Mid-Autumn Day is one of the most important festivals celebrated by the Chinese, Korean as well as Vietnamese people. Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, The Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival celebrating in the middle of the Autumn season. It is called Zhong Qiu Jie (中秋节) in China and also know as Moon Festival, as at that time of the year the moon is at its roundest and brightest.
The Mid-Autumn Day was celebrated as early as 3000 years ago in the Shang dynasty (c. 1600 – 1046 BCE). Initially, Chinese people worship the moon on this day. The term “Mid-Autumn” first appeared in the book Rites of Zhou (周礼)(475 – 221 BC) and became popular in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). Following the emperors, in the beginning, only rich people and officials held parities in their courts. They drank, wrote poems and appreciated the full moon. Common citizens just prayed to the moon for a good harvest.
In the late Tang Dynasty, not only the rich people and officials but also the common community began to celebrate this special day and appreciate the moon together.
From the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), it became an official festival. The tradition of eating mooncakes during Mid-Autumn Day started in the Yuan Dynasty (1279 – 1368).
Thre were many great poems created during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The most famous one is Water Melody, by Su Shi.
丙辰中秋，In autumn of the _bingchen_ year,
歡飲達旦，drinking merrily till dawn,
作此篇，one writes this piece,
兼懷子由。to remember Zi You.
苏轼 水调歌头 Su Shi – Water Melody
How rare the moon, so round and clear!
With cup in hand, I ask of the blue sky,
“I do not know in the celestial sphere
What name this festive night goes by?”
I want to fly home, riding the air,
But fear the ethereal cold up there,
The jade and crystal mansions are so high!
Dancing to my shadow,
I feel no longer the mortal tie.
She rounds the vermilion tower,
Stoops to silk-pad doors,
Shines on those who sleepless lie.
Why does she, bearing us no grudge,
Shine upon our parting, reunion deny?
But rare is perfect happiness–
The moon does wax, the moon does wane,
And so men meet and say goodbye.
I only pray our life be long,
And our souls together heavenward fly!
Edit: Bridging Translation