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About Mid-Autumn Festival Customs

Editor: zhenglimin 丨CCTV.com

09-14-2016 17:15 BJT

Full coverage: Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

General Customs

Gazing at the Moon

Gazing at the Moon is an ancient tradition from the Zhou Dynasty (around 500 BC) when people held ceremonies to welcome the full moon,with huge outdoor feasts of moon cakes, watermelons, apricots, apples, grapesand other fresh fruits. The popularity of this ancient tradition began to grow during the Tang and Song Dynasties when people of high rank held banquets intheir big courtyards. They drank fine wine, watched the moon and listened tomusic. Common people who could not afforded as big parties as the rich would lay some food such as moon cakes and fruits on a table in the courtyard and pray to the moon for a good harvest. This underwent a great rise during the Song Dynasty, and historical documents tells about mid-autumn night in the capital, where people would stream to the night markets and together with their families admire the beauty of the full moon. There are also many classic songs and well-known verses about this tradition.

Nowadays, people still like appreciating the moon on Mid-Autumn Festival in China. Chinese family members have dinner together in the evening of Mid-Autumn Festival. After the dinner, they may talk about their work, the children, and their future plans. Sometimes, people go to a park to see the decorations made for the festival.

Eating Moon Cakes

Eating moon cakes while watching the full moon is a centralpart of the mid-autumn festival throughout China, and is a symbol of familyunity. At the very beginning, the moon cakes were served as a sacrifice to the Moon. The words mooncake first appeared in the Southern Song Dynasty, even though, atthat time, the moon cakes were not round.

Nowadays, moon cakes are given aspresents to loved ones and it represent people's wishes to be together duringthe mid-autumn festival.

Making Chinese Mid-Autumn Lanterns

Mid-Autumn lanterns are not as colorful as those of the Lantern Festival. There is no big lantern party during Mid-Autumn Festival, but children like making colorful lanterns very much. They make lanterns of different shapes and let them float on the rivers. They don't leave the riverside until the light of the lanterns disappears. Sometimes, they make Kongming (Hung Ming) lanterns, which can fly because the burning candles heat the air in the lantern. The lantern rises with the heated air.

Regional Customs

·Customs of Middle-Autumn Festival in Old Beijing

Most of these customs have been forsaken with the modernization of the city. Today, they are still remembered by those who strive to keep their centuries-old tradition.

Worshiping the Moon

In old days, a platform for moon worshipping was set up in each house when the Mid-Autumn Festival approached. The offerings on the platform were mainly mooncakes and sometimes fruits were added. Fruits were meticulously arranged according to tradition. Peaches and pomegranates were traditionally put together, which symbolized big families; chestnuts and persimmons were arranged together, symbolizing prosperity; and longans were sprinkled, meaning family unity. For families with members far away from home, a bowl of lotus roots was laid, which expressed that the people away were missed.

Watching the Moon

Watching the moon was very popular in Beijing. There are two methods of moon-gazing: watching the moon directly and watching the reflection of the moon in water. Other entertainments accompanying watching the moon included writing prose, painting the moon and guessing riddles written on lanterns.

Watching Flowers

A "flower mountain" made up of pots of various flowers was set up on the window sill of each house when the Mid-Autumn Festival was near. On the night of the festival, the family would gather and watch the flowers.

Playing with Rabbit Figurines

A rabbit figurine is a popular Mid-Autumn Festival toy in old Beijing. The figurine is an artistic image of a personified or even deified rabbit based on the legendary jade rabbit on the moon. The figurines are made of clay and come in various shapes, but all are white-faced, wearing golden helmets and armors, with flags or canopies on the back. They ride such animals as lions, tigers, deer and elephants.

Rabbit figurines began to appear in markets from early in the eighth Chinese month (somewhere in the period late August to late September).They were the most popular items in the month of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Nowadays, rabbit figurines have been gradually forgotten. The only places where they are likely to be seen are folk culture museums and art shops.

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