Chung Ch'ui The Chinese Thanksgiving Festival
Thanksgiving is a special day. On that day, people usually give thank and praise God for His mercy and kindness throughout the year. People will give thank for God's blessing and presented their harvest with a grateful heart. I think the idea about Thanksgiving day is great. The day when the whole family could gather and enjoy great time together. Give thanks and enjoy delicious meal, that's so wonderful. The idea has been absorbed in many country and cultures around the world.
Like in the Chinese Culture, Chinese people always put family in the first place. Chinese people are loyal and respect their family, especially the older ones (Like their Grandad, their Father, Older Brother, etc). Chinese Thanksgiving Festival is called Chung Ch'ui. I do not understand mandarin language much, but I know that Ch'ui or Chiu means Autumn and Chung means middle (that means in the middle of Autumn). On Chung Ch'ui day, Chinese people usually going home and pay a visit to their older relatives, cleaning and decorating their house, visiting their ancestor's tomb, set an altar in the middle room and prepare the table for praying (burn some inscents) their ancestor's spirit. On Chung Ch'ui, the Chinese people usually eat the Moon Cake or Yue Ping.
The Origin of Chung Ch'ui
Chung Ch'ui is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in Chinese calendar. This year the Chung Ch'ui is celebrated on October 3 (Same as Chuseok Festival in Korea) There are many stories about the history of Chung Ch'ui.
The first version : There is a woman named Chang-O or Chang -erl, was married to the great General Hou-Yi of the Imperial Guard. General Hou was a skilled archer. One day, at the behest of the emperor, he shot down eight of nine suns that had mysteriously appeared in the heaven that morning. His marksmanship was richly rewarded by the emperor and he became very famous. However, the people feared that these suns would appear again to torture them and dry up the planet, so they prayed to the Goddess of Heaven (Wang Mu) to make General Hou immortal so that he could always defend the emperor, his progeny and the country. Their wish was granted and General Hou was given a Pill of Immortality.
Another version of this story notes that Chang-O, the wife of the Divine Archer, shot down nine of ten suns plaguing the world and received the Herb of Immortality as a reward. Whoever the hero was, Chang-O grabbed the pill (or the herb) and fled to the moon. In some versions it is uncertain whether she ever actually got there, because Chinese operas always portray her as still dancing-flying toward the moon.
When Chang-O reached the moon, she found a tree under which there was a friendly hare. Because the air on the moon is cold, she began coughing and the Immortality Pill came out of her throat. She thought it would be good to pound the pill into small pieces and scatter them on Earth so that everyone could be immortal. So she ordered the hare to pound the pill, built a palace for herself and remained on the moon.
This helpful hare is referred to in Chinese mythology as the Jade Hare. Because of his and Chang-O's legendary importance, you will see - stamped on every mooncake, every mooncake box, and every Moon Cake Festival poster - images of Chang-O and sometimes the Jade Hare.
The third version : Chinese people are tortured under the occupation of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) from Mongolia. One day a man name Chu Goan Chiang set a rebellion.The rebel organization was called Ming, means light. To spread the rebellion's messages among Chinese people, he and his army hide their message inside the moon cake and spread it to all the people. Their strategy has succeed and the Yuan Dynasty was over. Chu Goan Chiang become the first Emperor of Ming Dynasty. There is a maestro from Hong Kong named Prof Louis Cha who made a great novel about this (title is Ie Thien Tu Lung Ci).
Mooncake Festival Performance
Mooncake in the making
One type of traditional moon cake is filled with lotus seed paste. Roughly the size of a human palm, these moon cakes are quite filling, meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and passed around.
More elaborate versions of moon cakes contain four egg yolks (representing the four phases of the moon). Besides lotus seed paste, other traditional fillings include red bean paste and black bean paste. Unfortunately for dieters, moon cakes are rather high in calories. The salty egg yolks filling is my favorite although is not great for the waist size, but you eat it just once a year. So, give yourself a nice treat.
Today, moon cakes may be filled with everything from dates, nuts, chocolate, bacon, and fruit to Chinese sausages. More exotic creations include green tea moon cakes, and ping pei or snowskin moon cakes, a Southeast Asian variation made with cooked glutinous rice flour. Haagen-Daz has even gotten into the act by introducing a line of ice cream moon cakes in Asian markets.
Types of Moon CakesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Chinese people celebrate Chung Ch'ui
Chinese people usually do many of these activities during the festival :
- Eating mooncakes outside under the moon
- Putting pomelo rinds on one's head
- Carrying brightly lit lanterns, lighting lanterns on towers, floating sky lanterns
- Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e
- Planting Mid-Autumn trees
- Collecting dandelion leaves and distributing them evenly among family members
- Fire Dragon Dances
The Lantern Festival in Chinese Garden, Singapore
Chung Ch'ui Festival in Indonesia
The Chinese Indonesian also celebrate the Moon Cake Festival. It calls gwee pia or tiong chiu pia in Hokkian dialect that commonly used by the Chinese Indonesian people. There is no formal holiday, but Chinese people here celebrate the day with praying, exchanging moon cakes, eating out together in the evening, have some barbecue (khao rou cie), watching lantern shows in some department stores, watching dragon dances performance and have fun.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy Chung Ch'ui