Chinese Moon Festival - Zhongqiujie

Zhongqiu Jie

The Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節  is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is usually around late September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.   Zhongqiu jie - Chinese Festival

It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest.  The traditional food of this festival is the moon cake, of which there are many different varieties.

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Interesting and Informative Items About Zhongqiu jie from Will and GuyZhongqiu jie

Romance

The Moon Festival, we have discovered, is also a time for romance.

Romanics feel that lovers should spend time together at this festival. They could spend a romantic night together tasting the delicious moon cake with some wine while watching the full moon.

Will and Guy suggest that even if a couple can't be together, they can still enjoy the night by watching the moon at the same time so it seems that they are together at that hour.

Ancient Stories

The period of the Moon Festival is an excuse, if needed, to retell legendary stories.

For example we have researches the legend which tells us that *Chang Er flew to the moon, where she has lived ever since. Look closely and you may see her dancing on the moon during the Moon Festival. Zhongqiu jie Moon Festival

*The time of this story is around 2170 B.C. The earth once had ten suns circling over it, each took its turn to illuminate to the earth. One day all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. The earth was saved by a strong and tyrannical archer Hou Yi. He succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns.

One day, Hou Yi stole the elixir of life from a goddess. However his beautiful wife Chang Er drank the elixir of life in order to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating and flew to the moon. Hou Yi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much, he didn't shoot down the moon.  For a fuller version please look further on this page.

Family Time

The Moon Festival is also an occasion for family reunions. When the full moon rises, families get together to watch the full moon, eat moon cakes, and sing moon poems. The Chinese people love and enjoy the Moon Festival, we have learned.

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Moon Cakes at ZhongqiujieZhongqiu jie Moon Cakes

During the Yuan dynasty [AD.1280-1368] China was ruled by the Mongolian people.  Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy at submitting to foreign rule, and set how to coordinate the rebellion without it being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Backed into each moon cake was a message with the outline of the attack.

On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty [A.D. 1368-1644].

Nowadays moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.

Moon cakes are typically round, symbolizing the full round moon of the mid-autumn festival. The round moon cakes, measuring about three inches in diameter and one and a half inches in thickness are made with melon seeds, lotus seeds, almonds, minced meats, bean paste, orange peels and lard. A golden yolk from a salted duck egg was placed at the centre of each cake, and the golden brown crust was decorated with symbols of the festival. A tasty morsel say Will and Guy.

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The Beautiful, Romantic and Lovely Full Version of the Legend of Chang'e (Chang Er)Zhongqiujie Chang'e story

There are many beautiful legends about the moon in China. The most popular one tells how a goddess named Chang'e ascended to the moon.

A long, long time ago, a terrible drought plagued the earth. Ten suns burned fiercely in the sky like smouldering volcanoes. The trees and grass were scorched. The land was cracked and parched, and rivers ran dry. Many people died of hunger and thirst.

The King of Heaven sent Hou Yi down to the earth to help. When Hou Yi arrived, he took out his red bow and white arrows and shot down nine suns one after another. The weather immediately turned cooler. Heavy rains filled the rivers with fresh water and the grass and trees turned green. Life had been restored and humanity was saved.

One day, a charming young woman, Chang'e makes her way home from a stream, holding a bamboo container, A young man comes forward, asking for a drink. When she sees the red bow and white arrows hanging from his belt, Chang'e realises that he is their saviour, Hou Yi. Inviting him to drink, Chang'e plucks a beautiful flower and gives it to him as a token of respect. Hou Yi, in turn, selects a beautiful silver fox fur as his gift for her. This meeting kindles the spark of their love. And soon after that, they get married.

A mortal's life is limited, of course. So in order to enjoy his happy life with Chang'e forever, Hou Yi decides to look for an elixir of life. He goes to the Kunlun Mountains where the Western Queen Mother lives.

Out of respect for the good deeds the has done, the Western Queen Mother rewards Hou Yi with elixir, a fine powder made from kernels of fruit which grows on the tree of eternity. At the same time, she tells him. 'If you and your wife share the elixir, you will both enjoy eternal life. But if only one of you takes it, that one will ascend to Heaven and become immortal.'

Hou Yi returns home and tells his wife all that has happened and they decide to drink the elixir together on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon is full and bright.

A wicked and merciless man named Feng Meng secretly hears about their plan. He wishes Hou Yi an early death so that he can drink the elixir himself and become immortal. His opportunity finally arrives. One day, when the full moon is rising, Hou Yi is on his way home from hunting, Feng Meng kills him. The murderer then runs to Hou Yi's home and forces Chang'e to give him the elixir: without hesitating, Chang'e picks up the elixir and drinks it all. Zhongqiujie Chang'e story

Overcome with grief, Chang'e rushes to her dead husband's side, weeping bitterly. Soon the elixir begins to have its effect and Chang'e feels herself being lifted towards Heaven.

Chang'e decides to live on the moon because it is nearest to the earth. There she lives a simple and contented life. Even though she is in Heaven, her heart remains in the world of mortals. Never does she forget the deep love she has for Hou Yi and the love she feels for the people who have shared their sadness and happiness.

Chinese Festival Dates for 2011

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Chinese Lantern FestivalChinese Lantern Festival Yuan-Xiao

In Addition To The Chinese Moon Festival in Autumn, There is Also The New Year Lantern Festival.

The Lantern Festival in China is very old; legend has it that there are many wonderful stories about how the Lantern Festival first began.  One story is that in ancient times, people would go in search of spirits with burning sticks. They thought the spirits could be seen during a full moon.

Another is about a lonely young girl, in Han times, who tricked an emperor into having a wonderful festival just so she could visit her family.  The emperor apparently had such an excellent time, he decided to make this festival an annual event.

According to one legend, from ancient times, a celestial swan came into the mortal world where it was shot down by a hunter.  The Jade Emperor, the highest god in Heaven, vowed to avenge the swan.  He started making plans to send a troop of celestial soldiers and generals to Earth on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, with orders to incinerate all humans and animals. 

However, the other celestial beings disagreed with this course of action, and risked their lives to warn the people of Earth.  As a result, before and after the fifteenth day of the first month, every family hung red lanterns outside their doors and set off firecrackers and fireworks, giving the impression that their homes were already burning. By successfully tricking the Jade Emperor in this way, humanity was saved from extermination.

By T'ang times, many families simply set aside one evening, during the first full moon after the new year, to honour the moon. They would sit outside, and gaze up, in awe and delight.

 

 

Footnote
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