Exploring the Tradition and Taste: An Introduction to Mooncakes

Exploring the Tradition and Taste: An Introduction to Mooncakes

In just over a month, it’s time for the annual Mid-Autumn Festival again! Are all you guys starting to think about what kind of mooncakes you want to enjoy? While savoring the delicious treats, have you ever wondered about the history of mooncakes? And how does Mooncake get connected with the Mid-Autumn Festival? Don’t worry, after reading this article, you’ll have a more comprehensive understanding of Mooncake.

The Origin of “Mooncake”

Mooncake is also known as “yuè tuán (月团)”, “fēng shōu bǐng(丰收饼)”, “tuán yuán bǐng(团圆饼)” and more. It is one of the traditional delicacies of China. As the name suggests, “mooncakes” are definitely related to the moon! The earliest mooncakes were actually offerings used to worship the Moon Goddess.

Legend has it that the origin of mooncakes can be traced back to the Yin dynasty and Shang dynasty. At that time, people made a solid pastry called “tàishī bǐng(太师饼)”, which can be considered the prototype of mooncakes. During the Han Dynasty, Zhang Qian’s journey to the Western Regions brought back ingredients like sesame and walnuts. People began incorporating these ingredients into the pastry-making process, unexpectedly giving rise to the delicious flavor of mooncakes. This improved pastry was referred to as “hú bǐng(胡饼)”.

During one Mid-Autumn Festival, Emperor Tang Xuanzong (One of the emperors in the Tang Dynasty) and his concubine Yang Guifei tasted “hú bǐng” while enjoying the moonlight. However, they found the name “hú bǐng” not very elegant. As Yang Guifei gazed at the bright moon, she impulsively suggested, “Why not call it ‘yuè bǐng(mooncake)(月饼)’”? Emperor Tang Xuanzong found the name charming, so he renamed “hú bǐng” to “yuè bǐng”. The term “mooncake” first appeared in Wu Zimou’s book “Mèng Liáng Lù(《梦粱录》)” during the Southern Song Dynasty.

The term “mooncake” has been passed down since the Tang Dynasty and carries a beautiful wish for the moon and reunion. Since ancient times, mooncakes have been traditional pastries that embody the splendid meaning of harvest and unity, much like a shining gem in Chinese culture. Its origin is deeply rooted in history and has gradually evolved into a significant symbol of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations.

However, in the Tang Dynasty, the custom of eating mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival did not spread among the people but only appeared in the court.

“Mooncakes” and “Mid-Autumn Festival”

Mooncakes are closely linked to the Mid-Autumn Festival. Also known as the “Festival of Reunion,” the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month and is a significant time for family gatherings. As an indispensable traditional delicacy of the Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncakes symbolize unity and harmony among family members. On this day, people often gather to admire the bright moon and indulge in delicious mooncakes, coming together to celebrate this special occasion.

The custom of eating mooncakes at the Mid-Autumn Festival and giving mooncakes to relatives and friends officially began in the Yuan Dynasty.

During that time, the Chinese were enduring the harsh rule of the Yuan Dynasty. Zhu Yuanzhang united various resistance forces to prepare for an uprising. However, the imperial authorities maintained strict surveillance, making communication extremely difficult. Liu Bowen, a military strategist, devised a plan. He instructed his subordinates to hide notes with the message “Uprising on the Night of the 15th Day of the Eighth Month” inside pastries, and then dispatched messengers to deliver these pastries to different rebel camps across the region. These notes conveyed the notification of the uprising to take place on the night of the 15th day of the eighth month. When the day of the uprising arrived, the rebel forces united and responded with determination, igniting the flames of revolt like a spark that swiftly spread.

Rebel Force successfully captured the Yuan capital, and the uprising triumphed. Upon receiving the joyful news, Zhu Yuanzhang issued an immediate order for the forthcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, urging all soldiers and citizens to celebrate together. He also decided to use the “mooncakes”, which were previously used to secretly convey messages during the uprising, as special festive pastries, rewarding his subordinate. From that point onward, the tradition of consuming mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival began to spread among the people.

Varieties of Mooncakes

As mooncakes have evolved over time, their varieties have become more diverse, offering different flavors from various regions. Among them, types like Beijing-style, Suzhou-style, Guangzhou-style, and others are widely enjoyed by people across different parts of China.

During the Song Dynasty, the renowned poet Su Dongpo praised mooncakes with the verse “Small cakes as if chewing the moon, with crispy layers and sweet fillings.” This indicates that mooncakes during the Song Dynasty already contained flaky layers and sweet fillings made from oil and sugar.

In the Qing Dynasty, the custom of eating mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival had become widespread, and the techniques for making them became increasingly refined. Yuan Mei, a Qing writer, introduced in <Sui Yuan Shi Dan> (Random Notes from Su Garden) that “Crispy-skinned mooncakes are filled with pine nuts, walnuts, melon seeds, rock sugar, and lard. When consumed, they are not only sweet and fragrant, but also tender and unique.”

In contemporary times, there are countless varieties of mooncakes, some of which include: Guangdong-style, Yunnan-style, Suzhou-style, Beijing-style, Hong Kong-style, Taiwanese-style, and Chaozhou-style, among others. They are all traditional types of mooncakes known to many.

Where to eat

Celebrate the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival with delicious mooncakes from XCAKE! Starting today, you can take advantage of the special early bird discounts and order directly from the XCAKE official website. Hurry, because these discounts will only be available until August 29th. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to savor the traditional flavors of the Mid-Autumn Festival while enjoying attractive discounts.

XCAKE: 28 South Unionville Ave #8, Markham, ON L3R 4P9



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