table, the whole family enjoys fruits, moon cakes, appreciating the moon and flowers while reveling in domestic happiness. Wherever you are and however busy you are, you have to get-together with your friends or family on this day. With the full moon high in the sky and the scented wine in hand, everyone wishes for the health and safety of their beloved ones.
Since 2008, the Mid-autumn festival has been designated as a legal holiday in China. Just as a poem reads: Upon the sea shines the moonlight; poles apart we share the night.
Customs of the Mid-Autumn Festival
Moon cakes come in many varieties. Most popular are the Suzhou-style moon cakes with their flaky crusts, the Cantonese-style with their dough crusts, and the traditional Beijing-style filled with minced pork. On the top of the delicacy are conventional imprints such as “Moon in the Milky Way”, “Moon amid Three Towers”, etc.
Also called Colored Rabbit, this is a figurine that has the head of a rabbit and the body of a man. On its back are little flags and on its face a layer of golden mud. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, they are offered as a sacrifice to the moon or given as toys to children.
According to popular lore, sky lanterns are airborne paper lanterns invented by Zhuge Kongming (181–234). They are, hence, traditionally known as Kongming Lanterns. On the sky lanterns are often written wishes for peace.
Lantern riddles are a folk literature art form. On Mid-Autumn night, riddles are posted on lanterns for entertainment. The Chinese enjoy relaxing in the light of the moon and the lanterns while solving the riddles.
Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Number 4. Volume IV. September 2009.
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