The Meizhou Hakka Customs of Mid-Autumn Festival

Original Chinese Language Article By: http://www.kjsj.com

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Within Hakka areas of China, the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival is also known as ‘Eighth Lunar Month’ and ‘Mid-Eighth Lunar Month’ Festival.  During the Mid-Autumn Festival, Hakka people not only eat Moon Cakes, but also gather together to share the tradition of watching the Full Moon, and many other unique cultural activities.

Venerating the Moonlight.

‘Venerating the Moon’ is also known as ‘Respecting the Blossoming Moon’ and ‘Connecting with the Blossoming Moon’, but in-short, all these names denote exactly the same festival of the ritualistic  offering of respect to the Full Moon.  The festivities are approached with a deep-felt sincerity that wishes that everyone in society experiences happiness and security now and for the future.  Early during the evening of the rise of the Mid-Autumn Full Moon, Hakka people begin to gather in open spaces (including temple courtyards), on elevated areas (such as balconies and towers, etc), or outside the building that stores the grain supply (found in Hakka agricultural communities).  Upon the open spaces the Hakka people place offerings (representing ritualistic sacrifices) of apples, peanuts, grapefruit, Moon Cakes, and other fruits.  The Hakka people then venerate the Full Moon and pray to the God of the Moon that all beings be protected from tragedy, and receive peace and harmony, as well as requesting good weather for planting, growing and harvesting crops during the upcoming year.  There is also the request that all poor people receive what they need to survive.  After the Veneration of the Full Moon is successfully completed, the entire Hakka community comes out to celebrate and to share feelings of good will.  Generally speaking, children cannot sit still and instead run around and play joyfully!  As things stand today, ‘Venerating the Moonlight’ is still celebrated in the majority of Hakka areas in China.

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Singing Folk Songs.

The special antiphonal Hakka singing is known as the ‘Folk Songs of the Mountain Townships’ and is the greatly favoured Mid-Autumn Festival tradition of the Meizhou Hakka people.  The now deceased Huang Hou Xing (formerly of the Guangdong Folk Song Research Society) reported that: ‘Many places preserve the tradition of antiphonal folk singing during the Mid-Autumn Festival.  In fact, in the Hakka communities of the Meixian area, this type of singing is particularly prevalent at this time of year.’  He also stated that: ‘The Hakka people gather together on the hillsides and mountains to sing – this involves one group singing a line of verse which is answered by another group sitting nearby with a corresponding line of verse – this all happens whilst the participants ae bathed in the bright moonlight.’  Sitting in the bright moonlight during Mid-Autumn Festival and sing folk songs is a unique Hakka cultural practice.

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Burning the Tower of Tiles.

‘Burning the Tower of Tiles’ is also known as ‘Burning the Pagoda’ and involves children building a tower of tiles and bricks that forms a tower with six sides.  In the centre of the tower is placed grass, twigs and bits of wood, which is ignited by using oil.  The flame produced is often a bright red colour that illumines the area as if it is daytime.  The pagodas can be big or small, depending on how many people want to help to build it – and the biggest can be several meters high.  The fires produced from such structures can be spectacular and intense.  This practice may have originated from loyal Hakka subjects of the Han Chinese emperor resisting the bloody rule of the Mongolian invaders of the Yuan Dynasty in China by signalling the time to revolt to other anti-Yuan Han Chinese groups during the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Although this Hakka-led revolt was eventually put down, the Hakka people still preserve this communication device in their Mid-Autumn traditions.  Today, the Hakka use the ‘Burning of the Tower’ as a means of generating the Buddhist power of compassion and loving kindness to all, so that peace and harmony may spread throughout the land.

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Burning Divine-Sky Lanterns.

It is believed that Divine-Sky Lanterns were invented during the Three Kingdoms Period by Zhuge Kongming (i.e. Zhuge Liang).  At the time, Zhuge Liang and Sima Yi were besieged Pingyang and unable to send out troops.  Zhuge was able to design a paper lantern that he released into a wind blowing in the right direction.  The lantern was carried high into the air through the hot air created by the flame, carrying a message to allies that eventually brought help.  As a result this invention became known as the ‘Divine-Sky Lantern’.  During the Qing Dynasty, those who were attacked by bandits often sent messages on the paper lanterns to let their relatives know, warning them to flee the area for safety.  This is why these communication devices are also known as ‘Safe and Sound Lanterns’.  The use of paper lanterns is a unique aspect of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations preserved by the Hakka people as a means to secure blessings and good luck.  Hakka men, women and children used to write messages of peace and good will towards all beings on these paper lanterns, but today there is a concern about the danger of fire from these devices, and so this tradition has virtually died-out in China.

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Eating Grapefruit.

Eating grapefruit in the Meizhou area of Hakka culture is considered as important as eat Moon Cakes at the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

Original Chinese Language Source Text:

http://www.kjsj.com/html/dfkj/mz_2005_138.html

梅州的中秋习俗

中秋节在客家地区又被称为“八月节”或“八月半”。客家人过中秋,除了吃月饼、赏月等常见活动外,还有很多独具特色的风俗习惯。

敬月光

“敬月光”又称“拜月华”、“接月华”,总之都是祭祀月神的意思。

在生活变得富足的深切盼望下,每逢中秋圆月升起时,客家人早早地便在庭院、楼台,或屋前的禾坪、草地等可以看到月亮升起的地方,摆出苹果、花生、柚子、月饼等果品,朝着月亮拜拜,祈祷月亮之神保佑天下太平,风调雨顺,百姓丰衣足食。拜过月后,一家老小在外面赏月,吃东西,谈天说地,增进感情。小孩子一般不会端正地坐着赏月,在皎洁的月色下追逐、嬉戏、玩耍,才是他们最大的乐趣。

至今,“敬月光”这一习俗仍在大部分客家地区存留着。

唱山歌

月下对歌是被誉为 “山歌之乡”的客都梅州一项长盛不衰的中秋活动。已故广东省民俗学会会员黄火兴说过:“很多地方过中秋的时候都有唱山歌、斗山歌的活动。像在梅县、松口这些地方都非常盛行唱山歌,到了八月半就显得特别热闹。”

“月光华华照山坡,山峦山岭树山多,中秋客家山歌日,山上山下唱山歌。”客家山村的乡亲们围坐在一起,对月当歌,赏月谈心,这就是客家人特有的山歌中秋夜。

烧瓦塔

“烧瓦塔”也叫“烧宝塔”,就是让小孩子捡拾瓦片和砖块堆成一个六角塔形,中间放些草叶、树枝,点燃,再加上油或者其他东西,使火焰色泽鲜红,照耀如白昼。宝塔可大可小,若是让大人们动手搭建,高者可达数米,火焰熊熊燃起时尤为壮观。

传说这种习俗与反抗元兵的义举有关。元朝初建时,汉人不满元人对他们的血腥统治,便进行不屈的反抗,各地相约中秋节起事,在宝塔的顶层点火为号,类似于烽火台点火起事。这些反抗虽被镇压了下去,民间却遗存了烧宝塔这一习俗。而在今天,“烧瓦塔”代表了客家人民希望借助佛家力量,祈求风调雨顺、生活平安的美好愿望。

燃天灯

天灯即是孔明灯,相传是由三国时的诸葛孔明(即诸葛亮)所发明。当年,诸葛亮被司马懿围困于平阳,无法派兵出城求救。他算准风向,制成会飘浮上天的纸灯笼,系上求救的讯息,其后果然脱险,后世就称这种灯笼为孔明灯。前清时,受土匪侵害的百姓们还曾利用孔明灯来向逃亡的亲人报信、报平安,因此孔明灯也被称为“平安灯”。

很久以来,放孔明灯已经成为一种独特的民间风俗,人们在元宵、中秋等节日放孔明灯多是作祈福之用。男女老少亲手写下祝福的心愿,祈求来年的日子幸福美满,生活蒸蒸日上。不过,现在为了防火的需要,各地都禁放孔明灯,至此,民俗几近绝迹。

吃柚子

在梅州,柚子是除了月饼之外必不可少的中秋食品,有金柚(沙田柚)、

 

 

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