China's Mid-Autumn Festival Enjoyed By All, Even . . . . . Panda Bears!


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Celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth-month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the country's most important events, second only to the Spring Festival - One that is celebrated with great abandon by the residents. The best part is that while in most countries festival celebrations are restricted to humans, in China even the pandas get to enjoy the traditional treat - mooncakes!

This year was no exception. At Yantai's Nanshan Zoo, Giant Panda Qing Feng looked a little dejected when he first noticed the visitors tucking into the delicious treats without offering him any. However, he need not have worried. His turn came soon enough as they then turned around and took turns feeding him mooncakes, made specially to suit his palate. The happy bear gratefully accepted his treats and then retreated to a grassy patch to peacefully enjoy this once in a year break from his bland bamboo diet.

The pandas at Chime-Long Xiangjiang Safari Park were equally excited, climbing all over each other and even engaging in some friendly jostling to be the first ones to get the treat. One, was even seen licking its lips in anticipation.

Also known as the moon festival, the event is celebrated with many traditions including dragon dances, feasts and paying homage to the moon. However, the most important tradition of all is to eat mooncakes - A Chinese pastry with a salty egg yolk crust that encompasses a yummy sweet or savory filling. While the filling traditionally used to be red bean paste or lotus seed paste, today mooncakes contain all kinds of things, ranging from dates and nuts to even, Chinese sausages.

As is the case with all Asian festivals, this one too has some fun folklore attached to it. The one that is most commonly quoted is as follows: In ancient times, we were bestowed with not one, but ten suns, which made the earth extremely hot and life a little, unpleasant. Then, a brave man called Hou Yi came and shot down all but one and not surprisingly, became an overnight hero. Soon he was happily married to a wonderful woman by the name of Chang E.

One day, Hou Yi encountered Wangmu or the queen of heaven who gave him a elixir, which if drunk would take him to heaven and make him immortal. However, Hou Yi did not want to leave his beloved wife and therefore, asked her to store it for him. But an evil man by the name of Feng Meng found out and attempted to steal it from her. Helpless, she drank it herself and soon floated away to Space. Wishing to stay as close as she could to her husband, Chang E settled on the closest celestial body to Earth - The moon, where her husband could see her, especially during full moon. As a homage to her, he decided to offer her favorite foods at the alter, a tradition that has turned into the country's biggest festivals anticipated by all, especially the panda bears!


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