May the Fourth (of October) Be With You!2 min read

Ah, Mid-Autumn Festival. A time of coming together, a time of thanks, but most of all, a time of…mooncakes. What are mooncakes you ask? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Often compared (in both shape and density) to a hockey puck, the mooncake is one of China’s most iconic pastries. Traditionally filled with  lotus seed or bean paste along with a duck egg yolk to represent the moon, folk tradition holds that mooncakes date back to the earliest years of the Tang dynasty. Following a major victory over the Xiongnu 匈奴 nomadic tribes to the north of the empire,  the Emperor ordered the Imperial kitchens to prepare ‘barbarian cakes with an image of the toad’ 應將胡餅邀蟾蜍 to be presented to the commanding officer, General Li Jing 李靖.1  At the time, toads were associated with the goddess Chang E 嫦娥, who was said to have gone to live on the moon after betraying her husband, the despotic Hou Yi 后裔. Later, the toad was replaced with a (much more marketable) rabbit.

Another story that gets told about mooncakes dates back to the Yuan dynasty, when China was under Mongol rule. Supposedly, Han loyalists printed patriotic messages in the cakes. Being illiterate in Chinese (or perhaps not yet won over to the joys of the Chinese equivalent of a Christmas fruitcake) the messages are said to have circulated right under the noses of the hapless foreign invaders.

Appropriately perhaps, last year Hong Kong mooncake mogols Meixin launched a new line of mooncakes imprinted with the insignia of a somewhat different Empire and Rebel Alliance:

黑白同盟
型赏中秋

An Alliance of Black and White
To Commemorate of Mid-Autumn

银河帝国标志型月饼

星球大战,荣辉归来,精心设计月饼造型,
银河帝国队营标志,重现儿时乐趣。

Galactic Empire Insignia Mooncakes 

Star Wars strikes back with meticulously designed mooncakes
Relive your childhood with the symbol of the troops of the Galactic Empire

 

义军同盟标志型月饼

星球大战,荣辉归来,精心设计月饼造型,
义军同盟队营标志,重现儿时的乐趣。

Rebel Alliance Insignia Mooncakes

Star Wars strikes back with meticulously designed mooncakes
Relive your childhood with the symbol of the troops of the Rebel Alliance

Not sure what Storm Troopers (which the ad refers to as the ‘white army’ 白兵) have to do with the alliance, but egg custard filled mooncakes sound pretty awesome!

  1. Recorded in Things Seen and Heard in Luoyang  《洛中見聞》. See http://culture.ifeng.com/jieri/special/2013zhongqiujie/content-2/detail_2013_09/17/29696560_1.shtml []
Nick Stember
Nick Stember is a translator and historian of Chinese comics and science fiction. He is currently working closely with: The Jia Pingwa Institute, in Xi’an, to bring more of Jia’s work into English; Storycom and Clarkesworld Magazine, to promote Chinese speculative fiction; the Books from Taiwan Manhua Project; Ricepaper Magazine, based in Vancouver; and the Los Angeles Review of Books China Channel.
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