On the fifteenth day of the eighth moon of the lunar calendar, traditional Chinese families and their friends gather together and watch the moon and celebrate this holiday. It is said that on this day in September the moon is fullest and most brilliant. Chinese all around the world consume millions of Moon Cakes during this time.
What are Moon Cakes? The varieties are numerous. One can easily find at least a dozen different types. In substance, the traditional Moon Cake is a baked pastry filled with lotus seed paste and a salted egg yolk in the center. Modern inspirations and the cost of lotus seed paste have lead to the creation of many different types of fillings. Winter melon paste, red bean paste, mung bean paste, mixed nuts, dried fruits, and even ham are used to add variety to Moon Cakes. The cakes are about 3 inches squared. The price for each cake runs from $2.50 to about $6.00. Most Chinese, Vietnamese, and other Asia markets or bakeries have them. You may still be able to buy some at discounted prices after the holiday.
(The picture is from the international renown Maria's Bakery.)
As in most ethnic holidays, there are legends to honor. The most popular legend for this holiday is traced to the year 2000 B.C. This is the story of Hou Yih, an officer of the imperial guards.
One day, ten suns suddenly appeared in the sky. The emperor, greatly perturbed and fearful that this occurrence presaged some great evil to his people, ordered Hou Yih, an expert archer, to shoot nine of the suns out of the sky. The great skills with which Hou Yih accomplished this feat impressed the Goddess of the Western Heaven.
Since Hou Yih was also a talented architect, the Goddess commissioned him to build her a palace made of multicolored jade. His work so pleased the Goddess that she rewarded him with the possibility of everlasting life. She gave him the elixir of immortality in the form of a pill. He was not to swallow the pill until he had undergone a year of prayer and fasting. Hou took the pill home and hid it.
Hou's wife was a divinely beautiful woman named Chang Oh. One day she discovered the hidden pill and she swallowed it. The resulting punishment was immediate and Chang Oh found herself airborne, bound for eternal banishment on the moon. As she soared upwards, her husband, Hou Yih, desperately tried to follow but was swept back to earth by a typhoon. Chang Oh's divine beauty enhanced the brilliance of the moon with her own radiance. Now, Chinese people gather each Moon Festival to admire her.
(A portion of the above info was derived from "Festivals and Folk Arts" published by China Travel and Trade, under authorization of the Tourism Bureau, Ministry of Communications, Republic of China.)
Download CRESCENDO, an autostart midi player plugin to Netscape 2.0, to hear the background music without interruption. If you do not have the Crescendo player, your Windows platform computer will launch the Media Player.
This background music is entitled "Sun Road", courtesy of Dr. Yat-Con (Colin) Kong from the United Kingdom.
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