Zhōng qiū jié Mid-Autumn Festival 19 September 2013
The Mid-Autumn Festival is also called The Moon Festival.
Like Chinese New Year, it is a festival in the traditional Chinese calendar, also called the Farmers Calendar, and is based on the phases of the moon, not the movement of the sun.
This means it falls on a different day each year, but always the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. This year it falls on 19 September.
It is probably the oldest festival in the Chinese calendar, and the character for moon is one of the oldest characters there is. It has been found on oracle bones from 1200 BC in the Shang Dynasty, when sacrifices were made to the moon.
The most famous story connected to the Mid-Autumn Festival is about the great archer Hòu Yì, who shot down the nine suns, and his love for Cháng É, who became the moon goddess.
Chinese people do not believe there is a man in the moon. They see a magic rabbit who keeps the goddess Cháng É company.
Food is important in all Chinese festivals. The Mid-Autumn Festival is famous for mooncakes, pastries with sweet or savoury fillings, often with an egg yolk in the middle to represent the moon.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a national holiday in China.
Families get together to have dinner and admire the moon, often visiting famous scenic spots such as West Lake in Hángzhōu.
The stone moon lanterns on West Lake are so famous they feature on the one yuán banknote. When the lanterns are lit, you are said to see 21 moons: nine from the three holes in each of the three lanterns, their reflections in the lake, the real moon, its reflection and the moon in your loved ones heart!
You might even be inspired to write a poem about the moon, like this one written by Sū Shì 900 years ago: Bright moon, when were you born? Cup in hand I ask the dark blue sky. I do not even know what year it is tonight In the heavenly palaces on high, But I long to fly on the wind amongst them.