Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the biggest festivals celebrated across Southeast Asia including China. It celebrates the full Harvest Moon which is on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar and always falls in either September or October. It is a time for families to reunite and to celebrate the harvest. It is celebrated in art, literature and greetings often depicting the festival scene with blooming flowers and the full moon. We are celebrating The Mid-Autumn Festival with a favourite painting “Chilled Passion” - blooming peonies shining in the bright silver moon light of the full Harvest Moon.
The Legend of Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival is also called the Mid-Autumn Day, or Moon Cake Day.
Once upon a time, there were ten suns in the sky and their heat was destroying the earth. A hero called Hou Yi who was a brilliant archer shot nine of them to save the world. For his act, he was awarded an elixir for immortality. However, he didn’t want to be immortal alone and live without his beloved wife Chang’e. However, she was concerned that a thief would steal the elixir and swallowed it becoming immortal. Unexpectedly, she flew to the moon where she has been stranded ever since as a goddess as punishment for taking the elixir. Missing his wife deeply, Hou Yi created cakes in the shape of the full moon with carvings of Chang’e to memorialise her.
As a reminder of how a loved one can depart unexpectedly, people in China and across southeast Asia make sure to reunite with their families at this special time. If you are interested in learning more, please watch this video of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The Story of Moon Cakes
In the legend, Hou Yi created the moon cakes, but many think the moon cake was created as part of a revolution which ended the Yuan Dynasty of China.
So, what are moon cakes?
The moon cakes are made of sweet pastry filled with either sweet or savory fillings. The traditional fillings include sweet bean paste, lotus seed paste or red date (jujube) paste that envelops one or more mini salted, cured duck egg yolks. Some popular savory fillings include ham, Chinese sausage, roast pork and radish. Another traditional filling is mixed nuts and dried fruit. The outside layer of the mooncake is another dough made with cake flour.
The Chilled Passion
The Mid-Autumn Festival is about family reunion. However, if one lives thousands of miles away from home, they often look at the full moon and think about their families. Sadly, I am one of those far away from my family. When I created the painting “The Chilled Passion”, I imagined myself looking at the moon in an English cottage garden. Although peonies don’t flower in the autumn, blooming peonies in the full moon is often used as a representation of prosperity, living happily ever after, and life’s perfection. As the saying goes “flower viewing in spring, and moon watching in autumn”, so putting the spring flower together with the autumn moon, it’s the idealistic and romantic notion of life. And for me, the blossoms in the moonlight are blooming in serenity. That’s why I created a poetic cottage garden scene with a rhapsody of cool colours and the dancing silver of the moonlight streaming through the branches.
The painting is one of my Chinese paintings - Gongbi - ink and pigments meticulously created on rice paper. Birds and flower painting are one of the favourite subjects in Chinese art. Instead of a traditional Chinese brush painting, the Chilled Passion, as are all of my fine art paintings, is a fusion of English Romance with Oriental Elegance.
I hope you are enjoying this moon festival. Signed limited edition fine art prints of Chilled Passion are available here. Or, you might be interested in learning more about Gongbi painting. If so, you are welcome to sign up for one of my virtual Chinese Gongbi workshop.