I. Symbols :
In general :
Moon Watching and Family Reunion
Eat moon cake
Different parts of China/ other countries, there are different way to celebrate this festival.
It is said that the mid-autumn festival has been in existence for more than 2,000 years. It has been recorded that emperors worshipped the sun in the morning in Spring, and the moon at night in autumn. From Rites of the Zhou, we are told that “in mid-spring, beating earthen drums and playing Bin Shi are aimed at welcoming the approaching of summer, and it is also true of Mid-autumn to awaited the coming of autumn.” These records are the earliest origin of the Mid-autumn Festival. Over time, this custom would also become a traditional activity in which the common people would also practice.
IV. Legendary tales and folk tales
(1) Chang E ascends to the moon
When introducing Chang E, there was another person needed to be introduced- that ‘s Chang E’s husband– Hou Yi. It ‘s said that in ancient times, there were 10 suns up on the sky, then they dried the earth and made the human being and all the other lives on the earth could not make to live. And Hou Yi was a brave and strong man, he shot nine suns down and left only one on the sky, then the creatures on the earth could live on. For his contribution, the God in the heaven awarded him with a magic pill which could make human beings become immortal and would never die. Hou Yi treasured the pill but he did not eat it since he loved his wife so much that he would not leave her wife and become immortal, so he asked his wife to keep the pill. Just one day her wife- Chang E eated the pill along and flied up to the moon… The reasons for Chang E ‘ eating the pill varied among different story versions, also the reason why she chose moon as the residence varies according to different stories. One of the famous version is that she was regarded to save the pill from being stolen by an evil man who tried to steal them while Hou Yi was not home.
Plus, in this story, Chang E brought with her a cute white rabbit up to the moon.
Wu Gang chops the laurel.
Wu Gang ‘s origin has different versions. One said that Wu Gang was once a rude admiral in the heaven world who admired Chang E’s beauty, and kept visiting the moon palace. Chang E then told him that if you could cut the laurel in the yard down then I would accept your proposal. Wu Gang then tried to cut the laurel. But it ‘s not an unusual tree which grew itself very quickly once being cut. So Wu Gang could never make it to cut it down, till today.
The mid-autumn day was not universally observed until the Yuan Dynasty. In the old days, the relationship between the different ethnic groups in China was not harmonious and conflicts often took place among them. In the Yuan Dynasty, although Mongolian herd owners and landlords were the rulers, common Mongolians were still repressed, while the Hans were treated the worst. It was said that, in order to prevent the Hans from staging rebellions, the rulers subjected them to severe disciplines, and appointed one Mongolian official to take control over 10 families. The Hans were not allowed to use iron weapons and 10 families had to share one kitchen knife. To make matters worse, severe famines caused by droughts or floods resulted in further chaos and social disorder. The commoners hated their rulers deeply. Finally, they could not tolerate the oppression any longer, and began secretly conveying messages to one another by hiding notes within cakes. It was said that, before that particular years’ mid-autumn day, Zhang Shicheng from Taizhou secretly inserted a note into moon cake that said “August 15 Night Uprising”, before distributing them to the people. On the night of the 15th, after eating moon cakes, the people seized kitchen knives, and successfully overthrew the Yuan rulers. Since then, eating the moon cakes had become a popular way of commemorating the uprising.
Although this story is no more than a folk tale, the custom of eating moon cakes has progressively developed from people’s tradition of worshipping and enjoying the view of the moon.
Nowadays when Chinese people appreciate the full moon at the mid autumn night, most of them will recall these aging legends and tales, and tell them to the young generation.
In ancient times, literate Chinese would like to make poems while watching the full moon on Mid-autumn day. Thus, there were a lot of masterpieces handed down the history.
The great poet Su Dongpo’s Shui Diao Ge Tou ( Prelude to Water Melody) is considered as one of the best poems depicting this festival. In this poem, he expressed how much he missed his beloved, and also he gave his best wishes to everyone all over the world on the Mid-autumn’s night.
VI. Useful links
Days off for 2010 Mid-autumn Festival:
September 22-24 off work
September 19 and 25 at work