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All you need to know about the Mid-Autumn Festival

Mooncake

Mid-Autumn Festival

If you do business in China, you’ll be more than familiar with the Mid-Autumn Festival (or Mooncake Festival) – the second most important festival to Chinese people after the New Year. You may already have a stack of uneaten cakes piling up on your desk – as business partners, colleagues, employees, friends or family seek to acknowledge you during this traditional gift-giving time of the lunar year.

This year, the Mid-Autumn festival will take place on 4th October – marking the time of year when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

It is a time for families to be together or people far from home will stare at the moon and think about their family members.



 

Legends of the festival

 

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Chang'e Flying to the Moon

The most famous Mid-Autumn Festival legend is the story about Chang’e flying to the moon.

Long, long time ago, there were ten suns in the sky. The suns burnt strong to earth and all the plants and people were dying on Earth. Until one day the excellent archer Hou Yi used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of the suns. Hou Yi saved the Earth, and people surged to learn archery from the archer.

For his bravery, the Western Queen Mother gave Hou Yi a bottle of elixir that could make a person immortal. But Hou Yi did not want to become immortal because he wanted to stay with his wife Chang’e more. To save the elixir from the evil powers, Hou Yi gave the bottle to his wife.

Pang Meng, one of his students, tried to take the elixir when Hou Yi wasn’t at home. To save the elixir from Pang Meng, Chang’e decided to drink the elixir. After this, she became immortal and fly to the moon where she would stay forever.

To remember her, Hou Yi and others started to worship the moon with many sacrifices.

Chang’e’s image is shown on Mid-Autumn Festival pictures. According to the legend, Chang’e is still living on the moon.

 

 

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Wu Gang Chopping the Cherry Bay

The second story is also set on the moon and is about a lazy woodman.

Wu Gang the woodman wanted immortality, but he didn’t try hard enough to learn the necessary magic.

The Emperor of Heaven got angry with him because of his attitude. In order to punish him, the Emperor of Heaven planted a huge cherry bay tree, 1,665 meters (about a mile) high, on the moon and told Wu Gang that if he could cut it down, he could become immortal.

Wu Gang thought this was his chance to try hard at something he was good at to gain immortality. However, the Emperor of Heaven had made it so that the cherry bay healed every time Wu Gang chopped it!

Today, people still believe an obvious shadow on the moon is made by the huge cherry bay.

 

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The Jade Rabbit

In the next legend, a rabbit is the main character in the third famous Chinese Mid-Autumn story. According to the legend, the rabbit lives on the moon with Chang'e.

Anytime, a fox, a rabbit, and a monkey were living in a forest.

Three Immortals went through the forest and bluffing they were beggars. On their way, they ask the animals for food. The fox and the monkey gave them food right away.

The rabbit has no food for the beggars and felt guilty. Because of this, the rabbit jumped into the fire to give himself.

The three immortals were moved by the rabbit’s sacrifice and decided to give the rabbit an immortality, sending her to live in the Moon Palace.

Since this day the rabbit live with Chang'e on the moon as an immortal spiritual being.



 

Customs

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At this wonderful festival, family members meet to offer sacrifice to the moon. They enjoy the bright full moon, eat moon cakes, and celebrate a festival for family members and friends who live far away. In some regions, there are some other customs like playing lanterns, and dragon and lion dances.

But the Mid-Autumn Festival is also a public holiday for Chinese people. Usually, the Chinese will have three days off including a weekend. This is the chance for some families to go on short trips with family or friends.

But be careful: People plan the tour to their preferred cities or places a couple weeks ago. And during the 3-day moon-festival-holiday, train tickets are often sold out very early.



 

Typical Festival Food

 

Mooncake

Moon Cake (yuè bǐng 月饼)

Whether yours is filled with a salted egg, lotus seed or red bean paste, mooncakes are an essential delicacy of the Mid-Autumn Festival. (That’s where the name Mooncake Festival comes from!) Customarily sold as a set of four, mooncakes are given to family, friends and business partners as a gesture of unity and togetherness. Each cake is typically round in shape to represent the bursting moon, and stamped with a Chinese symbol wishing “harmony” or “longevity.”

Legend has it, mooncakes were once a form of secret communication to unite the Han Chinese against the ruling Mongolians. Aware that the Mongols were not interested in eating these sweet snacks adored by the Chinese, underground leaders were able to distribute mooncakes throughout the region during the Mid-Autumn Festival with secret messages stuffed inside.

These are the most common fillings of the moon cake:

Mooncake

Lotus seed paste (莲蓉, lían róng): It is made from dried lotus seeds. Lotus seed paste is considered by some people the most delicious and luxurious filling for mooncakes.


Mooncake

Sweet bean paste (豆沙, dòu shā): There are several types of sweet bean paste: mung bean paste, red bean paste and black bean potato paste. Red bean paste is the most commonly used filling for mooncakes.


Mooncake

Five kernel (五仁, wǔ rén): This filling consists of 5 types of nuts and seeds. The types of nuts and seeds vary according to different regions, but commonly used nuts and seeds include: walnuts, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, and almonds.


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Egg yolk (蛋黄, dàn huáng): A whole salted egg yolk is placed in the center of mooncakes to symbolize the full moon.


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Jujube paste (枣泥, zăo ní): A sweet paste made from the ripe fruits of the jujube (date) plant. It is dark red in color.


 

Pumpkin

The Pumpkin represents the autumn and the round shape symbolizes the full moon. According to a legend, eating the pumpkin on the night of the moon festival bring health and fitness for the rest of the year.



 

Best Places to Celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival in Beijing

 

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Tv tower in Beijing, lighting in evening

CCTV Tower

The CCTV Tower is 385 meters (1260 ft) high. At 221 meters (725 ft) high is a restaurant where you can enjoy a Western buffet, Chinese and Japanese styles, together with different barbecues.

At a height of 238 meters (781 ft) is a platform, which provides telescopes for visitors to have a clear and breathtaking view of Beijing. The CCTV tower is located at West Third Ringroad Central in Haidian District.

  • Address: No.11 Xisanhuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing; Shijingshan 石景山11 Xisanhuan Zhonglu Haidian District海淀区西三环中路11号
  • Admission Fee: 70 Yuan
  • Opening Hours: 8:30AM - 10:00PM

 

 

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Lugou Bridge

Each year you could visit a temple fair at Wanping Town east of Lugou Bridge to celebrate the Moon Festival. A visit to a temple fair is a cultural experience.

Visitors have a chance to watch Chinese traditional folk art, such as performances of lion and dragon dances. In addition, it provides a good opportunity to explore the local lifestyle by meeting some locals.

The place is located around 15 km (10 miles) southwest of Tiananmen Square in Fengtai District.

  • Address: Yongding River, Fengtai District, 丰台区卢沟桥                                  
  • Opening Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

 

Mooncake

 

Yangtaishan

This place is famous for its full moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Here it is possible for families and friends to walk along the tree-lined path, enjoying the fresh air, and see the full moon in the evening.

The location is suited 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Tian’anmen, in Haidian District.

  • Address: Anhe Town, Haidian District, 阳台山路
  • Admission Fee: 8 RMB for adult and half price for student
  • Opening Hours: 07:00 - 18:00

 

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Rebecca Andresen

Rebecca Andresen

I try to give some practical advice but I also try to dispel some of the myths floating around about expat life. I'm a third culture kid as well so I try to share that experience and how it affects my life as an expat or living overseas.
This is my 14th year of being an expat in China and in all kind of forms - child, teenager, student, spouse and working.
Rebecca Andresen

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