Kelvin Smith Library
This guide had been created for the Asian Mid-Autumn Festival sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, First-Year Experience and Family Programs, and the Center for International Affairs of CWRU.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated in several Southeast and Northeast Asian countries, especially among those of Chinese descent. The celebration is on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, which is the middle of the autumn season (the autumn season being the seventh, eighth, and ninth lunar months.) In the Gregorian calendar, the festival falls sometime around mid- to late September, or early October. Let's take a look at how this holiday is observed in different countries.
China (Zhongqiu Jie)
The festival is set aside to enjoy the "successful reaping of rice and wheat in a busy agricultural year." Originally, it was an outdoor festival for thanksgiving and pleasure after heavy farming labors. Altars were set up in family courtyards under the moon. Offerings of melons, cakes, and pomegranates and other fruit were presented in honor of the moon. Today, it is a time for friends and families to gather together, to enjoy a big dinner, to eat moon cakes (Yuebing), to sip tea, and to watch the moon with a perfectly round shape symbolizing "familial harmony and unity." There have been many well-known poems, paintings and writings about the clear and bright moon of the Mid-autumn Day, expressing homesickness from travelers or those far away from home. The round shape of moon cakes is another symbol of family reunion.The fillings of moon cakes include date paste, smashed bean, walnut, cassia bloom, egg yolk, salted meat, melon seeds and lotus seed paste.
In Chinese mythology, Goddess Chang E lives lonely in the lunar "Palace of Great Cold." She was separated from her husband Hou Yi after she swallowed the elixir of life, which her husband received from the Queen Mother of the West. Her rabbit accompanies her and is pounding the elixir of immortality with a mortar and pestle. Another inhabitant of the moon is the wood cutter Wu Gang. He was sentenced by the Jade Emperor to chop down a cassia tree (seen as the giver of life) which can magically heal itself and thus he can never make any progress.