With Mid-Autumn Festival upon us, the season of mooncakes has finally arrived. This delicious treat has been traditionally eaten and gifted between friends and family during the Mid-Autumn Festival. This important Chinese festival is about lunar appreciation and moon watching, with mooncakes marking an important aspect of the celebrations. But did you know, mooncakes date back thousands of years and have a history as rich as its taste? From being a token of celebration to a tool for political uprising, there is much more to this delicacy than meets the eye.
I. Their origin dates back more than 3000 years!
According to historical records, there are traces of a version of mooncakes called ‘Taishi cakes’ more than 3000 years ago in the Shang and Zhou dynasties (17th Century BC - 256 BC). These cakes were thin at the edges and thicker in the middle. From Taishi cakes came the development of ‘Hu cakes’- a version made with sesame seeds and walnuts traded from western parts of China.
II. Mooncakes have always marked a celebration.
Finally, the concept of ‘mooncake’ itself was introduced during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). This came to be when General Lijing, commanded by Emperor Li Shimin of the Tang Dynasty, led his troops to victory against the Turks on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. As a token of appreciation, a Tibetan trader offered Li Shimin some round cakes which he subsequently introduced to all his subjects. They quickly gained popularity and were named ‘mooncakes’, eaten on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month.
III. Mooncakes were used to overthrow the government.
You read that right! The infamous ‘Mooncake Uprising’ took place in the late Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368 AD) where people utilised mooncakes to come together and organise an uprising against the brutal rulers. Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of Ming, an opposing group, united various resistance forces to prepare for the uprising. But it was hard to deliver messages to these forces in secret. To solve this problem, on Liu Bowen’s, Zhu Yuanzhang’s subject, suggestion, they started stuffing notes as fillings into mooncakes and distributing them among the Ming forces. Most notably, they wrote: “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar month”. Their plan eventually succeeded and the Mongols were overthrown. Zhu Yuanzhang presented mooncakes to the ministers as gifts.
Now that you know a bit more about the fascinating history of mooncakes, we’re sure you’ll appreciate these delicacies a bit more this Mid-Autumn Festival!
Even though this dish is so traditional and old, it is constantly being reinvented- for example, Green Common has introduced a vegan variation of mooncakes! These Vegan Mooncakes are available at The Green Collective, Funan & make for the perfect gifts for your friends and family. You can also purchase them online here.
You can check out our entire Mid-Autumn Festival gifting range and pair these mooncakes with some premium teas and scented candles to make a beautiful hamper for the festivities!
We wish you and your loved ones a happy Mid-Autumn Festival!