The Mid-Autumn Festival in Beijing
Beijing Mid-Autumn Festival Customs
Most of these customs have been forsaken with the modernization of the city. Today, they are still remembered by those who strive to keep their centuries-old tradition.
Worshiping the Moon
In old days, a platform for moon worshipping was set up in each house when the Mid-Autumn Festival approached. The offerings on the platform were mainly mooncakes and sometimes fruits were added. Fruits were meticulously arranged according to tradition. Peaches and pomegranates were traditionally put together, which symbolized big families; chestnuts and persimmons were arranged together, symbolizing prosperity; and longans were sprinkled, meaning family unity. For families with members far away from home, a bowl of lotus roots was laid, which expressed that the people away were missed.
Watching the Moon
Watching the moon was very popular in Beijing. There are two methods of moon-gazing: watching the moon directly and watching the reflection of the moon in water. Other entertainments accompanying watching the moon included writing prose, painting the moon and guessing riddles written on lanterns.
A "flower mountain" made up of pots of various flowers was set up on the window sill of each house when the Mid-Autumn Festival was near. On the night of the festival, the family would gather and watch the flowers.
Playing with Rabbit Figurines
A rabbit figurine is a popular Mid-Autumn Festival toy in old Beijing. The figurine is an artistic image of a personified or even deified rabbit based on the legendary jade rabbit on the moon. The figurines are made of clay and come in various shapes, but all are white-faced, wearing golden helmets and armors, with flags or canopies on the back. They ride such animals as lions, tigers, deer and elephants.
Rabbit figurines began to appear in markets from early in the eighth Chinese month (somewhere in the period late August to late September).They were the most popular items in the month of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Nowadays, rabbit figurines have been gradually forgotten. The only places where they are likely to be seen are folk culture museums and art shops.
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Places in Beijing to Celebrate Mid-autumn Festival
Lugou Bridge (Marco Polo Bridge) 卢沟桥
A temple fair is held at Wanping Town east of Lugou Bridge each year to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. The temple fair is a kind of traditional cultural event, which features all kinds of Chinese folk art. The event is usually held on festive or specified days, such as during the Chinese New Year. (More information on Beijing Temple Fairs) A visit to a temple fair is a cultural experience, with a great chance to watch and appreciate Chinese traditional folk art, such as performances of lion and dragon dances, and demonstrations of traditional arts and crafts. In addition, it provides a good opportunity to experience the local lifestyle by rubbing shoulders with the locals.
Location: 15 km (10 miles) southwest of Tian’anmen Square, Fengtai District.
CCTV Tower (中央电视塔）
The CCTV Tower is 385 meters (1260 ft) high. At 221 meters (725 ft) high is a revolving restaurant. It serves a Western buffet (mainly French and Italian), Chinese and Japanese styles, together with various barbeques. There is an open platform at 238 meters (781 ft) up. Telescopes have been set up in each direction for visitors to have a clear elevated view of Beijing.
Location: West Third Ringroad Central, Haidian District.
Beihai Park 北海公园
Beihai Park was chosen by generations of Chinese emperors and high officials to watch the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Beijing locals like to take a cruise on the lake to take in the night scenery on the banks, and the moon reflection in the water. The park will stay open until 9pm that night. A variety of boats are available for use for the festival.
Location: northwest of the Forbidden City, Xicheng District
Shichahai is the oldest water area within Beijing. As night falls, wooden boats travel elegantly on the water. In the boat, a woman in Qipao plays a traditional Chinese musical instrument. Mooncakes and tea are served. The boat company may raise prices for the boat cruise during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Advance bookings are needed as the demand is great.
Location: Xihai, Houhai and Qianhai, north of Beihai, Xicheng District.
Yangtaishan is well-known for its full moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival evening. Friends and family can walk along the tree-lined path, enjoying the fresh air, or they can go fishing or set up campfire by the Riyuehu, Sun and Moon Lake.
Location: 30 km (20 miles) northwest of Tian’anmen, in Haidian District.
Transportation: Take bus 346 at the Forbidden City and get off at North Anhe Station (北安河).
Dajue Temple: 大觉寺
Dajue Temple is located at the southern foot of Yangtaishan in the west suburbs of Beijing. The temple was built in 1068. On the temple grounds, there are over 160 ancient trees, with an old gingko tree over 1000 years old. Fresh water from the spring is collected in the Dragon Pool and runs in little channels through the temple grounds, giving it a pleasant atmosphere. Minghui Teahouse sits in a quiet, carefully renovated courtyard of the temple. The teahouse provides Shaoxing-style buffet dinners and traditional music performances. During the Mid-Autumn Festival visitors can enjoy themselves with good food and sweet tea under the full moon.
Public Buses: Buses on route 903 depart every half an hour from the Forbidden City to Dajue Temple.
Train: There are trains from Beijing South Train Station to Dajue Temple. China Train Search.
It is customary for local Beijingers to go to the Summer Palace to see the osmanthus flowers during the Mid-Autumn Festival. A less known attraction in the Summer Palace, the 72 ancient osmanthus trees make their contributions to the beauty of the imperial garden by their sweet flowers in fall. Family and friends can opt for a walk among the osmanthus trees, or take a boat ride along the lakes to enjoy the lakeside scenery. Boat rides during the Mid-Autumn Festival are very popular and are usually short of demand, so booking in advance is recommended.
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I updated this article on February 28, 2014
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