Steve's China Blog

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mmmm.... moon cake!

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional festivity for both the Han and minority nationalities in China. The custom of worshipping the moon can be traced back as far as the ancient Xia and Shang Dynasties (2000 B.C.-1066 B.C.). In the Zhou Dynasty (1066 B.C.-221 B.C.), people held ceremonies to greet winter and worship the moon whenever the Mid-Autumn Festival set in. It became very prevalent in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) that people enjoyed and worshiped the full moon. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 A.D.) people sent round moon cakes to their relatives as gifts in expression of their best wishes of family reunion. When it became dark, they looked up at the full silver moon or went sightseeing by lakes to celebrate the festival.

Since the Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) and Qing Dynasties (1644-1911A.D.), the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival celebration became very popular. Together with the celebration there appeared some special customs in different parts of the country, such as burning incense, planting Mid-Autumn trees, lighting lanterns on towers, and fire dragon dances. Whenever the festival sets in, people will look up at the full silver moon, celebrate their happy life, or think of their relatives and friends far from home and extend all of their best wishes to them.

The round moon cakes, measuring about three inches in diameter and one and a half inches in thickness, somewhat resemble Western fruitcakes in taste and consistency. These cakes were 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 center of each cake, and the golden brown crust was decorated with symbols of the festival. Traditionally, thirteen moon cakes were piled in a pyramid to symbolize the thirteen moons of a "complete year," (twelve moons plus one intercalary moon). Nowadays, there are hundreds of varieties of moon cakes on sale a month before the arrival of Moon Festival.


  • Hmm, You are really going into the Chinese culture and traditions... I missed all those sweet mooncakes. It looks and tastes so delicious. I could remember how happy I was when I was young after got my portion of moon cake, usually several whole ones, I'd put them into a big jar, and had it for my breakfast. But ironically, now, I don't want my kids eats too much of them, I think too much sugar inside. Hopefully I didn't take the happiness from them as well.

    Like you explore China, I start to think if I should attend one of the boy scout's meeting (cup scout's meeting) for my son in the coming Wednesday. Cultures starts to mix together, is that what we call "globalization"...

    By Blogger Kathy, at 3:56 AM  

  • I think the kids will always find some memories of sweets no matter which culture they are in. I remember when I was little and we had Easter candy, and my brother and I (along with some cousins) ate so much candy one year we all got sick from it! Hehe! :)

    By Blogger Steve Harms, at 8:33 AM  

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