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#2604 - Thursday, October 5, 2006 - Editor: Jerry Katz
Who says the Highlights doesn't have a romantic side?
My friend Hui wrote and said, "i was told today is chinese moon cake day, did not check the date. the full moon in fall, which is the middle of fall, all fruits and vagetables get harvests."
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So here's what I learned...
Majorie Chew wrote the following on http://allmalaysia.info/msiaknow/festivals/midautumn/
Mooncakes are also known as ``reunion cakes'' as family members gather to partake of the sweet confectionery.
Mooncakes are eaten throughout the month before the actual festival day. They make meaningful gifts for kith and kin.
In the evenings, children gleefully carry lanterns of all shapes and sizes. The bearing of lanterns and the origin of mooncakes date back to a 14th century revolt by the Chinese against the Mongols.
In 1376, the Chinese overthrew the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty (1280-1376) in an uprising brilliantly hatched by lantern-bearing messengers who delivered mooncakes with hidden messages.
Legend has it that the time and place of the revolution were concealed in the mooncakes sent to friends and relatives. The midnight massacre of the Mongols was led by Liu Bowen.
Today, altars are set up outside the house facing the full moon on the night of the festival. The ``harvest moon'' is at its brightest and roundest this time of the year.
Offerings of mooncakes, mini yams and water caltrops are laid out for Chang-Er, also known as the Moon Lady. Round fruits are offered as the shape symbolises the fullness of the moon and family harmony.
Some women peel pomelos and mini yams in the belief that they will have a flawless complexion. Others pray to the moon goddess hoping to be blessed with good husbands.
The classic tale of Chang-Er, the beautiful moon goddess, is associated with the Mooncake Festival. Pictures of her in a flowy gown floating to the moon commonly adorn mooncake boxes.
Folklore has it that she was married to the divine archer Hou Yi, who shot nine out of 10 suns that were causing havoc. For his deed, the Queen Mother of the West gave him the elixir of life. Chang-Er stole her husband's potion of immortality, drank it and found herself floating to the moon. There she lives out her days in the cold lonely moon palace with a furry rabbit for companion.
A slightly different version says that Hou Yi was a tyrannical ruler. Chang-Er drank the magic potion to prevent him from becoming immortal.
Another myth tells of woodcutter Wu Gang who was banished to the moon and became Chang-Er's friend and servant. The Jade Emperor punished Wu Gang by ordering him to cut down a cassia tree. It was a task that could never be completed as the tree is immortal and would grow back each time it is felled.
Moon worship has its roots in China's Sung (960-1127), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, when commoners and emperors alike observed the practice.
Imperial chefs made mooncakes over a metre in diameter with designs of the moon goddess, the moon palace and cassia tree. Ordinary mooncakes were several centimetres in diameter.
During the Qing dynasty, mooncakes were renamed ``moonflowers.'' In Mandarin, the word yuebing for mooncakes sounds like ``monthly sickness'' (or menstruation).
The Empress Dowager Ci Xi staged rituals for an elaborate moon festival lasting from the 13th through the 17th day of the eighth lunar month.
Some Chinese families today still stay up late to observe the occasion eating mooncakes, sipping tea and gazing at the beautiful moon. It is regarded the perfect moment if someone catches the moon's reflection in the centre of his or her teacup.
Contributed by Shirley
According to Shirley, Moon Cakes are eaten on Chinese New Years because the Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar (and the little treats look like the moon). They are also eaten as part of an autumn, harvest type celebration which falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.
There are many variations of this recipe. This one is simple for the kids to help with and is desert-like. It reminds me of a cookie recipe my husband's family makes (they're German though... go figure!)
The real moon cakes are far fancier and these will be, often with impressions of chinese letters on them, but I think the fact that the kids can help makes up for the less professional final product *grin*.
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup salted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup strawberry (or your favorite) jam (traditionally red bean paste is used so if you want a more authentic version, you can use a can of red bean paste instead of the jam).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the butter, sugar and 1 egg yolk
Mix in the flour.
Form the dough into one large ball and wrap it in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate dough for half an hour.
Unwrap the chilled dough and form small balls in the palms of your hand.
Make a hole with your thumb in the center of each mooncake and fill with about half a teaspoon of jam.
Brush each cake with the other beaten egg yolk and place on a cookie sheet. (We didn't have a brush to do this, so skipped the brushing step)
Bake for about 20 minutes or just until the outside edges are slightly brown.
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Devotee: Yes, but what does this have to do with nonduality?
Master: Have a moon cake.
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