Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Chinese government cracks down on mooncakes

By Chuck Thompson, CNN
September 4, 2013 -- Updated 0749 GMT (1549 HKT)
Do you see a moon in this cake? Or the yolk of corruption?
Do you see a moon in this cake? Or the yolk of corruption?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese officials are no longer able to use public money to send mooncakes as gifts
  • The new restriction is part of a campaign against corruption
  • Mooncakes are pastries filled with egg yolk and lotus seed paste
  • Expensive mooncake gifts have become important in Chinese business culture

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Presenting mooncakes to relatives and business associates may be an integral part of China's Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, but a new law aims to dampen the spirit of mooncake giving -- at least among government officials.

As announced by the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency, the Chinese government has announced that officials will no longer be able to use public money to send mooncakes as gifts during the festival.

This year's Mid-Autumn Festival falls on September 19.

The new restriction is being presented as part of President Xi Jinping's campaign against corruption and official largesse.

Hong Kong's Mooncakes with modern twist

"Superior departments and officials should seize on the trend of these luxurious celebrations and be courageous enough to spot and rectify decadent behavior in a timely manner while setting an example themselves," the party circular read.

The traditional pastry eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival is normally filled with salted duck egg yolk and lotus seed paste.

The egg yolk inside symbolizes the moon -- each piece can contain up to 1,000 calories.

Mainland China and Hong Kong are particularly devoted to mooncakes.

Come the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, many bakeries set up special mooncake counters just to service customers seeking the pastries.

"Ninety percent of people who buy mooncakes give them to others," says Karlson Wong, head of sales and marketing at Kee Wah Bakery, one of Hong Kong's oldest bakeries.

"It's an opportunity to show respect and build relationships."

Ninety percent of people who buy mooncakes give them to others. It's an opportunity to show respect and build relationships.
Karlson Wong, Kee Wah Bakery

Mooncake graft

A traditional time for family members to gather, the Mid-Autumn Festival has a unique gift-giving culture.

Although gifts and "lucky" envelopes filled with cash are exchanged during Chinese New Year, these must typically be accompanied by personal visits to people's homes.

Not so for the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Gifts can be sent by mail, opening up a whole new world of opportunity to pay respect to many people in a wide network all at once.

In recent years, mooncake giving has exploded in mainland China.

Boxes worth upward of RMB 2,000 ($318) are snapped up by businesspeople eager to bet their business relations on a cake.

Expensive mooncake packages have been known to include high-grade tea leaves, bottles of alcohol or hidden envelopes of cash or coupons for luxury goods, riding the fine line between gifting and bribing.

Last year, mainland authorities began enforcing a rule on gift packages, disallowing all non-mooncake items from packs labeled "mooncake."

This year's law is meant to deliver an even stronger blow against Big Mooncake.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
See CNN's complete coverage on China.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has hit its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is Xi Jinping a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0631 GMT (1431 HKT)
26-year-old Ji Cheng is the first rider from China to compete for competitive cycling's highest honor.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1124 GMT (1924 HKT)
China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, may not yet be a household name outside of China, but that could be about to change.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
When President Xi Jinping arrives in Seoul this week, the Chinese leader will have passed over North Korea in favor of its arch rival.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0656 GMT (1456 HKT)
The push for democratic reform in Hong Kong is testing China's "one country, two systems" model.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Along a winding Chinese mountain road dotted with inns and restaurants is Jinan Orphanage, a place of refuge and site for troubled parents to dump unwanted children.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0836 GMT (1636 HKT)
CNN's Kristie Lu Stout invites Isaac Mao, Han Dongfang, and James Miles to discuss the rise of civil society in China and social media's crucial role.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
Chen Guangbiao wants rich people to give more to charity and he'll do anything to get their attention, including buying lunch for poor New Yorkers.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects are planning to build the future world's tallest towers in China. They're going to come in pretty colors.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Anna Coren visits Yulin's annual dog meat festival. Dogs are part of the daily diet here, with an estimated 10,000 dogs killed for the festival alone.
June 19, 2014 -- Updated 0638 GMT (1438 HKT)
People know little about sex, but are having plenty of it. We take a look at the ramifications of a lack of sex education in China.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
What's the Eiffel Tower doing in China? Replica towns of the world's most famous monuments spring up all over China.
ADVERTISEMENT