The joyous Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated on the
fifteenth day of the eighth moon, around the time of the autumn
equinox（秋分）. Many referred to it simply as the "Fifteenth of the Eighth
This day was also considered as a harvest festival since fruits,
vegetables and grain had been harvested by this time and food was
abundant. Food offerings were placed on an altar set up in the courtyard.
Apples, pears, peaches, grapes, pomegranates（石榴）, melons, oranges and
pomelos（柚子） might be seen. Special foods for the festival included moon
cakes, cooked taro（芋头）and water caltrope（菱角）, a type of water chestnut
resembling black buffalo horns. Some people insisted that cooked taro be
included because at the time of creation, taro was the first food
discovered at night in the moonlight. Of all these foods, it could not be
omitted from the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The round moon cakes, measuring about three inches in diameter and one
and a half inches in thickness, resembled Western fruitcakes in taste and
consistency. These cakes were made with melon seeds（西瓜子）, lotus seeds（莲籽）,
almonds（杏仁）, minced meats, bean paste, orange peels and lard（猪油）. A golden
yolk（蛋黄） from a salted duck egg was placed at the center of each cake, and
the golden brown crust was decorated with symbols of the festival.
Traditionally, thirteen moon cakes were piled in a pyramid to symbolize
the thirteen moons of a "complete year," that is, twelve moons plus one
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional festivity for both the Han and
minority nationalities. The custom of worshipping the moon can be traced
back as far as the ancient Xia and Shang Dynasties (2000 B.C.-1066 B.C.).
In the Zhou Dynasty(1066 B.C.-221 B.C.), people hold ceremonies to greet
winter and worship the moon whenever the Mid-Autumn Festival sets in. It
becomes very prevalent in the Tang Dynasty(618-907 A.D.) that people enjoy
and worship the full moon. In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 A.D.),
however, people send round moon cakes to their relatives as gifts in
expression of their best wishes of family reunion. When it becomes dark,
they look up at the full silver moon or go sightseeing on lakes to
celebrate the festival. Since the Ming (1368-1644 A.D. ) and Qing
Dynasties (1644-1911A.D.), the custom of Mid-Autumn Festival celebration
becomes unprecedented popular. Together with the celebration there appear
some special customs in different parts of the country, such as burning
incense（熏香）, planting Mid-Autumn trees, lighting lanterns on towers and
fire dragon dances. However, the custom of playing under the moon is not
so popular as it used to be nowadays, but it is not less popular to enjoy
the bright silver moon. Whenever the festival sets in, people will look up
at the full silver moon, drinking wine to celebrate their happy life or
thinking of their relatives and friends far from home, and extending all
of their best wishes to them.
There is this story about the moon-cake. during the Yuan
dynasty (A.D. 1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders
from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1280) were unhappy at submitting
to the foreign rule, and set how to coordinate the rebellion without being
discovered. The leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Moon Festival
was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Backed into each
moon cake was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of
the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attached and overthrew the
government. Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend and was
called the Moon Cake.
For generations, moon cakes have been made with sweet fillings of nuts,
mashed red beans, lotus-seed paste or Chinese dates（枣子）, wrapped in a
pastry. Sometimes a cooked egg yolk can be found in the middle of the rich
tasting dessert. People compare moon cakes to the plum pudding and fruit
cakes which are served in the English holiday seasons.
Nowadays, there are hundreds varieties of moon cakes on sale a month
before the arrival of Moon Festival.