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.