The Mid-autumn Festival is of great importance to people in Xiamen. A great number of compatriots from HK, Macao, Taiwan and overseas Chinese come back for family reunion on that very day. Besides the prevalent customs of appreciating full moon and eating moon cakes that are popular throughout the country, there is also a unique custom in Xiamen in observing the festival--the moon-cake gambling.
The moon-cake gambling dates back to 300 years ago when the inventor, Zheng Chenggong, a general of the Ming Dynasty stationed his army in Xiamen. Zheng was determined to recover Taiwan, which was occupied by Dutch invaders since 1624. Since most of his soldiers were from other cities of Fujian or Guangdong Province, when every Mid-Autumn Festival came, the soldiers naturally missed their families far away from home. In order to keep the homesick troops occupied, General Zheng and his lower officer Hong Xu invented moon-cake gambling to help relieve the homesickness among the troops and enjoy the festival.
The game has 63 different sized mooncakes as prizes, which implies that seven times nine is sixty-three, for three and nine are the lucky numbers in the Chinese folk culture. For each set, there are one piece of Zhuang Yuan mooncake with a diameter of 6 inches, which are shaped like a crescent moon; two pieces of Duitang with a diameter of around 4 inches; three pieces of Sanhong with a diameter of two to three inches; eight pieces of Sijin with a diameter of around half a inch and a half; sixteen pieces of Erju with a diameter of nearly one inch; and thirty two pieces of Yixiu with a diameter of about half inch. These six ranks of rewards refer to six titles, which are named as winners in ancient imperial examinations---- Zhuangyuan, Bangyan, Tanhua, Jinshi, Juren, Xiucai. With only six dice and one bowl, the means of mooncake games are very simple. Everybody takes turns to throw dice to see which kind of cakes they can get. He who throws six same dice will bag every moon cake on the table.
The Moon Cake Game of with 300-year-old custom has been handed down generation by generation and has become a popular activity as it is a game well combining culture, folk custom and recreation.