THE ORIGIN OF MOONCAKES
This is part of our Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series. Mid Autumn Festival, can also be referred to as mooncake festival, and harvest moon festival. In the previous post of the series, we learned about a really important Chinese Mid Autumn Festival food which is called mooncakes and we learned What are Mooncakes, why we eat mooncakes and the different various common fillings and types of mooncakes. Some of my super philosophical and inquisitive friends will ask the next question on their list, which is, so who invented mooncakes, what is mooncake’s history, or what are the origins of mooncakes? Good questions! There are two common theories of why mooncakes were invented, so let’s get into them.
MOONCAKE HISTORY #1: THE LADY ON THE MOON, CHANG ER AND MOONCAKES
Mooncakes date all the way back to the Song Dynasty, back to around 420AD, when the 15th night of the 8th month of the lunar calendar was officially declared as Chinese Mid Autumn Festival. Mooncakes are linked back to one of the most famous story of the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, which is the Legend of Chang Er, the Chinese Goddess of the Moon, and we worshipped her and the moon by placing fruits and cakes outside under the full moon on the day of Chinese Mid Autumn Festival.
MOONCAKE HISTORY #2: MOONCAKES CAN START AND END DYNASTIES
Now, one can also say that mooncakes played a part in a revolution, or there is a folk tale that says so. Mooncakes were used during the Ming revolution (the revolution that would overthrow the Yuan Dynasty for the Ming Dynasty) in the Yuan Dynasty, around the 1360’s. Mongolians ruled China and the Ming revolutionaries wanted to overthrow the Mongol rule and so, the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Huizong of Yuan (Zhu Yuanzhang) with his trusted confidant and talented military strategist, Liu Bowen, spread a rumour saying that there was a deadly plague and the only antidote for it was to eat mooncakes. Messages were then smuggled and placed into the mooncakes and distributed everywhere. The message in the mooncake told everybody that there were to be an organized revolt on the day that we now know to be the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival.
MOONCAKE HISTORY #3: HIDDEN MESSAGES ON THE MOONCAKES
A slight variation of the previous story was that the hidden message was imprinted onto the tops of the mooncakes. There are traditionally 4 mooncakes in a set & it was said that you had to further cut the mooncakes into quarters and then piece it together to reveal the message. This variation was found on Wikipedia, but my family disagrees with this variation stating it definitely was the message in the mooncakes. So yes, I guess mooncakes can bring up family debates as well.
Are you all caught up with our Chinese Mid Autumn Festival series? Have a read of the first post in the series, Mid Autumn Festival and everything you need to know to get started. Next post, we will talk about the Lady on the Moon, Chang Er and her lover, Hou Yi, the great archer, which is a tragic love story… Bring on the tissues!
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CHINESE MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL IS 中秋節 IN CHINESE AND CAN ALSO BE CALLED THE MOON FESTIVAL