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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in China Series at ChineseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Chinese holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 3, Mid-Autumn Festival. In Chinese, it’s called 中秋节 (zhōngqiūjié).
In this lesson, I will tell you about the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. To Chinese people, it is second in importance to the Spring Festival. Just like during Thanksgiving in the US, young people who have left their families to make a living will return home for a gathering with their relatives.
To fully understand this festival, please keep in mind that Chinese people associate special feelings with the moon, or 月亮 (yuèliàng) and like to use the moon to describe their feelings and emotions.
Now, before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
What is an example of a Chinese four-word idiom with the word "moon" in it?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later, so keep listening!
On the day before the Mid-Autumn Festival, every big city experiences citywide traffic jams or 交通堵塞 (jiāotōngdǔsè), because everyone is busy visiting friends to give them mooncakes or 月饼 (yuèbǐng). The traditional flavors of mooncakes are egg yolk and lotus paste. They are soft and crumbly and taste sweet or salty, depending on the fillings. They were created during the reign of the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty and in wartime, messages were hidden inside them. Now it has become a tradition to eat mooncakes and the fillings are all edible. Mooncakes are round to represent reunion. People exchange mooncakes to convey their wishes for family harmony and wholeness.
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is the fullest in the whole year. So even if you’re busy on this day, don’t forget to appreciate the moon! Moon viewing is an activity with a special emotional significance to Chinese people, especially those with relatives or significant others who live far away. When they look at the same bright moon, they associate their mutual longing for each other with it. There is even a word that refers to the action of admiring the moon, which is 赏月(shǎng yuè).
As the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar is at the end of fall, it often coincides with National Day, or 国庆节 (Guóqìngjié), which falls on October 1. Whenever this happens, the government will arrange for a seven-day public holiday. Many people take advantage of this long holiday by driving out of town to the countryside for a few days of vacation so they can admire the moon, eat mooncakes, and have lots of fun.
A Chinese saying goes, 十五的月亮十六圆 (shíwǔ de yuèliàng shíliù yuán) which literally means “The moon of the fifteenth, the roundness of the sixteenth.” This means that even though the moon on the fifteenth is supposed be the fullest, it may actually not be as full as that on the sixteenth. The saying tells us that even if something we have high expectations for doesn’t work out like we planned, tomorrow something even better will come along, so we should look forward to tomorrow with a positive attitude and not have regrets.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
What is an example of a Chinese four-word idiom with the word "moon" in it?
Here’s one—花好月圆 (huā hǎo yuè yuán), “Lovely flowers, round moon.” It means that the flowers are good, and the moon is full; in other words, life is beautiful and fulfilling. This idiom is used to congratulate newlyweds, or is used during a housewarming.
What did you think of this lesson? Did you learn lots of interesting things?
Are there pastries similar to mooncakes in your country?
Please leave a comment letting us know at ChineseClass101.com, and I’ll see you in our next lesson!