The origin of Mid-Autumn Festival, known casually as the Mooncake Festival, dates back 3,000 years to the Shang dynasty which celebrated the harvest during the autumn full moon. This is the one night when the moon is at its biggest and fullest. In Chinese culture, a full moon represents harmony and happiness. Though it lasts only for one day, Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival in China. People reunite with their families, sit together to share a meal and celebrate their lives. It is typical to offer sacrifices, in the form of mooncakes or other foods, to the moon. After dinner, its tradition to go outside, light lanterns and admire the full moon.When:
Monday 24 SeptemberWhat to do:
Buy lanterns (there are battery powered ones if you don’t want the younger tots playing with candles) and take the kids to the park for an atmospheric night out.What to eat:
Mooncakes this time of the year come in astonishing varieties and are filled with all the kinds of flavours, from red bean to lotus seed paste, and pastry varieties to snow-skin types. Even Haagen Daz often comes up with their ice cream mooncakes this time of the year.
798 Art Festival
This annual festival is a compelling reason to visit, or revisit, 798, Beijing’s most famous art district, with the highest concentration of galleries and exhibition spaces in the city that showcase Chinese contemporary art. It hosts some of the biggest Chinese and international names on the art scene. If you are an art lover, 798 is a place to go all year long, but it is during this festival that they pull out all the stops with stellar exhibits both local and international.Where:
Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang districtWhen:
Usually around the end of September. Specific dates of the art festival are still to be confirmed.How to get there:
Take Subway Line 14 and get off at Wangjing Nan Station (望京南). Then take bus 403 to Dashanzi Lukou Dong Station (大山子路口东) or take a 20-minute walk to get there.Chongyang Festival
Held on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, it is also called the Double Ninth Festival. It is a day of enjoying chrysanthemum and eating Chongyang cake. The legend tells a story of a devil who lived in the Nu River and spread diseases to people in the village. His parents victims of these disease, a young man named Hengjing sought to take revenge, devoting time to learn martial arts to defeat the village enemy. On the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, he gathered villagers and together they climbed the mountain heading to the river. Each of the men held a dogwood leaf and chrysanthemum wine, which strong fragrance muddled the devil allowing Hengjing to slay him. Drinking chrysanthemum wine, carrying dogwood leaves and climbing a high mountain has since then become a tradition of Chongyang festival. In recent years however, the Chongyang Festival was given a new meaning, and a new name – Senior’s Day. As nine is pronounced jiu which means long or old in Chinese, people celebrate the longevity of a person’s life on that day. Elderly people get together to climb mountains or enjoy a relaxing day with their family members.When:
October 17What to do:
It’s the best time of the year to trek up a hill like the natives – and there’s nowhere more scenic than the Fragrant Hills. See below for its own festival!What to eat:
Chongyang cake which is bedecked with sweet jujube, chestnut and crunchy almonds.
Fragrant Hills Red Leaves Festival
Fragrant Hills Park was built in 1186 during the Jin Dynasty and six centuries later it is now one of the largest parks in the city. Autumn is the best time to go, when it turns into a spectacular attraction with red and yellow tree leaves covering its surrounding mountains. The Red Leaves Festival takes places every year and attracts thousands of visitors daily. Avoid the crowds on the weekdays or in the mornings.When:
Mid-October to early NovemberWhat to do:
Come early and spend the entire day visiting the dozens of historical and natural sights in the area. Take a walk to Shuangqing Villa, Mao’s residence, and stroll along the picturesque Jingcui Lake. Finally head to Yuhua Villa for a panoramic view of the
entire park.What to eat:
Stop by at Shuangqing Villa or Sweat Mist Cave to have a cup of their speciality tea.
How to get there: Take Line 4 to Beijing Zoo. Then take bus 360 (runs 5.30am- 10pm) and get off at Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan; 香山) after 25 stops.