According to Chinese folklore, the earth once had 10 suns circling over it, each taking its turn in illuminating the earth with its light. But one day all the suns appeared together and began to scorch the earth. An archer named Hou Yi saved the earth by shooting down all but one sun, and he threatened to eliminate that one as well. This archer then stole the "Elixir of Life" from a goddess and tightened his control over the country. The archer's beautiful wife, named Chang Er, drank the elixir in order to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule. After drinking the elixir, she became light and floated upwards to the moon. Hou Yi loved his wife so much, he didn't shoot down the moon and ended his oppression. The moon festival was celebrated since that time in honor of Chang Er.
Mooncakes were made popular during the Yuan dynasty, when China was ruled by Mongolians. Rebels, knowing that the Autumn Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Inside each cake was a message with the outline of a planned attack on the Mongolians. On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels attacked and overthrew the Mongolians, establishing the Chinese Ming dynasty. Moon cakes are still served during the festival to commemorate this victory and the restoration of Chinese rule. The round "moon cakes" are also symbolic of family unity and closeness.
Tidbit from ©Autumn 2001 Qi Journal