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Chinese Mooncake Festival

Updated on June 8, 2013


Chinese Mooncake Festival has many names such as Mid Autumn Festival, Lantern Festival and also Moon Festival. Whatever name we call it, this festival goes hand in hand with mooncakes and lanterns. And it is a celebration of unity.

Moon Goddess Chang'e
Moon Goddess Chang'e


Every year on the fifteenth day of the eight month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the Chinese celebrate Mooncake Festival otherwise known as “zhongqiujie”. At this point in time, the moon being at the fullest and roundest shines on us with its utmost brilliance. Many a times we listened to the tale of the Moon Goddess living on the moon. This legend dates back to 2170BC during the reign of Emperor Yao. According to legend, at that time there were ten suns. This phenomenon was causing the earth to burn. Emperor Yao then ordered the great archer General Houyi to shoot down the nine additional suns. Houyi succeeded in this almost impossible task and was rewarded with a pill that gives eternal life. However he has to pray and fast for a year before consuming the pill. One day his beautiful wife Chang’e found the pill and swallowed it. She began to float towards the sky and finally ended up on the moon. And she lived there ever since. Legend has it that Chang’e beauty is the greatest on “zhongqiujie”.

This description appears in written form in two Western Han dynasty collections (206 BC-24 AD):

1) Shan Hai Jing, the Classic of the Mountains and Seas

2) Huainanzi, a philosophical classic.

A famous folk tale surrounding Chinese Mooncake Festival is the uprising of the Chinese against the Mongol rulers in the 14th century. The Chinese rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang was planning for a rebellion. However group gatherings were banned by the Mongols. How do the Chinese coordinate this plan? Knowing that the Mongols do not eat mooncakes, they distributed thousands of mooncakes to the people on the pretext of blessing the Mongol emperor. Inside each mooncake was a piece of paper with a message. “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month”. On that day with the precise coordination, the Chinese succeeded in overthrowing their oppressors. Under Zhu, the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) was established. And Mooncake Festival was celebrated henceforth to commemorate this unforgettable event.

How to celebrate Mooncake Festival

This joyous occasion is celebrated by farmers at the end of the summer harvesting season. Traditionally on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid autumn moon, and eat mooncakes under the bright full moon together. If they gaze really hard at the moon, they may just see the beauty of Chang’e.

Lantern Festival in Chinatown
Lantern Festival in Chinatown

Nowadays, Mooncake Festival is also known as Lantern Festival. Visit Chinatown during this festival and you will find that the streets, shops and houses are decorated with lanterns. Children are especially delighted when they get to carry brightly lit lanterns of all shape and sizes.

Mooncakes are also known as "reunion cakes" as family members gather to enjoy this pastry. Usually there will be a family reunion dinner on this day. After dinner, children will be playing with lanterns while adults look on and enjoy the mooncakes with casual talk. Some may go attend festival performances in parks or public places. Others may celebrate with colleagues, friends or even strangers. Always remember it's about unity and togetherness.

Mooncake flavours

Roughly the size of a human palm, mooncakes are quite filling. Mooncakes are meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and shared with family and friends. One mooncake can be shared by eight people. Normally one person will take more than a piece of mooncake… trying a few flavours too.

Mooncake - Lotus Seed Flavour with Single Yolk
Mooncake - Lotus Seed Flavour with Single Yolk
Mochi Truffle Mooncake from Taiwan. We bought it from the shopping mall.
Mochi Truffle Mooncake from Taiwan. We bought it from the shopping mall.

Mooncakes has a thin tender skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling. The mooncake may contain one or two whole salted egg yolks in its center to symbolize the full moon. Traditional mooncakes have the word “longevity” or “harmony” (in Chinese characters) printed on it. Traditional mooncakes flavours are lotus seed paste, red bean paste and five kernels (5 varieties of nuts and seeds mixed in maltose syrup). Nowadays mooncakes flavours are plentiful ranging from green tea, tiramisu, chocolate, durian, peanut, cream cheese to chicken floss just a to name a few. There is even mooncake ice cream from Häagen-Dazs and Baskin Robbins.

Mooncakes are eaten throughout the month before the actual festival day. They make meaningful gifts of unity for family and friends.

Share a mooncake with someone you love, family and friends.

This year Chinese Mooncake Festival falls on 22 September 2010.

Next year Chinese Mooncake Festival will be on 12 September 2011.

And the following years on these dates:

  • 30 September 2012
  • 19 September 2013
  • 8 September 2014
  • 27 September 2015
  • 15 September 2016
  • 4 October 2017
  • 24 September 2018
  • 13 September 2019
  • 1 October 2020

Let the bond of togetherness shine bright.


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    • theBAT profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi thanks for this very informative hub. Good to know that "durian" is of the many flavors of a mooncake. Again, thanks for sharing.

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from South East Asia

      Happy Mooncake Festival 2013!

    • Jedstar profile image


      8 years ago from UK

      Those Chinese sky lanterns are amazing you can see some here -

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from South East Asia

      Indo, what flavour did you try? My favourite is lotus seed paste.

      This year Chinese Mooncake Festival will be on 12 September 2011. Let's savour the delicious mooncakes again.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I love this mooncakes, it's the first food I tasted during my trip to China.

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      Frankly, this is interesting and it's new to me. Also, i think it's a sight to behold with thousands of people swarming the sea. Borsia, thank you for your version of "day of water".

    • Borsia profile image


      10 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      During the time of the mooncakes there is the "day of water", that is my very rough translation. On that day all Chinese are supposed to find a body of water to enter. I was living in Sanya which is the southern most city in China. I lived right on the beach and one day thousands of people showed up to swim in the South China Sea. I don't know if there is a real connection between the Mooncakes and the water but I remember my Chinese girlfriend telling me that;

      He who eats too much Mooncake sinks like rock."

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      prasetio30, yes I agree with you that mooncake is delicious. I have started eating them. And trying out new flavours from the shopping mall. Mooncake also goes well with brewed hot tea. Thanks for the vote, my friend.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      10 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I never heard about Chinese Mooncake Festival, But I have tried this cake. It delicious cake. I found this cake in the Chinese New Year Celebration. Good topic selection, my friend. Vote this Up.


    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      Ingenira, it's great to know that you are celebrating Mooncake Festival every year. Keep the tradition going! Potluck with mooncakes is really a brilliant idea.

      And children love Mooncake Festival, we can see it in their smiles.

      Happy "Zhongqiujie" to you and your family.

    • Ingenira profile image


      10 years ago

      this article reminds me of the gathering with friends for the occasion. We have it every year so far. Potluck with mooncake, peanuts, sweets, etc. Playing lantern and games. It is memorable events we look forward to.

      When the children were young, we use to tell similar stories as what you have published here. We even used play dough to make moon cake ! The children enjoyed it.

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      Warren, I have just visited the site you mentioned. Andrea runs a very interesting site. She has several posts on mooncake festival too. Thanks for visiting. Ciao for now!

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      telltale, the Chinese Lantern heading is the Amazon capsule. You should be able to see Amazon offers below it. Thanks for visitng. Mooncake festival is fast approaching, and we can enjoy eating mooncakes real soon. Yay!

    • telltale profile image


      10 years ago

      Interesting hub, with so many tales about the Mooncake festival... noticed that your hub is not complete, is it? There seems to be a sub-heading "Chinese Lantern", but no text thereafter? Ok, may have to re-visit your hub, once you complete it... do keep it up!

    • jasonycc profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from South East Asia

      drbj, during the uprising... yes mooncakes were like fortune cookies. They have a little piece of paper with a message in them. And these messages have successfully united the Chinese. Therefore Mooncake Festival means unity and togetherness, and is celebrated by the Chinese till today.

    • Jai Warren profile image

      Jai Warren 

      10 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

      I never knew the folklore behind the mooncake festival, but your Hub explains it beautifully. I've only seen it mentioned once before, on by Andrea Nguyen. Really enjoyed it! Ciao.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      10 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks - I never knew the entire story about mooncakes before. Especially the story about their use carrying a message - like a fortune cookie. Fascinating.


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