HONG KONG — Mooncakes — the hockey-puck-sized pastries Chinese give each other every year for the mid-autumn festival — were always more about tradition than delicacy: Some people don’t even like them. But in recent years, as corruption eroded confidence in government, the unscrupulous made the dense, calorific cakes even sweeter. Luxurious boxes of mooncakes can contain far more than the traditional filling of lotus seed or red bean paste and a salted egg yolk symbolizing the moon. Gift sets can even include items such as gold coins, top-notch wines, mobile phones and diamond rings.
Now, in an effort to combat bribery and extravagant spending, China’s Communist Party leadership has singled out the tradition in its austerity drive. It has banned the use of public money to buy the pastries and associated gifts, dampening demand just as the market hits its usual peak ahead of the festival on Thursday.