Mooncake festival

25 Sep

Also know as mid-autumn festival, is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.
The festival has been around for over 2000 years, but as with everything has evolved over the years to what our driver described as a time to be thankful for family and gathering to celebrate. Which to me seems much like our Thanksgiving.
The legends behind the moon festival:

“Legend 1:* Chang E Ascending to the Moon*
It is said that there were 10 suns in the sky during the ancient times, scorching the earth and its crops. To save the world from the misery, a skilled archer, Hou Yi, shot down nine of the suns.
Hou Yi’s extraordinary deeds won the love and respect of many common people, some of whom came to him to seek instruction, including Peng Meng, an evil man.
Soon after, Hou Yi married Chang E, a beautiful and kindhearted woman. One day, Hou Yi encountered the Mother Goddess of Heaven, who gave him an elixir of immortality. Unwilling to leave his wife, Hou Yi handed the elixir to Chang E, who hid it in a locker of her dresser. Peng Meng saw the whole process.
Several days later, when Hou Yi went hunting with his apprentices, Peng Meng, pretending to be ill, stayed at home. Soon after they left, Peng, holding a sword in hand, broke into Chang E’s room and tried to force her to give him the elixir. Knowing that she could not defeat him, Chang turned around, got the elixir and swallowed it. Right after she swallowed the elixir, Chang began floating upwards into the sky, and with her heart on her husband, she settled down on the moon, the nearest body from the earth.
When Hou Yi returned home in the evening and learned what had happened, he felt the whole world had collapsed. As he shouted Chang E’s named into the sky, he found the moon that night was especially clear and bright with a swaying silhouette similar to that of his wife. He chased the moon crazily, but failed to catch up in the end, as the moon moved with him.
Missing his wife so much, Hou Yi had no other choice but to have his servants place Chang E’s favorite fruits on a table in the garden where she frequently visited, to worship his beloved wife living on the moon. Informed of the news, other common people also did the same thing, praying to Chang E for good fortune and peace.
Since then, the custom of worshipping the moon on the mid-autumn day has been widespread.
Legend (2): *Wu Gang Cutting the Cherry Bay*
According to another legend about the Mid-autumn Festival, in front of the Guanghan Palace in the moon there is a cherry bay, which has grown exuberantly to a height of more than 500 zhang (about 1,650 meters). Under the tree, there is always a man trying to cut it down with an ax. However, every time he cuts it down, the tree will immediately spring back to its feet. Therefore, the tree has remained there in spite of the man’s relentless efforts to bring it down for thousands of years.
The man was said to be Wu Gang, a native of Xihe County of the Han Dynasty(206BC-220AD), who attained immortality and entered the Heaven through apprenticing under an immortal. One day, he made a mistake, and as a punishment, his master hence demoted him to the moon to do such strenuous but useless labor work.
Legend (3):* Zhu Yuanzhang and Moon Cake Uprising*
The custom of eating moon cakes on Mid-Autumn Festival is said to have begun in the end of Yuan Dynasty(1271-1368). At that time,the general populace, faced with the unbearably cruel governing, rose up against the Yuan Government in succession. Under such circumstances, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the later Ming Dynasty(1368-1644), set out to organize an uprising by uniting the various resisting forces. However, due to the oppressive presence the governmental officials (which included many searches of people and their property), it was extremely hard to deliver messages.
One day, Zhu’s military counselor, Liu Bowen, came upon an idea, and ordered his subordinates to hide paperslips with “Uprising on August 15″ on them in moon cakes. Then, the moon cakes were distributed among insurrectionary armies in different places, asking them to support the uprising on the night of August 15. When the day came, all insurrectionary armies converged to participate in the uprising. Soon, Dadu (Beijing), capital of the Yuan Dynasty, was captured.
When news came of the successful uprising, Zhu Yuanzhang was so delighted that he allowed his men to celebrate the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival with the common people and ordered the moon cakes used for hiding the paper slips to be distributed among the folks. Since then, the moon cakes have been made in a more and more exquisite way, with more varieties, and the custom of eating moon cakes continues to this day.”

Today in China most people still enjoy the full moon and eat moon cakes, but our teacher told is with the 20’s crowd that mooncakes are not yummy. She was amazed that we liked the taste. They are traditionally made with lotus paste, red bean paste, egg yolk, nuts, seeds, raisins, black sesame paste, and then the pastry shell. Today they are made with just about anything, even one company had a gold filled mooncake made to give to a client. They are sold everywhere now too, from Starbucks to family owned bakeries. Our driver takes all the ingredients to a baker outside the city to have them made for his family. He brought some for us to share, they were very delicious, with nuts, raisins, and I’m guessing lotus paste.

Wyatt and Seth would like to find some molds to take back home with us. It’s a fun tradition, what’s not to like about a sweet treat, a full moon, and celebrating with loved ones.

Legends from here.

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