Celebrating Moon Festival in Taiwan || A Complete Guide

What is Moon Festival in Taiwan? Your Ultimate Guide to the Mid-Autumn Festival

How to celebrate and what to eat during the Moon Festival / Mid-Autumn Festival in Taiwan!

Moon Festival in Taiwan, which is also known as Mid-Autumn Festival, is a public holiday in Taiwan and China.

Like other traditional Taiwanese holidays, this festival date depends on the Lunar Calendar.

In the case of the Mid-Autumn Festival, the date of the Moon Festival is on August 15th of the Lunar calendar, which usually falls in September and early October of the solar calendar.

Moon Festival in Taiwan || Moon Festival Dates

Moon Festival in Taiwan || The Legend of Chang’E

Moon Festival in Taiwan || The Jade Rabbit

Moon Festival in Taiwan || Wu Gang

Moon Festival in Taiwan || Food Specialties

Moon Festival in Taiwan || Moon Festival Song

Moon Festival in Taiwan || FAQs



Taiwan Moon Festival Dates

When is the Taiwanese Moon Festival? Here are the dates you need to know.

10th September 2022

20th September 2023

17th September 2024

Since it belongs to the “Three major festivals” – Lunar New Year, Dragon Boat Festival and Moon Festival – people always have a day off, either employees or students, which allows them to go back to their hometown and reunion and celebrate this holiday with their family.

In the following, we are going to see three of the best-known stories about Moon Festival in Taiwan.

Ghost Month and Zhong Yuan Festival | Discover Taiwanese Traditions Thumbnail

Ghost Month and Zhong Yuan Festival | Discover Taiwanese Traditions

Ghost Month & Zhong Yuan Festival takes place in the entirety of the July of the lunar calendar. Find out what it is and when it’s celebrated.

The Legend of Moon Festival || 嫦娥奔月Cháng’é bēn yuè

Prequel: 后羿射日 Hòu yì shè rì (Hou Yi shoots the suns)

Hou Yi she ri

Legend has it that in the ancient time there was a brilliant archer called Hou Yi, husband of the beautiful fairy-like Chang E, who shot nine of the ten suns down and thus saved all the people from being burned by the unbearable heat.

The truth was that both Hou Yi and Chang E were gods from heaven, who came down to the mortal world to rescue human beings.

However, since the ten suns were actually children of Tian Di (the greatest god), he was furious with Hou Yi for killing his sons, thus exiling him and his wife from heaven.

嫦娥奔月Cháng’é bēn yuè (Chang E flies to the moon)

As time passed by, they started to miss life in the past.

They were worried that they would die eventually as every mortal did.

Therefore, one day Hou Yi went to ask the Queen Mother of the West for help.

She gave Hou Yi a life elixir for two and told him to drink it with Chang E then they would both live forever.

Nevertheless, Chang E wanted to not only live an immortal life but also return to heaven as a goddess once again.

She knew that one dose of the elixir was not enough to help her go back. She secretly took two doses at once and then flew to the sky.

Nonetheless, since she and Hou Yi were punished, she dared not to return to where those gods lived.

Intending to fly to heaven, she instead arrived on the moon. Here, there was nobody except an empty palace called Guang Han Gong, a rabbit (named Jade Rabbit) pounding medicine in a mortar, and a man (called Wu Gang) chopping a laurel in the yard.

Chang E thus lives alone and endures loneliness in Guang Han Gong from then on.

She often gazes afar towards the Earth and thinks back at all the beautiful times when she was there with her husband.

However, unfortunately, she can no longer go back and reunite with him.

Matchmaker God || Taiwanese God of Love and Marriage Thumbnail

Matchmaker God || Taiwanese God of Love and Marriage

In Taiwan, people believe in the existence of “red thread”, an invisible marriage thread tied two persons together by 月下老人, the Matchmaker God.

Legend of Moon Festival || 玉兔搗藥 Yùtù dǎo yào (Jade Rabbit pound medicine)

Yu Tu the Rabbit’s Story

In the story of Chang E, we met Yu Tu, the pounding medicine rabbit on the moon.

Now let’s figure out what happened to this special rabbit – who is the incarnation of goodness and purity.

Once upon a time, there were three fairies who transformed themselves into three elderly men to test the mortal world.

One day they went into a forest and didn’t have anything to eat. It was then that they met a rabbit, a fox and a monkey.

The three animals decided to search for food for the three poor, hungry and elderly men.

moon festival

However, during that time, the region was suffering from famine. Despite their efforts, there wasn’t any food found.

When the rabbit saw that the three elderly men were eating tree roots, he felt very sorry for them.

Out of the blue, a thought flashed through his mind. This compassionate rabbit decided to sacrifice himself as food for them and thus jumped into the fire.

The three fairies were shocked but quickly rescued him out of the fire. They took the rabbit to the heaven and reported this to the greatest god.

The god was touched and then assigned the rabbit to the palace on the moon to make life elixirs.

He even gave the rabbit the name Jade Rabbit to praise his kindness since in Chinese culture jade stands for benevolence.

Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan || The Complete Guide Thumbnail

Dragon Boat Festival in Taiwan || The Complete Guide

The Dragon Boat Festival 端午节 (duān wǔ jié), also called Double Fifth Festival, is celebrated on the fifth day of May of the lunar calendar.

Legend of Moon Festival – 吳剛伐桂 Wúgāng fá guì (Wu Gang chops the laurel)

The Laurel Chopping Man’s Story

Apart from Jade Rabbit, the other character that appeared in the story of Chang E was Wu Gang, the cutting Laurel man.

Unlike the rabbit, Wu Gang was sent to the moon to receive punishment.

Legend has it that, Wu Gang was an extremely lazy guy. He was always lacking patience, responsibility and persistence and usually gave up halfway.

He was always dreaming of doing something easy but great. One day, he came up with the idea, “why not be immortal?” Wu Gang thus travelled for one hundred days and found an old-man-like immortal under a tree.

He asked the immortal to receive him as an apprentice. The immortal hesitated a little but finally agreed.

And then they started with a series of hard training.

However, as the immortal had expected, Wu Gang let him down over and over again.

One day, he asked Wu Gang, “why do you actually want to be immortal?” “Then I can fly to the moon to have some fun!” “Well then,” the immortal sighed, “close your eyes.” When Wu Gang opened his eyes, they were already on the moon.

He was so excited that he began to walk and look around.

Soon he lost interest and said to the immortal, “There’s nothing impressive at all, except this big laurel tree. Let’s go home.”

The immortal replied, “I have brought you here, now you have to go back on your own.”

“But how? I can’t do that.” Wu Gang asked.

“See, only when you chop off this laurel can you go back to the Earth.”

The immortal gave him an axe and disappeared. Wu Gang had no choice but to start cutting the laurel.

He never thought that actually it was a magic tree. Whenever he cut it and caused a wound, the laurel quickly healed by itself.

Therefore, Wu Gang lived on the moon and the only thing he could do was keep cutting it consistently every day and night.

What do People Eat During Moon Festival?

As we learned in Part 1, during Moon Festival people usually eat mooncakes, pomelos and barbecue in Taiwan according to the tradition.

However, don’t just focus on the food (despite the fact that they are really delicious)!

Let’s learn more interesting facts and stories about them!

Mooncakes 月餅 yuèbǐng

The history of eating mooncakes can be traced back to Tang Dynasty (618 A.D.-907 A.D.) since it was firstly found in the literature of that era.

The historical record pointed out that the tradition was originally from the palace and then gradually spread to the people.

The name “mooncake” made its first appearance in Song Dynasty (960 A.D.-1279 A.D.). History has it that in earlier times, mooncakes weren’t like what we know nowadays.

The shape is changed now to be round since it symbolizes reunion, completeness and goodness.

Small package, big results
Mooncakes - A smart way of delivering a key message

Legend has it that during Yuan Dynasty (1271 A.D.-1368 A.D.), Han people suffered from the government of Mongolia (Yuan was actually a dynasty established by Mongolia).

They had been planning for the revolution against Mongolia.

However, since Mongolia heavily guarded and monitored them, it was difficult to communicate and inform one another about the rebel action.

Han people thus came up with a brilliant idea. They put notes written with the message “Kill them on the full-moon day” in the mooncakes that they made and distributed them to every family. 

Eventually, on August 15th of the lunar calendar, the Han people successfully gathered and overthrew Yuan Dynasty.

Later they established their own government, which was Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D.-1644 A.D.)

Where to Buy Mooncakes

Mooncakes not only played an essential role in the history of China, but also became a favourable snack nowadays, which always has plenty of flavours for customers to choose from.

You can buy mooncakes in stores specialised in making gift-style variations or simply normal bakeries during the festival period (they also make numerous to sell).

You can even see people waiting in line if the brand is really famous.

People wait in line to buy mooncakes - Moon Festival in Taiwan

Three of the most common and popular flavours are 綠豆椪 lǜdòu pèng, 蛋黃酥 dànhuáng sū and 芋頭酥 yùtou sū.

綠豆椪 lǜdòu pèng

This kind of mooncake has a sweet stuffing made of green beans. Sometimes you can also find it with pork filling at the same time.

蛋黃酥 dànhuáng sū

A sweet-salty kind of mooncake, which has red bean paste and a complete salty yolk of duck egg inside as the stuffing.

芋頭酥 yùtou sū

It has spiral-pattern purple skin and a sweet filling made of taro. This kind of snack, which made its first appearance in Taichung City, doesn’t belong to the category of “traditional mooncakes”.

Nevertheless, it’s one of the most popular Taiwanese cakes and has become one of the most favourable choices during Moon Festival.

Pomelos 柚子yòuzi

Apart from mooncakes, pomelos are the most-eaten fruit for this festival as well.

Except for the reason that pomelos are in season during this period, its name 柚子 yòuzi also sounds like 佑子 yòuzǐ, which means “blessing children”, is considered an auspicious symbol.

The most common varieties of pomelo in Taiwan are 文旦 wéndàn, 西施柚 xīshī yòu and 白柚 bái yòu.

Among them, the most popular one is 文旦 wéndàn, which 麻豆 Mádòu District of Tainan City is famous for.

They have a fresh and pleasant fragrance as well as a very sweet and juicy taste.

People usually peel pomelos in this way:

  • First, cut off the top part of the fruit with a knife.
  • Second, use the knife to make scratches starting from the bottom of the fruit.
  • Third, peel the fruit like peeling a banana.
  • Divide the fruit into pieces like eating an orange but remember the thin and transparent membrane between each piece is uneatable.

Apart from enjoying the fruit, children usually take the left pomelo peel as hats.

This is a common memory from Taiwanese childhood for many children!

The hat made of pomelo peel is not only for kids but also for....those pets absolutely!
The hat made of pomelo peel is not only for kids but also for….those pets absolutely!

Barbecue 烤肉 kǎoròu

Taiwanese people like to barbecue on the evening of the Moon Festival.

Despite other traditional food, it’s especially curious that only barbecue stands out among all and even gives Moon Festival the nickname “Barbecue Festival”.

Taiwan BBQ
All down to a TV advertisement…?

Actually there are various versions about the origin of this custom.

Among them, the most accepted reason is that it should thank the barbecue sauce advertisement during the 1980s.

One soy sauce factory firstly combined soy sauce with the idea of barbecue and released the TV advertisement during Moon Festival.

One of the most famous lines of the commercial is 一家烤肉萬家香 Yì jiā kǎoròu wàn jiā xiāng.

It literally means ‘One family barbecues, ten thousand families smell good’.

Other potential origins of the BBQ custom…

Since it’s almost autumn, the weather is getting cooler.

It has started to be suitable for camping, which is usually related to BBQ.

As a result, some say that people just want to do the three activities – camping, watching the moon and BBQ, simultaneously.

Another believable version points out that this first became a trend in the Hsin Chu region, which was famous for its BBQ grill fabrication.

During 1980s, export performance had become poor thus the factories began to promote their products domestically.

Traditionally every family gather and sit in the yard or in front of the door to watch the moon and chat together.

To add a further element of enjoyment to the occasion people came up with the idea of barbecuing at the same time.

No matter which version makes the best sense to you, undoubtedly barbecuing has become an indispensable activity during Moon Festival.

Nowadays, people not only barbecue in their yards or at the front door, but also go to barbecue restaurants to celebrate the holiday, especially young people.

It’s very easy to find such restaurants in Taiwan but just a reminder:

You’d better make a reservation. If not, you’ll be waiting in line for a long time!

Having BBQ in a barbecue restaurant is also a good choice.
Having BBQ in a barbecue restaurant is also a good choice.

BONUS SONG || 月亮代表我的心

Since we are talking about Moon Festival, let’s just give it a thought…If you are asked to name a Chinese song about “the moon”, what would your answer be?

the moon represents my heart

I believe more than 80% of the people (no matter if they are natives or learners of Chinese) would tell me the song on their mind is 月亮代表我的心 Yuèliàng dàibiǎo wǒ de xīn (The Moon Represents My Heart).

Actually, it’s not only popular among Chinese speakers but also a must-learn for those who are interested in learning Chinese.

Except for the fact that the song is about the moon, it’s also a nice song to confess your feelings towards your loved one.

People also regard it as the world’s most popular Chinese love song. The lyrics go like this:

你問我愛你有多深,我愛你有幾分。You ask how deep I feel for you and how much I love you. 

Nǐ wèn wǒ ài nǐ yǒu duō shēn, wǒ ài nǐ yǒu jǐ fēn.

我的情也真,我的愛也真。I’m always true and my love is real.

Wǒ de qíng yě zhēn, wǒ de ài yě zhēn.

月亮代表我的心。The moon represents my heart.

Yuèliàng dàibiǎo wǒ de xīn.

你問我愛你有多深,我愛你有幾分。You ask how deep I feel for you and how much I love you. 

Nǐ wèn wǒ ài nǐ yǒu duō shēn, wǒ ài nǐ yǒu jǐ fēn.

我的情不移,我的愛不變。I won’t ever change, my love will be the same.

Wǒ de qíng bù yí, wǒ de ài bù biàn.

月亮代表我的心。The moon represents my heart.

Yuèliàng dàibiǎo wǒ de xīn.

輕輕的一個吻,已經打動我的心。Sweet with a gentle kiss, you have truly won my heart.

Qīng qīng de yīgè wěn, yǐjīng dǎdòng wǒ de xīn.

深深的一段情,叫我思念到如今。All things and times we shared, I remember till this day.

Shēn shēn de yīduàn qíng, jiào wǒ sīniàn dào rújīn.

你問我愛你有多深,我愛你有幾分。You ask how deep I feel for you and how much I love you.

Nǐ wèn wǒ ài nǐ yǒu duō shēn, wǒ ài nǐ yǒu jǐ fēn.

你去想一想,你去看一看。You can think of me, maybe you will see.

Nǐ qù xiǎng yī xiǎng, nǐ qù kàn yī kàn.

月亮代表我的心。The moon represents my heart.

Yuèliàng dàibiǎo wǒ de xīn.

Finally, on behalf of LTL, I would like to wish everyone a meaningful, memorable and romantic Moon Festival!


Moon Festival in Taiwan || FAQs

What is Moon Festival?

It’s a public holiday in China and Taiwan that came about because ancient emperors worshiped the moon in autumn to thank it for the harvest.

When is Moon Festival?

The date of Moon Festival is on August 15th of the Lunar calendar, which usually falls in September and early October of the solar calendar.

What are the dates for the next Moon Festivals?

10th September 2022

20th September 2023

17th September 2024

What do people eat during the Moon Festival in Taiwan?

The most common, and most famous, food specialty is the Moon Cake, which is also widely consumed in mainland China at that time of the year.

In Taiwan during the Moon Festival people are also very fond of pomelos and barbecues.

Do people have a day off for Moon Festival?

Yes, it is an official holiday and one day off is given.

Want more from LTL?

If you wish to hear more from LTL Mandarin School why not join our mailing list.

We give plenty of handy information on learning Chinese, useful apps to learn the language and everything going on at our LTL schools!

Sign up below and become part of our ever growing community!

BONUS | Want to study the local Taiwanese dialect known as Hokkien? We provide Hokkien classes in person and online.

.
Ask us a question!
  • LTL Avatar Alexander Krasnov
    Alexander Krasnov , Student Advisor

    Welcome to LTL Mandarin School!

    How can I help you?