Sunday, September 14, 2008

Autumn Asks: Have you heard of the Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid Autumn Festival. Click to send E-card to your friends.How about a little cultural lesson today? Now, I'm not an expert on this subject, it is a learned cultural custom from China. If I get it wrong, please feel free to let me know! Most of my info comes from the internet and word of mouth from other adoptive I could be way off! LOL! This year the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 14th.

The festival is the second most important festival to the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) to Chinese people. Every year, when the festival comes people go home from every corner of the world to meet their family and have dinner with them. It is sort of like America's Thanksgiving.
In China, the full moon is a symbol of peace and prosperity of the whole family.

Mid Autumn Festival has a history of 2000 years. The main celebrations consist of appreciating the moon, eating moon cakes together and Making Chinese Mid-Autumn Lanterns.

Here are some legendary stories for the Moon Festival.
Chang'e and the moon cakes - Mid autumn festival

The Legend of Chang Er

The date 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. But 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.

2) The Man - Wu Kang

Wu Kang was a shiftless fellow who changed apprenticeships all the time. One day he decided that he wanted to be an immortal. Wu Kang then went to live in the mountains where he importuned an immortal to teach him. First the immortal taught him about the herbs used to cure sickness, but after three days his characteristic restlessness returned and he asked the immortal to teach him something else. So the immortal to teach him chess, but after a short while Wu Kang's enthusiasm again waned. Then Wu Kang was given the books of immortality to study. Of course, Wu Kang became bored within a few days, and asked if they could travel to some new and exciting place. Angered with Wu Kang's impatience, the master banished Wu Kang to the Moon Palace telling him that he must cut down a huge cassia tree before he could return to earth. Though Wu Kang chopped day and night, the magical tree restored itself with each blow, and thus he is up there chopping still.

3) The Hare - Jade Rabbit

In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The sages were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit."

4) The Cake - Moon Cake

During the Yuan dynasty (A.D.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). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.

By Chinese Fortune-Telling Calendar

Traditional foods for a Chinese Mid-Autumn feast are red — for good luck. Lobster and salmon are particular favorites along with apples, pomegranates, roasted peanuts, pomelo, chestnuts, fatt koh (sponge cakes) and moon cakes.

The Austin FCC (Families with Children From China) will be hosting their Autumn Moon Festival at the Austin Childrens Museum on September 28th. I hope our family is able to make the drive and attend. One of my only complaints about our community here is the lack of cultural activities available.

My next big thing will be to try and make moon cakes at home. So far I have not done so as I cannot find the ingredients for the center here in this town. And, I'm a little intimidated to try a recipe with ingredients I am so unfamiliar with. So if you have a recipe, please pass it on!

1 comment:

  1. I have never heard of it before.

    But I miss chinese pastry in San Francisco more than I can say. Lotus bean buns, Red bean buns, these little coconut things, ooooooooooo