Discovering China: Mid-Autumn Festival & The Legend of Chang’E

Learn Everything About Mid-Autumn Festival & The Legend of Chang’E

The Mid Autumn Festival

On the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, is the Mid-Autumn Festival.

This is a major traditional Chinese festival which is widely celebrated in all parts of the country.

Also known as “The Moon Festival”, 中秋节(zhōngqiū jié) it is celebrated at that time of the year when the moon is at its brightest and fullest.

According to Chinese tradition, the roundness of the full moon is strictly connected to a sense of completeness and togetherness, thus Mid-Autumn Festival is a time to be with family.

At night people either go on roofs or gather in courtyards to admire the moon with families.

They burn joss sticks, offer sacrifices to the moon, eat the typical “Mid-autumn Festival foods”, express their love and best wishes for family members and absent friends and tell the magical legends explaining the origin of the festival.

The Complete Guide to the Chinese Lantern Festival Thumbnail

The Complete Guide to the Chinese Lantern Festival

What is the Chinese Lantern Festival? When is Chinese Lantern Festival?Why is it called Lantern Festival?What is the origin of Chinese Lantern Festival?What’s the difference between the Lion Dance and the Dragon Dance?What’s the traditional food eaten on the Chinese…

The most popular one is  “Chang’E Flying to the Moon”. See more below

Any Mid-Autumn feast worth its salt features pumpkin, duck, pear, crab, river snails, taro, wine fermented with osmanthus flowers, etc… but the most traditional and important dessert of this festival is the Mooncake.

Moon Festival Feast - Delicious!
Moon Festival Feast – Delicious!

Mooncakes (月饼 yuèbǐng) are traditional Chinese pastries. They are made from wheat, flour and various kinds of dense stuffing such as; pork, nuts, seeds, lotus seed paste, red bean paste, and egg yolk.

They symbolise prosperity, family reunion, and one cake, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 3–4 cm thick, is traditionally cut into pieces that equal the number of people in the family.

Baking a mooncake at home takes a long time, so most people prefer to purchase their cakes in bakeries and supermarkets.

Automation has speeded up the preparation process considerably and mooncakes have become a big business.

Even though older people complain about younger generations’ children not appreciating the cakes the way they used to, Chinese bakeries, confectionery companies and food-related chains are finding ways to make the pastry into something modernised and cool: recent contemporary forms are even made from ice-cream, chocolate, cream cheese or jelly.

Mooncakes - Traditional Mid-Autumn Festival Food
Mooncakes – Traditional Mid-Autumn Festival Food

Now that you know everything you need to know about the Mid-Autumn Festival on Thursday night, go buy a mooncake, look up to the sky, enjoy the full experience of this beautiful Chinese tradition and take it all in.

Now let’s talk about the legend of the Mid Autumn Festival and how it came about…

Mid-Autumn Festival the legend of Chang’E

On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, people in China celebrate 中秋节(zhōngqiū jié) “MidAutumn Festival”. Zhōngqiū jié is the second most important festival after Chinese New Year and it was first celebrated to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.

It is also known as “The Moon Festival” as it is celebrated when the moon is believed to be the biggest and fullest. This year will be on October 4th, during the Chinese “Golden Week“.

According to Chinese tradition, during Mid-Autumn Festival families gather for dinner, people stare at the bright full moon while having mooncakes as desserts and listening to the magical legends explaining the origin of the festival. Among them, the most popular one is  “Chang’E Flying to the Moon”.

Chang'e - The Legend
Chang’e – The Legend

According to this legend, the beautiful Chang’E (嫦娥) was married to an expert archer, Hou-Yi(后羿). At that time ten suns rose in the sky.

Crops were dying and people were suffering, so one day Hou-Yi used his bow and arrows to shoot down nine of them, leaving just one sun. For this heroic gesture, he was given an elixir of immortality.

Unwilling to take it, he asked his wife Chang’E to keep it safe.

One day, in an emergency situation, the lady took the elixir and became immortal.

As soon as she swallowed the potion, she started to float and flew off, until she finally landed on the moon. Deeply missing his wife, Hou-Yi moved a table under the moon, preparing some food on it in order to make her come back to him. Since then, during the festival, people have offered lots of food to worship Chang’E on the Mid-Autumn Festival night.

Usually, Chinese children are told Chang’E is not alone on the moon because the immortal Jade Rabbit lives there with her.

Mid-Autumn Festival – FAQ’s

When is Mid-Autumn Festival?

Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

How do you say Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese?

Mid-Autumn Festival in Chinese is 中秋节(zhōngqiū jié). It is also known as “The Moon Festival”.

What is famously eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival?

The main thing eaten and given between people during this festival is the Mooncake (月饼 yuèbǐng).

These are a traditional Chinese pastries and come with many different kinds of filling. They are often exchanged between loved ones.

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