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Mid-Autumn Frstival
2004/10/27

One of the most important Chinese festivals is the Mid-Autumn Frstival. Chinese ancestors believed that the seventh, eighth, and ninth lunar months belong to autumn. So the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.

Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations date back more than 2,000 years. In feudal times, 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. In the western district of Beijing is Yuetan Park, which originally Was the Temple of Moon. Every year the emperor would go there to offer a sacrifice to the moon.

In mid-autumn, farmers have just finished gathering their crops and bringing in fruits from the orchards. They are overwhelmed with joy when they have a bumpere harvest and at the same time, they feel quite relaxed after a year of hard work. So the 15th Day of the eighth lunar month has gradually evolved as a widely celebrated festival for ordinary people.

Night falls. The land is bathed in silver moonlight. Families set up tables in their courtyards or sit together on their balconies, chatting and sharing offerings to the moon. together, they enjoy the enchanging spell of night. Naturally, they are reminded of beautiful legends about the moon.

The most popular one tells how a goddess named Chang'e ascended to the moon. A long, long time ago, a terrible drought plagued the earth. Ten suns burned fiercely in the sky like smoldering volcanoes. The trees and grass were scorched. The land was cracked and parched, and rivers ran dry. Many people died of hunger and thirst.

The King of Heaven sent Hou Yi down to the earth to help. When Hou Yi arrived, he took out his red bow and white arrows and shot down nine suns one after another. The weather immediately turned cooler. Heavy rains filled the rivers with fresh water and the grass and trees turned green. Life had been restored and humanity was saved.

One day, a charming young woman, Chang'e makes her way home from a stream, holding a bamboo contaiver, A young man comes forward, asking for a drink. When she sees the red bow and white arrows hanging from his belt, Chang'e tealizes that he is their savior, Hou Yi. Inviting him to drink, Chang'e plucks a beautiful flower and gives it to him as a token of respect.

Hou Yi, in turn, selects a beautiful silver fox fur as his gift for her. This meeting kindles the spark of their love. And soon after that, they get married.A mortal's life is limited, of course. So in order to enjoy his happy life with Chang'e forever, Hou Yi decides to look for an elixir of life.He goes to the Kunlun mountains where the Western Queen Mother lives.

Out of respect for the good deeds the has done, the Western Queen Mother rewards Hou Yi with elixir, a fine powder made from kerndls of fruit which grows on the tree of eternity. At the same time, she tells him:If you and your wife share the elixir, you will both enjoy eternal life. But if only one of you takes it,that one will ascend to Heaven and become immortal.

Hou Yi returns home and tells his wife all that has happened and they decide to drink the elixir together on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month when the moon is full and bright.

A wicked and merciless man named Feng Meng secretly hears about their plan.He wishes Hou Yi an early death so that he can drink the elixir himeslf and become immortal.His opportunity finally arrives. One day,when the full moon is rising, Hou Yi is on his way home from hunting. Feng Meng kills him.

The murderer then runs to Hou Yi's home and forces Chang'e to give him the elixir, Without hesitating, Chang'e picks up the elixir and drinks it all.Overcome with grief, Chang'e rushes to her dead husband's sied, weeping bitterly. Soon the elixir begins to have its effect and Chang'e feels herself being lifted towards Heaven.

Chang'e decides to live on the moon because it is nearest to the earth.There she lives a simple and contented life. Even though she is in Heaven,her heart remains in the world of mortals. Never does she forget the deep love she has for Hou Yi and the love she feels for the people who have shared their sadness and happiness.

For thousands of years, the Chinese people have related the vicissitudes of life to changes of the moon as it waxes and wanes; joy and sorrow, parting and reunion. Because the full moon is round and symbolizes reunion, the Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as the festival of reunion. All family members try to get together on this special day. Those who can not return home watch the bright moonlight and feel deep longing for their loved ones.

Today,festivities centered about the Mid-Autumn Festival are more varied. After a family reunion dinner, many people like to go out to attend special perfomances in parks or on public squares.

In Guangzhou in South China, a huge lantern show is a big attraction for local citizens. Thousands of differently shaped lanterns are lit, forming a fantastic contrast with the bright moonlight.In East Chia's Zhejiang Province, watching the flood tide of the Qiantang River during the Mid-Autumn Festival is not only a must for local peple,but also an attraction for those from other parts of the country. The ebb and flow of tides coincide with the waxing and waning of the moon as it exerts a strong gravitational pull. In mid -autumn, the sun, earth and moon send out strong gravitational forces upon the seas. The mouth of the Qiantang River is shaped lik a bugle. So the flood tide which forms at the narrow mouth is particularly impressive. Spectators crowd on the river bank,watching the roaring waves. At its peak, the tide rises as high as three and a half meters.

People in different parts of China have different ways to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. But one traditional custom has definitely remained and is shared by all the Chinese. This is eating the festive specialty: cakes shaped like the moon.

There is this story about the moon-cake. It says that in the 14th century, Chinese peasants could no longer bear the cruel rule of the Mongolians.They secretly planned an uprising on the night of the Mid -Autumn Festival.

The peasant leaders took advantage of the custom of sending moon-cakes as festive presents. 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, they won the battle.

Originally,moon-cakes were a family tradition. But gradually they began to appear at markets and stores. The moon-cakes made in various parts of the country have very different flavors. For instance, Beijing moon-cakes have a thin crust and fillings of bean and jujube pastes. So they are very sweet.

Suzhou moon-cakes have a special people's favorite. Guangdong moon-cakes are perhaps the most delicately made.the fillings are carefully selected and include sesame, almond and walnut kernels, shredded coconut, lotus seeds and egg yolk. So don't forget to taste all the delicious moon-cakes at the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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