Feng Lei | The moon, the cake, and the reunion
The moon waxes and wanes, your dear comes and goes;
the moon turns full and narrow, for our life’s happiness and sorrow;
for both human and nature, imperfection is universal.
We are one thousand miles apart; the moon looks always dear to our heart;
may we live in peace and long, enjoying the world where we belong.
These are the last lines of a famous poem by Su Shi (1037-1101AD). It was recited and sung at the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival almost every year in China.
September 21 was the Mid-Autumn Festival day in 2021, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. Since the COVID-19 pandemic restricts people’s travels, the desire for a reunion with family members has become especially strong for everyone. The day is a national holiday, and young people take this opportunity to visit their parents, whom they may have not seen for months since the Spring Festival at the beginning of the year. The Mid-Autumn Festival Gala, broadcast on TV, also attracts an audience of tens of millions.
The moon is believed to be the brightest at this time in the high, clear autumn sky. I have told The Lady in the Moon, a beautiful and sad folklore, to my Jamaican students of Chinese, and some of them rated it as their favourite. The same moon, round and bright, can be watched, enjoyed and shared wherever you are. The moon is the perfect link that virtually brings people together from different parts of the world.
Before my bed the moon casts its light,
Which looks like hoarfrost in the night
Raising my head, I watch the moon,
Lowing my head, I wish I was home.
This little poem by Li Bai (701-762AD) reflects a wanderer’s thoughts and feelings for his home during this special time. Many poets have composed moving lines about the same theme, such as “Upon the sea’s born the full moon so bright; far apart we share this golden hour tonight.” /Every morning from tomorrow frost will replace dew; O my home and the super full moon, I miss both of you. / “The same moon rises on people of old and today, yet it’s been seen in a different way.”
Moon cakes are eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The moon cake is usually round in shape like the moon, and sweet in taste like people’s feeling at a family reunion. It used to be a delicacy, but people now eat it more for its symbolic and festive implications rather than for its taste.
Feng Lei is the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at The University of the West Indies, Mona