Friday, September 17, 2010

The Chinese Moon Festival

The Chinese Moon Festival is this really cool event where the moon is honored. This year, it falls on Sept 22. I have a bunch of posts scheduled for Sept 21 over at Gypsy Magic but I can't put the link in because it isn't posted yet. And what I did was, I put up a bunch of stuff here that didn't seem appropriate for Gypsy Magic site. I posted them early so I could go ahead and link them. So... if you're wondering what the heck all that moon festival stuff is, now you know!

And if you are curious about the Festival, and don't want to wait until posts show up at Gypsy Magic, here's the scoop. There's even a recipe! So, read on:



Once upon a time, the earth had ten suns. They burned the crops and people suffered from famine. Houyi, a lesser god and a highly-skilled archer, felt sorry for mankind, so he decided to shoot down nine of the suns. After he shot down the suns, he became a hero. He had a beautiful wife name Chang’e (also a lesser god) and they lived happily together. Houyi gathered many followers and one day they all went hunting together regularly. One day, on Houyi’s way back home the Jade Emperor (the highest god) gave Houyi a pill which granted eternal life as a reward for shooting down the suns. He warned Houyi, “Make no haste to swallow the pill.” Houyi loved Chang’e very much and did not want to leave her, so he gave the pill to Chang’e and let her store the pill in a safe place. Chang’e put the pill in her jewelry box. But one of Houyi’s apprentices, Peng, discovered this secret. He decided to steal the pill.

One day Houyi and some other disciples went to the mountain. Peng pretended he was sick so that he could stay at home. Everyone went to the mountain except Chang’e, who stayed at home. Peng burst into Chang’e’s room and forced her to give him the pill. Chang’e knew she was no match for Peng so she took flight and flew far away. She did not want to leave her husband, so she stopped at the moon which is close to Earth. After Houyi discovered what had happened, he was very angry and heartbroken. He looked up into the night and called Chang’e’s name. He saw that on the moon there was a shadow that looked like Chang’e, so he ran and ran and tried to get to the moon. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t reach the moon.

As for Houyi, he built himself a palace inside the sun as “Yang”-阳 (the male principle), with Chang’e as “Yin”-阴(the female principle). Once a year, on the 15th day of the full moon, Houyi visits his wife. That is why the moon is full that night.



The moon cake (月饼- yuè bǐnɡ):

The moon cake is a traditional symbol of the Mid-Autumn Festival. There are many legends surrounding the moon cake. In one tale, moon cakes originated in ancient times to pay homage to the moon. According to other sources, the moon cake was invented as a way to honor the Moon Goddess Chang’e. In what is perhaps the most famous tale, it is said that during the end of the Mongolian- ruled Yuan era Han Chinese rebel Zhū Yuán Zhānɡ distributed a secret message baked in moon cakes giving the instructions “revolt on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month”. On the night of the brightest moon these revolutionary fighters successfully attacked and overthrew the Mongolian army.

And if you want to make some, here is a traditional recipe:

Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Recipes
By Yan Can Cook, Inc


Makes 2 dozen

  • 1 can (17-1/2 ounces) lotus seed paste
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Dough

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2-cup non-fat dried milk powder
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup solid shortening, melted and cooled
  • 1 egg yolk , lightly beaten

1. Mix lotus seed paste and walnuts together in a bowl; set aside.

2. Sift flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl. In large bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until light and lemon colored. Add sugar; beat for 10 minutes or until mixture falls in a thick ribbon. Add melted shortening; mix lightly. With a spatula, fold in flour mixture. Turn dough out on a lightly floured board; knead for 1 minute or until smooth and satiny. Divide dough in half; roll each half into a log. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces.

3. To shape each moon cake, roll a piece of dough into a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured board to make a 4-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Place 1 tablespoon of lotus seed paste mixture in center of dough circle. Fold in sides of dough to completely enclose filling; press edges to seal. Lightly flour inside of moon cake press with 2-1/2 inch diameter cups. Place moon cake, seam side up, in mold; flatten dough to conform to shape of mold. Bang one end of mold lightly on work surface to dislodge moon cake. Place cake on ungreased baking sheet. Repeat to shape remaining cakes. Brush tops with egg yolk.

4. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

Copyright Yan Can Cook, Inc. 1991.

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1 Comment:

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