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Moon Festival

It's that time of the year when the Moon Festival happens. Up front, I'll admit that I'm no expert on the Moon Festival and I've never been. The actual festival part where there are rides and fireworks and dancing bears (well, maybe not the bears) is happening tonight. "Think of it as a crap version of the Easter Show," one of my students explained.

The Royal Easter Show is pretty crap and expensive, with a gouge that begins the moment you enter. The Moon Festival doesn't contain such a long gouge, but it does have some, like any good festival. This gouge is in the form of the Moon Cake, pictured below. Rumoured to be imported from Hong Kong, it's sold in a tin of four that goes for thirty bucks, or seven and eight bucks individually. It's more if you want nice ones, less if you want what was described as the Home Brand version of Moon Cake (this was twenty bucks for four). They're about the size of a cup cake or cookie, though pretty solid by all accounts. You can read about the different kinds of Moon Cake here. I questioned the Hong Kong part, myself, pointing out that every city has bakeries and people who can make this shit, and that there'll be recipes on the web (there's one at the link, for example) and that they could get and make their own, but I was told that the good ones come from Hong Kong. Shipped over in their little tins as care packages, I imagined, only to be marked up generously before given to the needy.



Next week I might just tell my students the reason why Moon Cakes are eaten. It's pretty cool:

"Back during the Soong dynasty when the Chinese were oppressed by the Mongols, their rebel leaders sought to overthrow the Mongol overlords. As meetings were banned it was impossible to make plans. Liu Fu Tong of the Anhui Province came up with a plan by requesting permission to distribute cakes to his friends to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor. He made thousands of cakes shaped like the moon and stuffed with sweet fillings. Inside each cake however was placed a piece of paper with the message: ¡¥Rise against the Tartars on the 15th day of the 8th Moon'. Reading the message, the people rose against the Mongols on a local scale. This rebellion enabled Chu Hung Wu, another rebel leader to eventually overthrow the Mongols. In 1368, he established the Ming dynasty and ruled under the name of Emperor Tai Tsu. Henceforth, the Mid Autumn Festival was celebrated with moon cakes on a national level."

Comments

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(Anonymous)
Sep. 11th, 2005 10:33 am (UTC)
The tin ones are imported from Hong Kong. The ones in a plastic container are locally made.

The moon festival itself was about the moon goddess, but perhaps the custom of using moon cakes came from the rebellion.

You're right that the festival events are quite bad, mainly because it's celebrated within pockets of the Chinese community. There's no large scale celebration or central point for say fireworks or lanterns.

The best celebration of the festival is in Hong Kong.

A passerby
benpeek
Sep. 11th, 2005 10:39 am (UTC)
welcome back, passerby.

i actually did know that the festival was about the moon goddess (or the woman living in the moon, who has a husband visit her once a year). but the cakes became official from the rebellion, or so it is said.

as for the rest of it, that's all what others tell me. i've never been. if i remember maybe i'll go along next year to scope it out with my own eyes.
eugie
Sep. 11th, 2005 01:39 pm (UTC)
That picture made me crave moon cake--the authentic kind from Hong Kong that are so sweet you can't have more than a couple bites before you're full. And if you have a couple more after that, you start feeling sugared-out, but you always take those extra bites. Moon cake. Mmmm.
benpeek
Sep. 11th, 2005 11:22 pm (UTC)
you know, you're the first person i've met who actually admits to liking the cakes. everyone i've spoken to has said they didn't like it, but they've got about two or three tins in their place.
eugie
Sep. 11th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC)
They might be an acquired taste. Or the cheap knock-offs are doing something wrong. But I got fed a lot of moon cake when I was a little girl, so it reminds me of the nice things of childhood. It also depends on the filling. I dislike the ones that have an egg in the middle, and the red bean paste can get a bit gritty. But I like the white filling ones. Yum. But oof, they're rich. I don't think it's possible to eat one by oneself. 'Course they're meant to be shared, so perhaps that's just as well.
benpeek
Sep. 11th, 2005 11:32 pm (UTC)
most of the people telling me they didn't like them were teenagers who had grown up in sydney on a steady fastfood diet, so i guess it probably is an acquired taste for them. or a forced bit of culture their folks keep round. but i want to give one a try. i might have to see if i can track some down.
shadowsandice
Sep. 11th, 2005 01:49 pm (UTC)
Moon cakes taste pretty yuck. Well. The ones I've tried have.
benpeek
Sep. 11th, 2005 11:24 pm (UTC)
that's what everyone keeps telling me. some of the pictures looked nice, though.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 12th, 2005 12:51 am (UTC)
mooncakes have become a hallmark-esque gift not unlike ferrero rochers where people buy it to give as gifts. however no one ends up eating the whole tins because of the aforementioned taste and intensity issues plus the fact its too much to wolf down before the expiry date, so most chinese families end up with left overs, ready to give out for next year's festival. but then again so people might be able to wolf em down...

you missed out on the lanterns which are big during the festival. the lanterns orginated as part of "msg in cake" movement whereby the final instruction to overthrow the mongols in various places (i assume the capital) was given via the lighting of lanterns as they wandered down the streets. these days kids run amock with their various animal shaped lanterns, trying to burn each other down.

john
benpeek
Sep. 12th, 2005 01:14 am (UTC)
the lanterns orginated as part of "msg in cake" movement whereby the final instruction to overthrow the mongols in various places (i assume the capital) was given via the lighting of lanterns as they wandered down the streets. these days kids run amock with their various animal shaped lanterns, trying to burn each other down.

neat.
aswadx
Sep. 12th, 2005 05:33 am (UTC)
moon
i live in malaysia where the chinese community here still celebrate this festival but it isnt as grand. however the cake is everywhere! now they even make kosher and halal mooncakes!
benpeek
Sep. 12th, 2005 05:47 am (UTC)
Re: moon
halal mooncakes?!

i got to get me some of these things.
joey_j0jo
Sep. 12th, 2005 07:31 am (UTC)
Mooncakes are gross, especially the yellow yolk inside. I went on sunday for about an hour at Cabra, and gosh it was the worst thing I've ever been to in my life, complete waste of time. I saw trashy girls covering other trashy girls in whipped cream. Sigh.

My first Moon fest too.
benpeek
Sep. 12th, 2005 08:02 am (UTC)
I saw trashy girls covering other trashy girls in whipped cream.

you never take me anywhere fun ;)

hey, you know if you can buy these things in fairfield?
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