The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. It falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. It is always around September to October. Mid-Autumn Festival is the literal translation from its Chinese name, which is 中秋节 (zhōngqiū jié).
Below is the list that includes the 10 most common Mid-Autumn Festival vocabulary. Do you know the story about 玉兔 yùtù and 嫦娥 cháng’é? Do you know what we usually eat at this festival? Let’s learn!
中秋节 zhōngqiū jié Mid-Autumn Festival
As I mentioned earlier, this is the literal translation. 中 zhōng means “middle, center”, 秋 qiū means “autumn season”, and 节 jié means “holiday, festival.”
农历八月十五日 nónglì bā yuè shíwǔ rì 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar
This festival is based on the lunar calendar. It is on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. It is always around September to early October. In Asia, that is around the middle of the autumn season. Here is the dates for the following years:
Mid-Autumn Festival in 2020: October 1, 2020
Mid-Autumn Festival in 2021: September 21, 2021
Mid-Autumn Festival in 2022: September 10, 2022
Mid-Autumn Festival in 2023: September 29, 2023
Mid-Autumn Festival in 2024: September 17, 2024
月亮 yuèliàng Moon
The “moon” is the major part of this festival. Many activities and stories are about the “moon.”
满月 mǎnyuè Full moon
Are you ever curious about when the next full moon will be? It is obvious that the moon’s cycle doesn’t match with our calendar since the full moon happens on different days each month. If you look into “the lunar calendar,” you will see that the moon cycle is based on that. There around 29 to 30 days per month in the lunar calendar, and it is on the 15th and 16th days of a month when we can see the full moon. So, the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which means it is ALWAYS full moon during this festival.
赏月 shǎng yuè Enjoy the moon, admiring the moon
This is one of the traditional activities. Families usually go out after their reunion dinner and enjoy the full moon together.
团圆 tuányuán Reunion
Since the mid-autumn festival is one of the most important Chinese holidays, family members will get together on this day, or for a long weekend if it applies. The reunion meal in Chinese is “团圆饭 tuányuán fàn.”
玉兔 yùtù moon rabbit, moon hare, jade rabbit
玉兔 yùtù is also known as “月兔 yuètù, moon rabbit.” In Chinese folklore, the rabbit is often portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Cháng’e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her.
嫦娥 cháng'é Cháng’e
Cháng’e is the Chinese goddess of the Moon. There are several tales about Cháng’e. One of the most famous stories was that a long, long time ago, there were ten suns in the sky. They all had rose at the same time every day. All the people on earth suffered from extreme heat. An archer whose name was Houyi, shot down nine of them. As a reward, the Queen Mother of the West gave Houyi a medicine that would make whoever took it live forever. Houyi was Cháng’e’s husband; however, one of Houyi’s disciples found out about the medicine and tried to steal it. Chang’e wanted to protect the medicine from the evil people and ate it. She also ran away to the moon to hide.
秋天 qiūtiān Autumn
This festival is in the fall. That’s why we mention it here.
For your reference, here are the four seasons’ vocabulary:
月饼 yuèbǐng Mooncakes
Eating mooncakes is probably the most famous activity at this festival. Since it is so popular, many businesses invent many different flavors. People widely accept both salty and sweet flavors. Here is the list of the most popular flavors:
We call the red bean mooncake “豆沙月饼 dòu shā yuè bǐng” in Chinese. The filling is red bean paste. It’s classic and sweet.
We call the wuren mooncake “五仁月饼 wǔ rén yuè bǐng” in Chinese. 五仁 wǔ rén literally means five kinds of nuts, which includes almonds, walnuts, olive kernels, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Wuren mooncakes are pretty popular among the older people.
The Chinese name for snow skin mooncakes is “冰皮月饼 bīng pí yuè bǐng.” It literally means “cold skin” mooncakes. Snow skin mooncakes have been getting popular in recent years. This kind of mooncake has a different outer skin to the traditional baked mooncakes. The skin color is clear white and made from gluten rice flour. Pre-cooked fillings like red beans, green beans, sword beans, or any other sweet based bean pastes, with glutinous rice flour skin as skin, are used to make snow skin mooncakes. A new kind of skin loved by the younger generation is the mochi green tea flavor. Mix mochi powder with rice flour to make the color of the skin green.
Its Chinese name is “莲蓉月饼 lián róng yuè bǐng.” It’s one of the classic mooncakes. The filling is lotus paste. There are two kinds of lotus mooncakes; one is yellow lotus mooncakes, which are made from lotus paste and light brown sugar. Another kind are called white lotus mooncakes, which are also made from lotus paste, but with white sugar. The lotus mooncakes often have salty egg yolk added as a filling.
Salted egg yolk:
We call this kind of mooncake “蛋黄月饼 dàn huáng yuè bǐng.” “蛋黄 dàn huáng” means egg yolk. I have some American friends that were NOT interested in “蛋黄月饼 dàn huáng yuè bǐng” when they first heard the name. But I have to say, THIS IS MY FAVORITE!! I personally do not like sweet food, and among all of the salty flavored mooncakes, I highly recommend this. One or two solid salty egg yolks with a bit of sweetened filling are the perfect match!
The Chinese name for this kind of mooncake is “鲜肉月饼 xiān ròu yuè bǐng.” The literal meaning of “鲜肉 xiān ròu” is “flash meat”. The filling is mainly ground flash pork.
柚子 yòuzi Pomelo
Pomelo is one of the seasonal fruits around the autumn period. Why has pomelo become one of the traditional fruits to have during the mid-autumn festival? The reason is the Chinese name “柚 yòu” has the same pronunciation as another Chinese character, which is “佑 yòu,” and “佑 yòu” means to bless and protect.” It is a symbol for when families reunite, and having pomelo together represents them being blessed and protected of the rest of the year.
Mid-Autumn Festival Infographics
Simplified Chinese character version
Transitional Chinese character version
Other holiday infographics
Do you like the mid-autumn festival? Hope you enjoy it!