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Mid-Autumn Festival

One of the most important Chinese festivals is the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar. It is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese people, dating back over 3,000 years to moon worship in Shang Dynasty.
Starting from the Zhou Dynasty (16th-11th centuries BC), Chinese emperors prayed to Heaven for a prosperous year. They chose the morning of the 15th day of the second lunar month to worship the sun and the evening of the 15th day of the eighth lunar month to hold a ceremony in praise of the moon. And it was first called Zhongqiu Jie in the Zhou Dynasty. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907) moon-watching and merry-making had become part of the ritual. During the Northern Song (960-1127), the 15th day of the 8th lunar month was designated as Mid-Autumn Festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a date that parallels the autumn and spring Equinoxes of the solar calendar, when the moon is supposedly at its fullest and roundest. "When the moon is full, mankind is one" -- In China, the full moon has always represented the gatherings of friends and family. Thus, Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunions. On this night, family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomeloes together. This festival has been made even more lively by the three legends of Chang-O Flees to the Moon, Wu Kang Chops Down the Cassia Tree, and the Jade Rabbit Grinds Medicine.

Mooncakes have played a central role in Moon Festival traditions. Although people in different parts of China have different ways to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, one traditional custom is shared by all the Chinese, that is eating mooncakes. So the Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the Moon Festival.

According to popular belief, the custom of eating mooncakes began in the late Yuan dynasty. At that time, the Mongolians subjugated the Han Chinese. Chinese peasants could no longer bear the cruel rule of the Mongolians. A Han Chinese rebel leader named Liu Fu Tong devised a scheme to arouse the Han Chinese to rise up against the ruling Mongols to end the oppressive Yuan dynasty. He sought permission from Mongolian leaders to give gifts to friends as a symbolic gesture to honor the longevity of the Mongolian emperor. These gifts were round mooncakes. They left messages on paper about the plan and placed the messages under the moon-cakes. So all the peasants were informed about the uprising and finally, thus ending the Yuan dynasty.

There are four types of mooncakes : ping, su, kuang, and tai. Ping style mooncakes originated in Peking and resemble sesame cakes, with a crisp and savory outer crust and fillings of bean and jujube pastes. The su style of mooncakes are sweet with a thin, delicate layered crust which is judged according to its tenderness and whiteness. The kuang style are wrapped in a pastry-like crust and are famous for their meticulously prepared fillings, which are carefully selected and include sesame, almond and walnut kernels, shredded coconut, lotus seeds and egg yolk. The tai style of mooncake is traditionally eaten in Taiwan and is also known as "Moonlight Cakes." These cakes use sweet potatoes for filling and are sweet, tender, and tasty without being oily.

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