The Mooncake: A Treat, a Bribe or a Tradition Whose Time Has Passed?

Smithsonian Online

October 2, 2012

Sienna Parulis-Cook had been living in China for nine months when, in the summer of 2007, she found herself in the belly of the country’s $1.42 billion mooncake industry.

A Chinese bakery chain had hired the 22-year-old American to market their contemporary take on the traditional palm-sized pastry that’s widely popular in China. Soon Parulis-Cook was hawking mooncakes door-to-door at Beijing restaurants, and advertising them to multinational corporations that were keen to delight their Chinese employees.

“It opened up a whole new world of mooncakes,” said Parulis-Cook from Beijing.

Growing up in Vermont, Parulis-Cook had read tales of mooncake that made the palm-sized delicacy sound “romantic and delicious.” But in Beijing, she discovered that mooncake traditions — like modern China itself — have changed considerably in a generation.

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