Morphing Mooncake Madness

As Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (中秋节) approaches (this year it’s September 30th), there is a lot of mooncake buying going on in Shanghai. It’s still a tradition to buy mooncakes (月饼), and although some people like them, a lot of the mooncake purchases are for clients, employees, etc. But exactly what the mooncakes are is changing quite a bit, and some of the new forms (like Haagen Dazs’s) have a bit more hope of appealing to younger palates. The traditional recipes are getting cast by the wayside more and more, it seems, as modern corporations muscle in on the holiday market.

Over the past month, I’ve taken various snapshots of the current state of mooncake commercialism.

Just to be clear, we can see the type of traditional mooncake that young Chinese people don’t like much anymore in this Christine ad:

Mooncake Madness

Mooncake Madness

The demand is still fairly strong, and there have been mooncake lines going around Shanghai’s Jing’an Temple for at least a month. But you’ll notice that most of the people buying them are middle-aged or older.

Mooncake Madness

Mooncake Madness

Mooncake Madness

Here’s a Hong Kong mooncake trying to do a more modern take:

Hong Kong Moon Cakes

Haagen Dazs seems to be championing the idea, “if people are going to keep buying mooncakes, let’s give them tasty, pricey alternatives.” And it’s the most visible “traditional mooncake alternative” this year:

Mooncake Madness

Mooncake Madness

I’m really expecting traditional mooncakes to become something of a rarity over the next 20 years.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. “I’m really expecting traditional mooncakes to become something of a rarity over the next 20 years.”

    We can only hope so…

  2. Haagen Dazs had an extreem campaign this year. I don’t moon cakes are going to disappear.
    China has always been able to keep tradition even in fast changing times.

  3. Maybe I’m in a minority, but I find some flavors of mooncake that are found in the supermarket are quite good. Not that I would stand in line for them or anything…

  4. They’re like Christmas fruitcakes.

  5. Mooncakes are YUMMY! …but typically cost about $7 or $8 each over here (Australia), so I don’t get very many.
    I’m not sure what the filling is in your “traditional” one up there – my personal preference is lotus seed paste (or red bean paste for second choice), with an egg in the middle 🙂

    • I’ve even bought myself some mooncake moulds (had to order them from Malaysia via ebay) and looked up recipes, but haven’t managed to find the time to make them yet.

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