Bright Side Of The Mooncake: A Subtle Allegory Concerning The Story Of Chang’e
24 October 2007 at 10:05:04 UTC a bold new mission to the Moon was launched by the Chinese National Space Administration: a robotic spacecraft Chang’e-1 blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, Sichuan, atop a Long March 3A rocket, representing the first step in the Chinese ambition to land robotic explorers on the Moon. For many space enthusiasts, the Chinese space program's lunar flights have been thrilling to watch。 The first two (Chang’e-1 and Chang’e-2) circling the lunar orbit, Chang’e-3 and Chang’e-4 landing on the moon, as well as carrying the first Chinese moon rover named Yutu and Yutu-2. To cap it all off, the last stage of Chang’e space program is expected to launch as early as the end of 2019 to become China's first lunar sample return mission.
With that in mind, sometime in the not so distant future, we are going to come across another piece of news most likely mentioning Chang’e and Yutu. An expected question may have come across your mind on what these names stand for and why would these names be chosen for the most remarkable Chinese lunar program thus far. Nevertheless, for most Chinese people or those familiar with Chinese culture, the name choice is quite obvious.
According to ancient Chinese tradition (the plot of the legend varies greatly from source to source), Chang’e was the wife of Houyi, an archer who was once granted an elixir of immortality for his heroic acts. One day, when Houyi was not at home, Chang’e drank the elixir, which then made her fly upward towards the sky, but as she loved her husband and hoped to live close to him, she choose the Moon as her new home. Upon discovering that Chang’e was not going to come back, to relieve the sorrow of losing his wife, Yi set out various fruits and cakes that Chang'e liked in the garden underneath the Moon, and did so every 15th day of every 8th lunar month of each year, as that was the day when Chang’e was carried away to the Moon. As for Chang’e, she found herself all alone on the Moon, except for a Jade Rabbit who crafted the beverage for immortality all year round.
Mid-Autumn Festival, being one of the four major traditional Chinese holidays, is not the only occasion than revolves around a particular type of food.
"Hunger breeds discontentment", as a traditional Chinese saying goes, and pretty much every traditional Chinese festival cannot be imagined without food. It is a pillar for emotional exchange that symbolizes expectations for an affluent future.
For instance, during Spring Festival, people would set a lavish array of food on the table ; Green dumplings with glutinous rice balls, that symbolize “reunion” would be consumed during the Lantern Festival with family and friends; there is also a tradition of eating zongzi during Dragon Boat Festivaland as mentioned above, Mid-Autumn Festival would be unthinkable without enjoying the a romantic view of the moon and eating mooncakes.
However, there is a variety of mooncake styles and flavours. Below we are going to take a look at the most distinctive categories.
Cantonese-style mooncakes originate from South China, particularly in Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan provinces. Their core features include a thin brownish crust, rich filling, overall high-fat content, and a clearly outlined concave pattern. The taste can be sweet as well as salty. The fillings are represented by famous local specialities such as coconut, olive seeds, Cantonese sausage, pork, and salted eggs. Cantonese-style mooncakes are popular in both domestic and international food markets due to the large variety of flavours, appealing design, and portability.
Su-style mooncakes originate from Suzhou and are favoured by the people of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. The Su-style mooncake highly concentrates on the process of making a flaky dough so that the crust layer is very soft and crisp while also gaining a delightful colour. As with the Cantonese style mooncake, both sweet and salty kinds are made. Thesweet variants are commonly stuffed with roses, fruits, and bean paste, and the salty stuffing includes fresh meat and shrimps.
Beijing-style moon cakes originate from Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding areas, and are sold mainly in the north. Their main features include moderate sweetness, heavy use of sesame oil, a crispy crust and a soft filling. Compared to the Su-style mooncake, the skin of the Beijing-style moon cake is thicker and more crumbly. The styles of Beijing-style mooncakes are also quite varied, but they are most commonly made with a five-nut filling.
The Teochew-Style mooncake is a traditional flat, white and crispy cake, mostly sweet, coming from the Chaoshan area in Guangdong Province. There are two main types of these mooncakes: one, called Laobing, which is mixed with lard; and the other, called Qingyoubing, which is mixed with peanut oil.
Yunnan-Style moon cake
Yunnan-Style mooncakes originated and are mainly popular in Yunnan province and the surrounding areas. The distinctive feature is their filling, which uses Yunnan speciality ham contributing to their unique ham-like scent.
In addition to these traditional mooncake types, some new trends, such as snowy mooncakes, ice cream mooncakes, fruit and vegetable mooncakes, have arisen recently.
The shape of a traditional Chinese mooncake is round, just like the full moon during Mid-Autumn Festival – the period when it is the biggest and roundest in the year, and traditionally the whole family would come together to share this delicacy, or considering that it is not always possible due to the hectic lifestyles of many people, mooncake exchanges between relatives, friends and colleagues comprise an inevitable part of the celebration. With the Mid-Autumn Festival drawing closer, we highly recommend to take your time, and add variety to your mooncake choice so that you can give the ones you care for a chance to enjoy the full spectrum of this delightful treat!