Mario Poceski, Professor of Buddhist Studies and Chinese Religions, University of Florida
With the arrival of September and hints of cooler temperatures moreover comes one in every of most important typical festivals throughout the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Zhongqiu jie (中秋節), also known as the Moon Festival.
At this time of the 12 months, the Chinese retailer down the freeway from our residence in Gainesville, Florida, is stocked with mooncakes, acknowledged in Chinese as yuebing (月餅). The similar is true of Chinese outlets world vast. There is even the selection these days of buying these desserts from on-line retailers similar to Amazon.
These typical delicacies are readied in anticipation of the competitors, seen on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month. This is a time for family and associates to assemble, watch the full moon and eat mooncakes and completely different delicacies. Other festivity highlights embody public lantern reveals, dance occasions, typical performances and worship of the moon goddess and completely different deities.
Because of the central theme of family reunion, usually the competitors evokes comparison to Thanksgiving throughout the U.S.
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Mooncakes: Tradition and innovation
The gifting and eating of mooncakes is arguably basically probably the most emblematic attribute of the competitors. The spherical type of the mooncake is meant to evoke an image of the full moon. The roundness of the full moon, in flip, symbolizes wholeness; by extension, it conveys a manner of spiritual contentment, coming collectively and reunion.
Usually, mooncakes embody traditional fillings, similar to purple bean or white lotus seed paste. There are many regional variations, a number of of which embody a preserved egg yolk throughout the heart. The yellow egg yolk gives one different layer of symbolism, as a result of it resembles the spherical moon throughout the sky.
Additionally, there are contemporary flavors similar to chocolate, espresso or inexperienced tea. It is even potential to hunt out ice cream mooncakes. These are created by enterprise ice cream companies as a strategy to faucet into the worthwhile mooncake market and cater to updated tastes.
The legends behind the competitors
As a scholar of Chinese religions, I’m notably fascinated by the legends associated to the origins of the competitors. These are notable elements of widespread lore, rooted in China’s prolonged historic previous and rich cultural traditions.
Customarily, the Mid-Autumn Festival is said to the favored legend about Chang’e (嫦娥), the goddess of the moon. The earliest versions of the story could possibly be traced once more to the Warring States, a significant historic interval between 475-221 B.C., marked by recurrent warfare, bureaucratic reforms and political consolidation.
Chang’e is alleged to have stolen the elixir of immortality from her husband, Yi, the nice archer and hero of Chinese mythology. She then escaped to the moon, the place she was condemned to a lonely existence.
Later variations of the story, nonetheless knowledgeable presently, present a further flattering image of the goddess. She is described as a model of feminine magnificence and sophistication. She digests the elixir solely as a strategy to cease it from falling throughout the palms of an evil explicit individual. She then chooses the moon as her immortal abode, to be close to her beloved husband.
On his half, Yi makes sacrifices to his departed partner that attribute muffins and fruits. The native people sympathize with him and likewise start making the similar selections.
To this day, Chinese people proceed this practice, making selections of mooncakes in commemoration of the goddess as they make wants or pray for familial unity and harmony.
In the agricultural society of premodern China, the Mid-Autumn Festival was linked with harvesting season celebrations.
The time interval “mid-autumn,” which grew to turn into the title of the competitors, appears in “Zhou li” (周禮), or the Rites of Zhou. This is among the many early Confucian classics, the core texts that signify the first canon of classical Confucianism. The earliest historic previous of the competitors is not sure, nevertheless college students have confirmed that its celebration already occurred all through the Tang era that lasted from 618-907 A.D., and elevated in recognition all through the later imperial period.
Celebrations in several Asian nations
The Mid-Autumn Festival could be celebrated in Asian worldwide areas previous China, along with among the many many Chinese diaspora in several components of the world. This may be very the case with Southeast Asian countries with big ethnically Chinese populations, similar to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Besides moon watching and the ever-present mooncakes, amongst its distinctive choices are the performances of typical dances and the lanterns carried by children, as they stroll beneath the glow of the full moon with their light illuminating the path.
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