Most cultures have a harvest festival and China is no exception. Zhong Qiu Jie (中秋节), the Mid-Autumn Festival, has roots back to ancient times and is an important traditional Chinese holiday. Taking place on the fifteenth day of the eight month of the lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is usually on or close to the time of the “Harvest Moon” when the moon appears at its fullest during the autumnal equinox.
Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the four most important holidays on the Chinese calendar, at Lan Su Chinese Garden the weekend of September 30 & October 1!
The moon’s perfectly round shape forms the ideal symbol of family harmony and unity. The tradition extends to being reunited with loved ones who are far away as you both gaze up at the moon.
The round, sweet-filled mooncake (月餅) is made with pastry decorated with designs and filled with a variety of fillings including seeds, nuts, date paste and smashed beans. Today’s mooncakes are a few inches round. At one time, imperial chefs made them as large as several feet in diameter.
Chinese storytellers have many tales about the Moon Palace and the inhabitants of the moon. One of the most endearing characters of many moon stories is a short-tailed rabbit that pounds the elixir of immortality with a mortar and pestle under a grove of cassia trees.
The most popular inhabitant of the moon stories is the goddess Chang Er. Her tale is a sad one in which she mistakenly swallowed a magic solution of immortality and rose up to inhabit the moon. Her husband, Hou Yi, is fated to govern the solar realm. They only meet when the moon is full. Visit Lan Su’s Garden Shop for more books on Chinese stories and festivals.
The moon is often a subject for poets. Bo Juyi wrote this poem more than 400 years ago:
I, a traveler, came from south of the river,
When the moon was only a crescent.
In my long, distant journeying,
I’ve seen thrice its clear light in full.
At dawn I travel with a waning moon;
When night falls, I lodge with the new moon.
Who says that the moon has no feeling?
Many of the games played have to do with flights of the soul, spirit possession, or fortune telling.
Mid-Autumn Festival at Lan Su Chinese Garden is presented in part by Herbert A. Templeton Foundation, Jackson Foundation, and US Bank Foundation.