Mid-Autumn Day Festival-Sept. 22

First mid-autumn festival holiday helps revive tradition

Yes another festival in China. it seems that these festival days come around quicker and quicker each year.  Besides the celebration of the harvest for the farmers.. it is also the day of a very famous love story… from what I can understand it goes like this…

The legend of Houyi and Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality. Tradition places these two figures from Chinese mythology around 2170 BCE, during the reign of the legendary Emperor Yao, shortly after that of Huangdi.  Chang’e simply lives on the moon. (yes, they have a women in the moon we have a man in the moon.. who knew) .

There are many adaptations of the legend of Chang’e that frequently contradict each other and I have heard several of them. However, most of them have the  following elements: Houyi, the Archer, an emperor, either benevolent or malevolent, a woman and a life potion.

One version of the legend states that Houyi was an immortal and Chang’e was a beautiful young girl, working in the palace of the Jade Emperor as an attendant to the Jade Emperor’s wife. Houyi aroused the jealousy of the other immortals, who then slandered him before the Jade Emperor. Houyi and his wife, Chang’e, were banished from heaven. They were forced to live on Earth. Houyi had to hunt to survive and became a skilled and famous archer.

At that time, there were ten suns, in the form of three-legged birds, residing in a mulberry tree in the eastern sea. (yeah.. I really dont know why the suns are birds or why they have three legs.. but what the hell) Each day one of the sun birds would have to travel around the world on a carriage, driven by  the ‘mother’ of the suns. *who knew* One day, all ten of the suns circled together, causing the Earth to burn. ( I guess they were pissed about something) Emperor Yao, the Emperor of China at that time, commanded Houyi to use his  skills to shoot down all but one of the suns. (awww.. that makes since …) Upon completion of his task, the Emperor rewarded Houyi with a pill that granted eternal life.

Emperor Yao told Houyi not to swallow the pill immediately but instead to prepare himself by praying and fasting for a year before taking it. Houyi took the pill home and hid it. One day, Houyi was summoned away again by Emperor Yao. During her husband’s absence, Chang’e, was cleaning and noticed a white beam of light beckoning from the rafters, and discovered the pill. Chang’e swallowed it( hummm I am thinking Adam and Eve here…) and immediately found that she could fly. Houyi returned home, realizing what had happened he began to yell at  his wife. Chang’e escaped by flying out the window into the sky.

Houyi pursued her halfway across the heavens but was forced to return to Earth because of strong winds. Chang’e reached the moon, where she coughed up part of the pill, Chang’e commanded the rabbit that lived on the moon to make another pill. (there is a rabbit that lives in the moon???) Chang’e would then be able to return to Earth and her husband. (so I am assuming she is stuck there until this rabbit makes another pill)

The legend says that the rabbit is still pounding herbs, trying to make the pill. Houyi built himself a palace in the sun to be close to his wife, representing “Yang” , in contrast to Chang’e’s home on the moon which represents “Yin” . Once a year, on the fifteenth day of the full moon, Houyi visits his wife. The birds come together and form a bridge so he can walk across it to meet his wife every year.  That is the reason why the moon is very full and beautiful on that night, so they can see to walk across the bridge. (you would think that he would just bring her with him to the sun or vice versa, and save all the trouble of the bird bridge every year.. but that is just me.) Then everyone goes outside at that time and watches as Houyi visits his wife. Looking for the bird bridge of course.

Another version of the legend, similar to the one I just told you but , differs in saying that Chang’e swallowed the pill of immortality because Peng, one of Houyi’s many apprentice archers, tried to force her to give the pill to him. Knowing that she could not fight off Peng, Chang’e had no choice but to swallow the pill herself.

There are many versions of this story and I think the coolest part is when the birds build a bridge from the sun to the moon so they can meet each other on this night.   It is tradition to eat mooncakes at this time. Some are really sweet filled with redbeans or some other kind of filling and others are filled with meat and are very salty.  I really do not care for the taste of either one of them.  However, you are suppose to sit outside at night eat these cakes and drink tea staring at the moon.

Moon Cakes

I will be sitting on my balcony with my hubby… looking at the city and moon and just drinking tea and relaxing.  Since this is actually a day off for me… so you guys should take a look at the moon on wednesday.  Maybe you will see a woman up there with a rabbit.. or … a bird bridge .. who knows…

until next time…

5 thoughts on “Mid-Autumn Day Festival-Sept. 22

  1. Ami

    Oh yes, I do like moon cakes! The one that has the light tan filling and tastes a bit like peanut and sweet potato is my favorite, while the red bean is hubby’s favorite!

  2. pearls

    LBtW…whenever the moon is full…watch out! It’s a proven fact that some people tend to get a little crazy. But, when I think about it more…some people don’t need the moon’s help! hehehe Hope that made you laugh!

  3. pearls

    One thing I’ve noticed is that all fables have some type of moral to them. But, when it comes to seeing 3-legged birds, it reminds me of a Korean drama that’s centered around the Joseon era where this high priestess constantly had a vision of a bird with 3 legs. My view on this is that they needed to lay off the late night hooch! hehehe

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