THE ORIGIN OF MOONCAKES
In the previous post of the Mid Autumn Festival Series, we did Mooncake 101 and we learned why we eat mooncake and the various common fillings and types of mooncakes. If you’ve missed that post, please read it here. Some of my super philosophical friends will for sure ask the next question on their list, which is, who invented mooncakes and what’s their origin? Good question!
MOONCAKES STARTS AND ENDS DYNASTIES
Mooncakes date all the way back to the Song Dynasty, back to around 420AD, when the 15th night of the 8th month of the lunar calendar was officially declared as Mid Autumn Festival. Mooncakes are linked back to most famous story of the Mid Autumn Festival, which is the Legend of Chang’E, who is the Goddess of the Moon, and we worshipped her and the moon by placing fruits and cakes outside under the full moon on Mid Autumn Festival.
Now, mooncakes also played a part in a revolution, or there is a folk tale that says so. Mooncakes were used during the Ming revolution (the revolution that would overthrow the Yuan Dynasty for the Ming Dynasty) in the Yuan Dynasty, around the 1360’s. Mongolians ruled China and the Ming revolutionaries wanted to overthrow the Mongol rule and so, the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Huizong of Yuan (Zhu Yuanzhang) with his trusted confidant and talented military strategist, Liu Bowen, spread a rumour saying that there was a deadly plague and the only antidote for it was to eat mooncakes. Messages were then smuggled and placed into the mooncakes and distributed everywhere. The message in the mooncake told everybody that there were to be an organized revolt on the day that we now know to be the Mid Autumn Festival.
A slight variation of this was that the hidden message was imprinted onto the tops of the mooncakes. There are 4 mooncakes in a set; you had to further cut the mooncakes into quarters and then piece it together to reveal the message. This variation was found on Wikipedia, but my family disagrees with this variation stating it definitely was the message in the mooncake variation that they’ve heard growing up.
Are you all caught up with the Mid Autumn Festival Series? Have a read of the first post in the series, Mid Autumn Festival and everything you need to know to get started. Next post, we will talk about the Legend of Chang’E which is a tragic love story… Bring on the tissues!