Tag Archives: festival

Valentines Day and China’s Other Unique Festivals

News and Travel Editor

Today is Valentines Day, you either love it or hate it but it seems the Chinese certainly love it given the fact that the Chinese Valentines Day, known as the Double Seventh Festival, predates the Western version by about 1000 years. The Double Seventh Festival is thought to have originated during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), whereas Valentines Day was made famous by Chaucer in the 14th Century.

This is Zhang Chunwen, Beijing’s Clown Delivery Man. He’s been in the job several years now travelling all around the city and will deliver flowers to anyone from your partner to your favourite teacher. Although, not everyone looks too pleased with this unusual method…

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated on the 14th February in the West, the Chinese have their own version, known as Double Seventh Festival, or the Qixi Festival. The festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Why on this particular date I hear you ask? The answer lies with the legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. One day, Niu Lang, a cow herder met Zhi Nu, a fairy from heaven and, although some would say she was out of his league, they naturally fell in love. The story of their love soon got back to heaven, with the king and queen demanding her return. When Niu Lang tried to follow her, the queen created a wide river between them but was so moved by their tears that she allowed them to visit each other one day a year, the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. The date for your diaries on this year is the 28th August, as if you wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2 times a year!

As well as the Qixi Festival, the Chinese have a few more quirky festivals up their sleeve, celebrated throughout the year. Some of our favourites are below.

The Festival of Hungry Ghosts

Admit it, this one sounds awesome. According to traditional Chinese belief, the seventh month of the lunar calendar is when spirits of the ancestors roam the earth – Could this also be why Niu Lang and Zhi Nu meet in the seventh lunar month?! *jaw drops in fascination*. Many Chinese people will appease these ghosts by burning fake money or leaving food out for the ghosts to use in the afterlife. If you find yourself wandering the streets during this month, make sure you don’t sweep up any offerings left out, unless you want some serious misfortune befalling you…

Monihei Carnival

This festival is best summed up by the image below.

monihei-festival
Image courtesy of http://www.yunnantravelguide.com/Line/show.asp?id=726.

 

Interested? Thought so. Monihei Festival celebrates the discovery of a local herbal medicine in Yunnan Province which is rubbed all over your body. During the festival, mud is used to the same effect as a representation of the medicine as people run around trying to get each other as filthy as possible.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Held at Pak Tai Temple in Hong Kong, the Cheng Chau Bun Festival coincides with the Buddha’s birthday and every year, 3 60ft towers are constructed from bamboo around the temple are are covered in buns. The most entertaining part of the festival is the ‘bun snatching race’, where men and women race up the tower grabbing as many buns as possible. The more you grab, the more luck you will have to share with the rest of your family.

Dragon Boat Festival

Zigui County is the centre for this amazing spectacle. The festival commemorates the life of poet and adviser Qu Yuan. Legend has it that Qu Yuan lived around 2500 years ago during China’s Warring States period and committed suicide by drowning in a river, when his leader was defeated. Watch our exclusive video below.

 

Mooncakes and Mid-Autumn Festival

News and Travel Editor

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! You may have also heard it referred to as the ‘Moon’ Festival, or maybe even the Lantern Festival. So what is it, and how is it celebrated?

Mid-Autumn Festival

  • Mid-Autumn Festival is always celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, when the moon is farthest from the earth and appears bright and completely round. 
  • This festival has been celebrated for over 3,500 years – and in China, people take a holiday to spend it with their families.
  • Some Chinese people believe that the Mid-Autumn Festival is the perfect time to find a partner, as the moon acts as matchmaker!
  • Some couples wanting to have children bathe in the moonlight in the hope that the moon will bring them a “good harvest”.
  • Traditionally, people usually give Moon cakes as gifts. Find out more below:

    Mooncake

  • Mooncakes are round as the shape symbolises eternity.
  • Mooncakes represent long life and happiness, to receive one is to be sent wishes for your success and good health.
  • They have different fillings depending on where in China you are. This can include: lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste, nuts and seeds, egg yolks and jujube paste
  • Usually, the Chinese character on the top of the Mooncake explains what type of filling is inside.
  • Mooncakes should always be served with a strong cup of hot tea. Enjoy! (Want to make your own at home? Check out this recipe from Omnivore’s Kitchen)

    moon-cake-master
    Photo from The World of Chinese

 

 

Origins of Mooncakes

There are many different stories that explain the significance of Mooncakes to the Mid-Autumn festival. One story goes that secret letters were hid inside Mooncakes telling the Han Chinese to rebel against Mongol Rule on the day of Mid-Autumn festival. Another popular belief is that Mooncakes are made and consumed as an offering to the Moon Goddess Chang’e. But, who is Chang’e? Time to settle in for a story.

The Legend of Chang’e and Houyi

The legend of Chang’e dates back even further than the Yuan dynasty, with early versions of the story being having been found as early as the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046BC) 

There are several versions of the story of Chang’e. In this version, Chang’e lived in heaven with her archer husband, Houyi. They were both immortal. Heaven was ruled by the Jade Emperor who had 10 sons.

The story goes that one day, the Jade Emperor’s sons transformed into ten suns, scorching the Earth and killing all the plants and wildlife.

The Jade Emperor summoned Houyi, the archer, to stop his sons and save the Earth.  Houyi shot down nine of the Jade Emperor’s sons, leaving just one as the sun.

The Jade Emperor wanted to punish Houyi for killing nine of his sons, so banished Houyi and Chang’e to live as mortals on Earth.

Chang’e was devastated to have lost her immortality. As a result, Houyi set out on a quest to find something to restore it called the Elixir of Immortality. He succeeded!

In one version of the story, Chang’e consumes the elixir to prevent Houyi’s evil apprentice Feng Meng from getting hold of it. In another version, she finds the elixir and consumes it by accident.

The stories end the same way. Chang’e becomes immortal and flies to the moon where she lives alone except for a jade rabbit, Tuye.

She and Houyi are separated forever across the galaxy in the ultimate long distance

358px-Chang'e_Flying_to_the_Moon_(Ren_Shuai_Ying).jpg
Chang’e flying to the Moon

relationship. Happily, in some versions of the story, Houyi can cross the milky way and get closer to Chang’e at Mid-Autumn festival. Eat your heart out, Romeo and Juliet, these two are the literal star-crossed lovers.

To celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival, we sent out Mooncakes to some of our favourite bloggers.

Check out Amanda Bootes insightful and entertaining take on the festival on her blog!