Mid-Autumn Festival is big in Beijing. The second grandest festival in China after the Lunar New Year, and also a legal public holiday in China, it is a day where Beijingers revel in food, family, fairytales, and fun.
Timed to synchronise with the period where the light from the full moon is at its brightest, the festival also marks the beginning of autumn. Here, we would do well to heed celebrated Chinese writer Lao She’s words, “The best place to stay in autumn is Beijing.”
Taking place on 24 September this year, the occasion is a good cultural welcome to Beijing, and a time to revisit the age-old tale of Chang’e. According to legend, Chang’e was the wife of archer Hou Yi, a hero who shot down nine extra suns and was gifted an elixir of life potion. To prevent the potion from falling into the wrong hands, Chang’e swallowed the potion and became an immortal destined for a lonely life on the moon.
Though melancholic in origin, Mid-Autumn festivities are lively and light-hearted. Families usually celebrate the harvest season by lighting up pretty lanterns and tucking into delightfully sweet mooncakes while basking in the glow of the beautiful moon.
There are many Beijing places of interest where you can soak in the Mid-Autumn atmosphere with loved ones and friends. Read on to find out more.
1. Watch Beihai Park come alive by moonlight
A Beijing holiday is not complete without a trip to Beihai Park. Located to the west of the Forbidden City, it is the oldest imperial garden in China, and one of its best preserved. It was also the preferred choice of Chinese emperors and officials to admire the full moon during the harvest festival.
The park has an area of 68 hectares, half of which is covered by the Taiye Lake. On Mid-Autumn Day’s evening, you can hop on a boat to take in the night scenery awash by moonlight and dazzling pavilions.
Tip: For the best moon appreciation sites, head to Jade Flower Island or the Five-Dragon Pavilions in Beihai Park.
2. Bask in the beauty of the Summer Palace
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Summer Palace is one of the key highlights of a holiday in Beijing. Situated in the northwestern outskirts of Beijing, it is known as the most well preserved imperial garden in the world, and was originally built as a summer retreat for China’s past emperors.
During Mid-Autumn Festival, the locals will flock to the Summer Palace to see osmanthus flowers in full bloom. These osmanthus trees are said to be centuries-old, with the oldest plant dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
To soak in the festive vibes, opt for a stroll among the fragrant osmanthus trees, or take a boat ride across the glittering lake.
Tip: Boat rides during the Mid-Autumn Festival are usually in heavy demand, so do make advance bookings.
3. Camp overnight at the Great Wall of China
For the wild at heart, why not view the moon in all its magnificence while camping on the monumental Great Wall of China—one of the seven wonders of the world?
There are various tour packages available, but one particularly well-rated vendor is China Hiking. You can choose from 2- or 3- day camps, covering various sections of the Great Wall. While the hike may be challenging at some parts for the less physically inclined, you may be glad to know that the guides are reliable and knowledgeable. A reviewer even recommended the camping trip as “the only way to get the Great Wall Experience.”
4. Tuck into local delicacies at Shichahai
Close to Beihai Park is Shichahai, a historic precinct consisting of three lakes—Qianhai (Front Lake), Houhai (Rear Lake), and Xihai (West Lake)—and known for its ancient temples and bustling nightlife.
Here, you can gaze at the full beauty of the moon while tucking into savoury local delights.
Shichahai is dotted with tea houses, upscale restaurants, and chic bars. Try Kao Rou Ji, a traditional Beijing restaurant selling delicious roast meats. (The lamb dishes are their specialty!) For a taste of the finest roast duck in Beijing, make a beeline for Jingzun Peking Duck Restaurant. The prices are reasonable and the duck is flavourful, with the skin roasted to perfection.
5. Soak in history at Marco Polo (Lugou) Bridge
Lugou Bridge (or Marco Polo Bridge) is renowned for its exquisite stone sculptures and spectacular views of the moon, especially during the Mid-Autumn Festival. You can also participate in activities such as mooncake making while enjoying the carnival festivities.
In his book The Travels of Marco Polo, the famed Italian traveller waxed lyrical about the beauty of Lugou, proclaiming that “over this river there is a very fine stone bridge, so fine indeed, that it has very few equals in the world.”
Originally built in 1189, Lugou Bridge stands at 266.5 metres long and 9.3 metres wide, and is supported by 281 pillars on which stand numerous stone lions. At one end of the bridge, a stone slab bears the evocative inscription “The Moon over the Lugou Bridge at Dawn” in the handwriting of Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799) of the Qing Dynasty.
6. Savour gourmet mooncakes at Pan Pacific Beijing
Need to refuel after miles of ‘moon’ walks? Bring a box of mooncakes to munch along the way. A traditional Chinese symbol of togetherness and reunion, they are a delightfully edible folk tradition.
From now till 24 September 2018, you can indulge your senses in a heavenly medley of delicate handcrafted mooncakes at Pan Pacific Beijing.
Pick a box of Lotus Paste with Egg Yolk, Mixed Osmanthus Yam, and Golden Silk Chinese Date mooncakes (6 pieces) for RMB168. Or tuck into a more extravagant selection of 8 pieces comprising Lotus Paste with Egg Yolk, Mixed Osmanthus Yam, Golden Silk Chinese Date, and Egg Yolk Hong Kong Style mooncakes for RMB 398.
For reservations of your mooncakes, call +86 010 6376 7777.
Planning a Beijing holiday? For your accommodation and travel planning needs, speak to our friendly team at Pan Pacific Beijing.