Zhongqiujie - 中秋快乐!
Zhongqiujie, which is also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. It is a time for family members and loved ones to congregate and enjoy the full moon — an auspicious symbol of abundance, harmony and luck. Adults will usually indulge in fragrant mooncakes of many varieties with a good cup of piping hot Chinese tea, while the little ones run around with their brightly-lit lanterns.
Zhongqiujie probably began as a harvest festival. The festival was later given a mythological flavor with legends of Lady Chang'e, the beautiful lady in the moon.
According to Chinese mythology, the earth once had ten suns circling over it. One day, all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. The earth was saved when a strong archer, Hou Yi, succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. Yi stole the elixir of life to save the people from his tyrannical rule, but his wife, Chang'e drank it. Thus started the legend of the lady in the moon to whom young Chinese girls would pray at the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In the 14th century, the eating of mooncakes at Zhongqiujie was given a new significance. The story goes that during the Ming revolution, when Zhu Yuan Zhang was plotting to overthrow the Yuan Dynasty started by the Mongolians, the rebels hid their messages in the Mid-Autumn mooncakes. Zhongqiujie is hence also a commemoration of the overthrow of the Mongolians by the Han people.
This story of hidden messages encased within a simple treat has led some to view the mooncake as a precursor to the modern day fortune cookie.
Typical mooncakes are filled with a lotus seed or red bean paste and are usually shared between friends and family. Small wedges of mooncake are accompanied with tea. Some moon cakes contain salted egg yolks in their center, symbolizing the full moon. Traditional mooncakes often have an imprint of the Chinese characters for longevity or harmony on their tops along with the name of the bakery, the type of filling contained within, stylized imagery of Lady Chang'e, flowers, vines or rabbits surrounding the characters for added decoration. Why rabbits? They, too, are a symbol of the moon in Chinese culture.
The Mid-Autum Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Han lunar calendar, which is usually during the Autumnal Equinox. On the Gregorian calendar, it falls between Sept. 8 and Oct. 7. Upcoming dates for the Mid-Autumn Festival are:
- Sept. 15, 2016
- Oct. 4, 2017
- Sept. 24, 2018
- Sept. 13, 2019
- Oct. 1, 2020
To learn more about the Mid-Autumn Festival or other events offered by the University of Idaho Confucius Institute, contact us by email or call 208-885-7110.