An ode to the moon

By Xu Lin | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-13 07:42
LI MIN/CHINA DAILY

Mid-Autumn Festival is a time when Chinese families embrace folk customs, Xu Lin reports.

Celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, Mid-Autumn Festival-which falls on Sept 13 this year-is an occasion where Chinese people traditionally hold family reunions, enjoy mooncakes and marvel at the beauty of the large, round moon.

While folk customs differ from region to region, people across China like to celebrate the festival in their own way and pass on the festival spirit to the next generation.

Li Baoqi, pastry chef of Hua's Restaurant in Beijing, was busy teaching guests and their children how to make traditional Beijing-style fanmao (rolling feather) mooncakes ahead of the festival.

It's a pastry that was enjoyed by emperors at banquets during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Legend has it that Empress Dowager Cixi once pounded the table with her hand, causing the crust to "flutter" like feathers.

Packed with chopped walnuts and peanuts, each mooncake weighs 250 grams and has a white surface with a red stamp bearing an auspicious motif made of strawberry jam. Li says in order to cater to healthier dining habits, they reduced the amount of sugar and added more nuts. They started to sell fanmao mooncakes in 2014 to revive the ancient recipe. All ingredients are meticulously made by hand.

"Children have great fun at these events and learn a lot about the festival," says Yue Jingyan, who took her two daughters to the restaurant to learn how to make mooncakes.

In the past, children in Beijing offered mooncakes, fruit and flowers to Tu'er Ye, or the Rabbit God, on the night of Mid-Autumn Festival. In modern times, the 400-year-old Rabbit God has gradually become a toy for children to play with during the festival, which is both a symbol of Beijing's folk culture and a tourism souvenir.

With a suit of armor, the god with the head of a rabbit and a human body is often seen riding on a tiger, an elephant or a deer, or even sitting on a lotus leaf-which all have different auspicious meanings. Legend has it that the Rabbit God is the incarnation of Jade Rabbit that lives in a palace on the moon with the mythological goddess, Chang'e.

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