Why Do People Celebrate the Moon Festival (aka Mid-Autumn Festival)?

Hey guys welcome to Five Thousand Years

It's almost the Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival

It's one of the biggest holidays in China and the surrounding countries

But do you know why people celebrate this day? And where did it get its name from?

In today’s video, let’s dig deep into the history and origin of the Mid-Autumn Festival

The origin of this holiday goes back to the Zhou Dynasty, some 3,000 years ago

The rulers of the Zhou Dynasty called themselves Tianzi instead of emperor. Tianzi means Son of Heaven

They believed the Heavens bestowed the mandate on whomever was most fit to rule

Therefore every Tianzi dared not to behave without virtue

And during special days of the year or whenever anything bad happened

they would try to find fault within themselves and worship the Heavens for an answer

The Book of Rites recorded that Tianzi would worship the Sun on the March equinox, and worship the Moon on the September equinox

The annual grand worshipping ceremonies made an impact among commoners. People also started worshipping the moon on or around this day

Eventually people shifted the date from the September equinox to the 15th day of the 8th month on the Chinese lunar calendar

Since the lunar calendar is based upon the moon’s phases, the 15th day of the month will always be a full moon

By the early Tang dynasty, it had developed into an official holiday. The celebration grew bigger and bigger with each dynasty

And now it’s one of the most celebrated holidays across Asian countries

Chinese people call this holiday Zhong Qiu Jie which translates to Mid-Autumn Festival

Ancient Chinese people considered the 7th, 8th, and 9th months on the lunar calendar to be the Autumn Season

The 15th day of the 8th month is right in the middle of the season and that’s why it’s called Mid-Autumn Festival

The Moon Festival is just a nickname since this holiday is deeply related to the Moon

You might have heard of the story of Chang’e who flew to the Moon palace after drinking a magical elixir and became the goddess of the Moon

But today we are going to talk about another famous story that was recorded in multiple ancient texts from the Tang Dynasty

It’s about Emperor Xuanzong of Tang and his magical experience on the moon

It was said on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival during his early reign, Emperor Xuanzong was invited to visit the Moon by his Daoist friend

The Daoist used his supernormal ability and built a large silver bridge that went directly to the moon

The two of them walked a long way and reached the moon palace

The Emperor saw hundreds of divine deities dancing in the palace

The accompanying music was out of this world, literally, and the dance was elegant beyond description

The Emperor asked what song is this. The answer was Ni Chang Yu Yi Qu, which translates to “Garments of Rainbows and Feathers”

After the Emperor came back from the Moon, he recalled what he heard from memory and recomposed the song and named it with the same title

Many poets praised how heavenly the melody was. Unfortunately it was lost later

However if you like the background music you are hearing now, it’s actually called “A Reverie in the Moon Palace” based on this story from the Tang Dynasty

Check out my talented friend Tony Chen’s channel for more beautiful music

Last but not least, let’s talk about what ancient people did during this holiday

The most important activity was of course worshipping the moon

Chinese people also loved admiring the moon. There were so many poems written about the moon

The most famous one is 《靜夜思》Quiet Night Thought, written by Li Bai

Recite with me if you learned it in Chinese school

Moonlight before my bed, Perhaps frost on the ground. Lift my head and see the moon, Lower my head and I miss my home

Just like the poem implies, this holiday is also about reunion

If the wife went back to her parents for a visit, she would return home to her husband on this day

Mooncakes were sometimes called reunion cake. The whole family would share it together

Other than mooncakes, people would also give each other watermelons and other fruits as gifts

Eating crabs was also popular because they would get meatier and sweeter during Autumn

Additionally the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar is called the month of osmanthus

So people would admire osmanthus flowers and make osmanthus wine

The most exciting activity was tide watching and still is today

The Qiantang River is known for the world’s largest tidal bore

And the best time to view it is between the 15th and 18th day of the 8th month on the lunar calendar

So it has become a tradition to watch tidal bores on the Mid-Autumn Festival

I hope you learned something useful in today’s video

What's your favorite tradition of the Mid-Autumn Festival? Let me know in the comments below

I’ll be making more videos about Chinese holidays, Chinese culture, as well as ancient beauty and fashion, so don’t forget to subscribe if you want to learn more

Thank you for watching. I’ll see you next time!