Tag Archives: midautumn festival

ZhongQiuJie: Mooncakes


Chinese Characters (Simplified): 中秋节
Chinese Characters (Traditional): 中秋節
Romanization: zhōngqiūjiě
Transliteration: Middle – Autumn – Holiday
Free Translation: Mid-Autumn Festival

Text + Context:

Q: Was there a point as a kid where you first started celebrating or learned about it?

A: Oh ever since I can remember things, it’s always every year that way. We go to relatives homes they come to our home we eat mooncake. And in China there are many different type of mooncake, like made by fresh ground pork, and uh and you know they have different style, cantonese style, SuShe I don’t know how they call in English, is basically the uh the place near Shanghai they have some kind of special SuZhou is the city close to Shanghai, small one. They have a particular way to make mooncake.

Q: Would you usually eat a particular type of mooncake? Is there a particular one in Shanghai?

A: We have both, either they call sushe guangshe, I mean it’s Shanghai so they have everything. shushe is a little less expensive, guangshe is a little cheaper. But when people come to our home, as guests, they bring a gift? Usually they bring Guangshe gift, just because it’s uh it looks a little nicer and costs a little bit more. But I remember my uncle, because uh, come to our home, since our mom is his older sister. He would always come and um bring gifts um bring moon cake. bring mooncakes. And my aunt, my mom’s older sister, 3 sons they would go to they would bring the mooncake to my mom. Up to now, even last year they give to bring the mooncake. 

Q: Is it expected to bring mooncakes to relatives, and is it older relatives? 

A: It’s uh kind of expected if you go to relatives you always bring some small gift, but if it’s moon cake I mean mid fall festival, then it’s just, people just naturally bring mooncake as a gift.

A: I have never done that because I left the country very early. I just never got the chance to do that.

Context of performance: collected from an in-person conversation.

Personal Thoughts:

In Chinese culture, it’s expected for a guest to always bring a small gift when they visit. In turn, it’s expected for a host to play some 客气 (kèqì, literally means polite), which is a game of the host pseudo refusing the gift by calling the guest too generous. It’s interesting that for this particular day about reuniting with relatives, people just tend to bring mooncakes. For one thing, 中秋节 is always on the Harvest Moon, so being called a mooncake makes sense. In addition, the moon has a particular meaning linked with reunion. Overall, it’s fascinating to see a specific food with a specific intention for a specific festival.



Chinese Characters (Simplified): 中秋节
Chinese Characters (Traditional): 中秋節
Romanization: zhōngqiūjiě
Transliteration: Middle – Autumn – Holiday
Free Translation: Mid-Autumn Festival


Me: 中秋节的时候,你做什么?(What do you do during Mid-Autumn Festival?)

Informant: 我去买中秋月饼 (I go to buy Mid-Autumn Festival Mooncakes),吃中秋月饼 (eat them),然后晚上来我就出去看bright moon (and then in the evening I go out to see the bright moon)。然后了(after that), 我打电话给我的爸爸因为中秋节就是 (I call my dad because Mid-Autumn Festival is) it’s a rounded moon so want to means kind of uh united with your relatives, your parents.

So at the time, sometime, make me a little homesick. Sometime I also go to a party like in your community. you know Chinese association sometime in the past before COVID will have uh uh uh mid-fall festival party, potluck. And then, there are, they distribute like uh moon cake. 

Me: 你小时候 (When you were younger),like, did you do other things or different things when you were at home with your family?

Informant: Back at home, uh so in you know in Shanghai, uhhh so the uh we will go visit relatives. So they come to our home bring a box of moon cake and some other stuff and we go to their home and brought a box of moon cake so you kind of like visit each other it’s a time, kind of connect to each other.

Me: You mentioned, like, how, like the full moon means like connecting to other people and stuff like that. Could you tell me more about that?

Informant: So full moon, in Chinese means 圆yuǎn . So Chinese has a phrase called tuányuǎn团圆. it means united [means reunion via Google Translate], so uh so the moon is rounded right, so pronounced yuǎn [圆] so people get together all the people get together is called tuǎnyuǎn is the same yuǎn. so so so so it’s the time uh people look at the moon and uh miss their family, and miss the people that already passed, their ancestors or something. And some people will think their hometown if they’re not at home. Just a lot of when we enjoy the beautiful moon, celebrate it, is also the time to connected as a family, gather together tuǎnyuǎn means gather together. So it would be good if we could, on that day, all be together. Sometime we cannot, then we look at the moon and think oh we all share the same moon, and we kind of like, breathing (??) to each other through the bright moon.


Me: Was there a point as a kid where you first started celebrating or learned about it?

Informant: Oh ever since I can remember things, it’s always every year that way. 

Me: Did they ever try to kill ZhongQiuJie during Communism?

Informant: Oh no no no, that’s a very tradition holiday for the people. So, Chinese government actually is uh support that. That’s a good uh you know way to connect the people, and Chinese is pretty good in family, right. So, you know, they didn’t.

Me: What’s the significance of ZhongQiuJie to you?

Informant: Ummm I’m more connected to, think about my mom, and think about you guys, when you guys when you were not home. And I just feel like oh we all look at the same moon, and we are all connected that way. It’s that time that I will sit there and look at the moon and also I take pictures y’know. I like bright moon, it’s beautiful, it’s kind of like I want to go out take pictures. And I also just you know think the people close to me. You know, my mom, my dad, you guys

Context of Performance: Collected from an in-person conversation.

Personal Thoughts:

To me, ZhongQiuJie was always just an excuse to eat mooncakes. However, it’s not surprising to hear that this festival is about family. China is incredibly old, and for the longest time people did not have much physical mobility. People would stay in a particular place for centuries. In addition, add Confucianism’s intense focus on family, and you have a society devoted to family. It is interesting, however, to learn that this festival has a ton of linguistic ties. Why is the character for round in reunion? Why did people in the past see the moon and think “oh that’s round”?