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The Mid-Autumn Festival: History and Features

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1193 words Published: 31st Jul 2018

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The Mid-Autumn Festival also known as the Mooncake Festival or the Festival of Lanterns is one of the most important traditional Chinese festivals, celebrated by many Asian countries, like China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore. This report is divided into three main sections. It will first look at the history and legends of the Mid-Autumn Festival. It will then focus on the celebration in Taiwan. Then there will be a conclusion in the last part.

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The information of this report is come from website such as online library, university journal, and online news. In this report I will use the information which is from online library, and university journal to explain the background as these information is more trustable. The information from online news is used to explain the celebration in Taiwan because it reflects what we do and the meaning for us nowadays.

History and legends of the Mid-Autumn Festival

The everyday life of ancient Chinese is closely related to nature. In thousands of natural substances, the moon was one of the most difficult things and amazing phenomena for Chinese to comprehend. (Siu, 1999) Ancient Chinese believes that the life of plants was provided by the moon since they found out that plants grew at night. (Siu, 1999) In addition people could not explain why the shape of the moon always varied therefore ancient Chinese associated the phenomena to the lives of people and animals. (Siu, 1999)

The Mid-Autumn Festival is on the 15th of the 8th lunar month and the moon is at its brightest, roundest and it is the nearest to the earth on this date. In fact autumn is also the best time for harvesting and gathering all the family members together to celebrate the harvest and enjoy the view of the moon. (Tan, 2004) ”The festival probably started off as a post-autumn harvest celebration more than 2,000 years ago. The celebrations were devoted to giving thanks to the gods. It was during the reign of Emperor Tai Tsung of the Song Dynasty that the 15th day of the 8th moon was set as the Mid-Autumn Festival and praying to the moon became popular. Legends associated with the full moon were later attached to this festival.” (Tan, 2004)

There are two legends associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival. One of them is Hou Yi and Chang-E and the other one is the rabbit on the moon. (Tan, 2004) The legend of Hou Yi and Chang-E is talking about that the earth was saved from scorching by an archer, Hou Yi who shot nine suns that originally circled the earth. (Tan, 2004) After Hou Yi saved the world he was rewarded the elixir of life so that he got the endless lifetime with the elixir, however he became so tyrannical that his wife, Chang-E stole the elixir and drank it to end Hou Yi’s life for the sufferers who were ruled by Hou Yi. (Tan, 2004) Chang-E found that she was on the moon after she drank the elixir and was escalated to status of Moon Goddess as she save the sufferers from Hou Yi. (Tan, 2004) ”This legend is believed to have been started during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) although some believe it may have started earlier, tracing it to the rule of Emperor Yuan (2346 BC).” (Tan, 2004) The other legend is about a rabbit and Buddha who had pretended himself as a hungry old man and asked three animals; a fox, a monkey, and a rabbit, getting some food for him. (Tan, 2004) Instead of bringing a fish or fruits, the rabbit jumped into the fire and offered itself as meat to Buddha. (Tan, 2004) The rabbit was resurrected and sent to the moon to be venerated by Buddha with appreciation. (Tan, 2004) Nowadays Chang-E and lord rabbit are traditional icons of the Mid-Autumn Festival as we can see a lot of advertisement of moon cake with these two icons which remind us these two legends.

The Mid-Autumn Festival celebration in Taiwan

In Taiwan, there are three biggest celebrations; the Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival which is also called ‘Zhong Qiu Jie’ in Mandarin. (Yeo, 2012) The Mid-Autumn Festival was brought to Taiwan by the immigrants from China. (Wang, 2014) Many Western concepts that include barbecue were imported into Taiwan during the period of the Japanese colonization of Taiwan by the Japanese government. (Wang, 2014) After 1945 a lot of people moved into the city for jobs from the countryside. On the Mid-Autumn Festival barbecue becomes to be the best way for these migrants to make the new relationship between the migrants closer because barbecue is an activity that needs everyone’s cooperation from lighting a fire, preparing the meat, and barbecuing. (Wang, 2014) Even nowadays on the Mid-Autumn Festival, most Taiwanese will barbecue with their friends since it is easier to meet up with friends on this Taiwan-declared public holiday instead of at weekdays. (Yeo, 2012) Besides mooncakes is also very important on the Mid-Autumn Festival. This traditional dessert is usually packed as gift boxes which contain not only mooncakes but also other pastries such as’luo buo si bing’ (radish pastry) and ‘gui yuan dan gao’ (longan cake) to up the warmth of the festival. (Yeo, 2012)


As one of the most important traditional festival in Chinese, the Mid-Autumn Festival is full of historical and cultural meaning. In addition it gives people a chance to meet up with friends and families to enjoy the beautiful view of the brightest moon and delicious barbecue and mooncakes in this busy society. The round image of the moon and its cultural meaning of reunion make us cherish the time of gathering. Even though not everyone can get together with their friends and families especially for those people who are working or studying in foreign countries, the Mid-Autumn Festival still reminds these people to send their friends and families a massage to show how they miss each other.

Reference list

Siu, K.W.M. (1999). Lanterns of the Mid-Autumn Festival: A Reflection of Hong Kong Cultural Change (pp. 67).Retrieved from Wiley Online Library. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0022-3840.1999.3302_67.x/abstract

Tan, B. (2004). Mooncake Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie). Retrieved from National Library Board Singapore. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_804_2005-01-13.html

Yeo, J. (2012, September 20). Traditional BBQ for Mid-Autumn Festival ? Yahoo Lifestyle. Retrieved from https://sg.style.yahoo.com/news/traditional-bbq-mid-autumn-festival-132534304.html

Wang, C. (2014). The Barbecue in Moon Festival: Discussing the Social Change of Moon Festival Activities (pp.93-110). Retrieved from Chung Hsing Journal Humanities Edition. http://ir.lib.nchu.edu.tw/bitstream/11455/88022/1/85470-3.pdf


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