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Mooncakes - Historical Role, Traditions,

Historical Role

In 1280 AD, the Mongolians destroyed the Song Dynasty and controlled China during the Yuan Dynasty (1280AD -1368 AD). Under Mongolian rule, Chinese people were oppressed, persecuted and treated like slaves. Finally, the Chinese had enough and planned a revolution to be held during the August Moon Festival in 1368.

Because Mongolians don’t eat mooncakes, the Chinese planned to overthrow the Mongolians by sending secret messages in mooncakes. Chinese bakers were told to send mooncakes to all Chinese households with the message to execute all Mongolians after the August Moon family gathering. Chinese families were instructed to not to eat the mooncakes until the 15th of the 8th lunar moon.


Besides its significance in Chinese history, mooncakes play an important role in August Moon gatherings and gift giving. These palm-sized round cakes symbolize family unity and perfection. Some mooncakes have a golden yellow egg yoke in the center which looks like a bright moon. They usually come in a box of four and are packaged in tin boxes with traditional Chinese motifs.
A traditional mooncake is made of a sweet bean-paste filling with golden brown flaky skin. The top of the mooncake is embossed with the insignia of the baker molded into the golden brown skin. It takes 2 to 4 weeks to prepare the bean-paste. Because making mooncakes is labor intensive, many families just buy them from bakeries.

Over the years, mooncakes have slowly evolved from a Chinese delicacy to something as common as ice cream cake. To adapt to today’s health conscious and Westernized lifestyle, many bakeries offer miniature mooncakes and fat-free mooncakes. Some are made of yogurt, jelly and fat-free ice cream. To be competitive, bakers boast about how little sugar and oil they use in their mooncakes. Customers can pick and choose the size and filling that suits their taste and diet. However, the traditional bean-paste filling with egg yolk mooncake is still very popular.


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