Inspirations For Mid-Autumn (aka Moon Cake) Festival
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
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After adding to the September events in previous post about Mid-Autumn Festival, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to share some interesting cultural history and glimpse into the make-up of an ancient civilization.
All cultures have special time for celebrations. For centuries, Mid Autumn Festival (Zhongqiujie) has been a harvest festival celebrated in mainland China, Taiwan, and Vietnam by ethnic Chinese worldwide.
Mankind has been looking toward the moon for inspirations and explorations for centuries.
(Italics text taken from Wikipedia) The Chinese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon since the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th to 10th century BCE). The term mid-autumn (中秋) first appeared in Rites of Zhou, a written collection of rituals of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046–771 BCE). For the Vietnamese, in its most ancient form, the evening commemorated the dragon who brought rain for the crops. Celebrants would observe the moon to divine the future of the people and harvests. Eventually the celebration came to symbolize a reverence for fertility, with prayers given for bountiful harvests, increase in livestock, and human babies. Over time, the prayers for children evolved into a celebration of children. Confucian scholars continued the tradition of gazing at the moon, but to sip wine and improvise poetry and song. By the early twentieth century in Hanoi, the festival had begun to assume its identity as a children’s festival.
An important part of the festival celebration is moon worship. The ancient Chinese believed in rejuvenation being associated with the moon and water, and connected this concept to the menses of women, calling it “monthly water.” The festival is celebrated with many cultural or regional customs, among them:
I am sharing a video explaining the story behind Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality, below:
- A notable part of celebrating the holiday is the carrying of brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, or floating sky lanterns. One tradition involving lanterns, dēng mí (simplified Chinese: 灯谜; traditional Chinese:燈謎), is to write riddles on lanterns and have other people try to guess the answers. Traditionally, the lantern has been used to symbolize fertility, and functioned mainly as a toy and decoration. But today the lantern has come to symbolize the festival itself. In the old days, lanterns were made in the image of natural things, myths, and local cultures.
- Mooncake (simplified Chinese: 月饼; traditional Chinese: 月餅; pinyin: yuè bĭng) is a Chinese bakery product traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival(Zhongqiujie). The festival is for lunar worship and moon watching, when mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy. Mooncakes are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival.Typical mooncakes are round pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 3–4 cm thick. This is the Cantonese mooncake, eaten in Southern China in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau. A rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste is surrounded by a thin (2–3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea. Today, it is customary for businessmen and families to present them to their clients or relatives as presents, helping to fuel a demand for high-end mooncake styles. The energy content of a mooncake is approximately 1,000 calories or 4,200 kilojoules (for a cake measuring 10 cm (3.9 in)).
There is a folk tale about the overthrow of Mongol rule facilitated by messages smuggled in moon cakes.
Mooncakes were used by the Ming revolutionaries in their effort to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China at the end of the Yuan dynasty. The idea is said to have been conceived by Zhu Yuanzhang and his advisor Liu Bowen, who circulated a rumor that a deadly plague of “Hóuzi chuánwěi jíbìng de” was spreading and that the only way to prevent it was to eat special mooncakes, which would instantly revive and give special powers to the user. This prompted the quick distribution of mooncakes. The mooncakes contained a secret message coordinating the Han Chinese revolt on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.
Another method of hiding a message was to print it on the surfaces of mooncakes (which came in packages of four), as a simple puzzle or mosaic. To read the message, each of the four mooncakes was cut into four parts. The resulting 16 pieces were pieced together to reveal the message. The pieces of mooncake were then eaten to destroy the message.
Mooncake still has its connection to our modern day life for it is believed to have been a precursor to the current fortune cookies. By adding the covert element to the myths of the fortune cookie some have found more meaning behind the simple treat. If you’re interested in participating or observing this well celebrated festival by almost one fifth of the earth’s population, here in Central Florida area, give Guang Ming Temple a call at 407-281-8482 or visit https://windermeresun.com/2015/09/01/4104/ for more details. If you’re interested in learning to make some mooncakes to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival, please feel free to check out the video below for recipe in making mooncakes with sweet red bean filling, below (or you can also order mooncakes and/or moon cake mold from amazon):
~Let’s Help One Another~
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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