Mid-Autumn Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival – Zhong Qiu Jie

In 2009 the Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on Saturday, 3 October

The traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, is better known as the Mooncake or Lantern festival. The happy festival may have begun as a harvest thanksgiving celebration, coinciding with the harvest season in China – always an occasion for rejoicing.
The Mooncake festival is celebrated by eating mooncakes. Some families bake one large cake and each member eats a piece as a symbol of their unity. The mooncake is shaped like a drum the size of a small saucer, and filled with lotus seed or red bean paste and melon seeds. A salted duck’s egg yolk, symbolizing the moon, forms its core. When the cake is sliced in the middle, the golden yolk resembles the full moon. Mooncakes are also offered to ancestors.

Mid-Autumn myths

Chang-E and Hou Yi

Once upon a time, the earth had ten suns. They burned the crops and people suffered infertility. Hou yi sympathized with humans, so he decided to shoot down nine suns. After he shot down the suns, he was treated as a hero. He had a beautiful wife named Chang'e, and they lived happily together. One day, on Houyi’s way back home, the emperor of the immortals gave Houyi two pills, each of which granted eternal life as a reward for shooting down the suns, one was for Houyi, and the other for his wife. He warned Houyi, “Make no haste to swallow the pill.” Houyi was to wait until New Years Day, on which he and Chang'e were supposed to eat the pills together. Chang’e put the pill in her jewelry box for safekeeping. But Peng, one of Houyi’s apprentices, discovered their secret and decided to steal the pill. One day, when Houyi and other apprentices went to the mountain, Peng pretended to be sick so that he could stay home. After everyone had gone to the mountain, Peng sneaked into Chang’e’s room and forced her to give him the pill. Chang’e knew she couldn't fight Peng, so she ate the pill herself. However, after eating it alone, she began to float. Unable to come back to earth, she took flight and flew far, far away. She did not want to leave her husband, so she stopped at the moon, which is the body closest to Earth. After Houyi found out what happened, he was very angry and heartbroken. He looked up into the night and called Chang’e’s name. He discovered that inside the moon there was a lady’s shadow that look like Chang’e, so he ran and ran and tried to reach the moon. He failed due to the wind.

From: Wikipedia, version 1

Mooncakes and Mongols

Mooncakes once played an important part in liberating China from the hated Mongols in the 14th century. The Mongols, to foil any subversion, billeted their soldiers in Chinese households. This tightened security led to greater friction with the Chinese, who organized a revolt. Seeing that Mongols didn’t eat mooncakes, secret messages naming Rebellion Day were hidden in mooncakes and passed from neighbor to neighbor under the very nose of the Mongol soldiers. The revolt was successful and in 1368, the first emperor of the Chinese Ming dynasty ascended the Dragon Throne.

From: Fun with Chinese Festivals, Tan Huay Peng, ISBN 97809812326478