Mid-Autumn Festival in China is more widely called Zhongqiu Festival(中秋节) is traditionally fixed on August 15 in lunar calendar annually. Zhongqiu Festival as one of Chinese traditional festivals is more popular and known worldwide. It is the traditional festival as famous as Spring Festival(Chun-Jie，春节), Tomb-Sweeping Festival (Qingming Jie, 清明节), Dragon-Boat Festival(Duanwu Jie, 端午节). All of them are highly considered as Chinese Four Traditional Festivals of Han Nationality. Since 2008, Zhongqiu Festival has been confirmed as the holiday. And in 2006, it was fixed as the first batch of Chinese national intangible cultural heritage sites.
Zhongqiu as a word was firstly mentioned in the ancient classic, Zhou Li(周礼，Rite of Zhou Dynasty) . in line with the historical record, the ancient emperors’ sacrifice to the moon was fixed on August 15 in Lunar Calendar, when it is the time of middle of Sanqiu,(三秋，Early Autumn, Middle Autumn and Late Autumn), hence it was named Zhongqiu Festival. Because it is in August of Lunar Calendar in autumn, it is also called Qiu Jie or Autumn Festival, Bayue Jie or August Festival, August Get-Together and so on. All the activities of Zhongqiu Festival are connected with the moon, so Zhongqiu festival is also called Moon Festival, Moon Night, Zhuiyue Festival or Moon-Pursued Festival, Moon-playing Festival and Baiyue Festival. In Tang Dynasty, Zhogqiu Festival was called Duanzheng Yue(端正月). Zhongqiu Festival was unsurpassedly popularized in Song Dynasty. Up to Ming and Qing Dyansties, Zhongqiu Festival was as equally famous as New-Year and became one of most important festivals in ancient China. As for the origin of Zhongqiu festival, there are roughly three viewpoints: firstly, Zhongqiu Festival originates from the custom of ancient people’s adoration to moon; another is dancing under moonlight to seek for mate as well as the remained custom in ancient time to worship the earth god.
Sacrificing to the Moon on Zhongqiu Festival is a quite old custom in China. According to the record of history, at the time of as early as Zhou Dynasty, ancient emperors followed firmly the custom of sacrificing to the sun in vernal equinox(Chun Feng, 春风) , sacrificing to the earth in the Summer Solstice(Xia Zhi, 夏至), sacrificing to the moon in autumnal equinox(Qiu Fen, 秋分) and sacrificing to the heaven in the winter solstice(Dong Zhi, 冬至). The sites are mainly named Sun Altar, Moon Altar, Heaven Altar and Earth Altar. The moon altar of Beijing is the place that emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasties sacrificed the moon.
The custom of appreciating the moon is originated from sacrificing the moon, and the solemn sacrificing rite becomes the light-hearted entertainment. Approximately, folk custom of the moon appreciation begins at the period of Wei and Jin Dynasties. And up to Tang Dynasty, Appreciating the moon and enjoying the moonlight were fairly welcomed, and many poets’ famous masterpieces were themed with intoning the moon. Amid Song Dynasty, Zhongqiu Festival centered on appreciating the moon finally formed. And this festival was finally named with Zhongqiu Festival. Different from the sense of Tang Dynasty’s people, the theme in Song Dynasty was closely connected with personal spirituality, especially focused on the re-unification of family members on this special night. The most classic literary work themed with the moon and universal sensation of people at the time was the Ci titled Shui Diao Ge Tou written by Su Shi.
Besides, traditionally, there was also the custom of knocking head to the moon and praying for the better future and dream realization, which were generally done by woman, especially the unmarried girls at night at backyards of house, the famous figures in history were Wu Yan(无盐), Chang E（嫦娥）and Diao Chan（貂蝉）. The food mainly eaten at the night of Zhongqiu festival is Moon-cake, watermelon, apple, Chinese date, plum and grape. Among them, the moon-cake and watermelon are the must.
Writer: David from Seeraa International
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