The Meizhou Hakka Customs of Mid-Autumn Festival

Original Chinese Language Article By:

(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Original Chinese Language Source Text:








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。”












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