The Chinese Mid Autumn Festival is also called the Moon Festival. You'll find out why once you've finished reading the story.
The date of the Chinese Moon Festival falls on every August 15th in Chinese Lunar Year; this is the day when the moon is the fullest and roundest in the whole year, which can be predicted by lunar calender only.
If you use Gregorian calender, the date is always different from year to year, ranging from mid-September to early October.
Celebration of the Chinese moon festival is strongly associated with the legend of Hou-yi and Chang-e,a couple of hero and beauty, dating way back to 2170 BC. That's the time when the legendary benevolent Emperor Yao was in reign. It's also the era when the ancient China was just at her dawn.
There are many versions of the legend, details differ from one to another, and still developing as time goes by.
Actually,a writer friend of mine who is also a literature critic told me a couple of months ago that he was organizing a team of writers to rewrite the Chinese legends.
The team was made of first class writers to guarantee the quality, and the program was sponsored by an international literature group. I wonder what the results would be.
But before the stories come out fresh, we just continue to enjoy those that have already existed. Here is the one about the moon festival that I like most.
Before the moon festival came to exist, one of the protagonists of our story, Hou-yi, was an immortal who lived in heaven ruled by the Jade Emperor. He was in service for the emperor and was trusted and favored because of his righteousness and abilities.
However, these very qualities aroused the jealousy of the other immortals. They found opportunities to slander him whenever they could. Subsequently, Hou-yi was banished from the heaven and forced to live on Earth, losing his state of immortality.
He began to hunt to make a living (as shown in the picture above). And he was so skilled that he quickly became famous as an archer and began to notice a kind and very beautiful girl named Chang-e (See the art work below).
One day, the ten suns, who were supposed to take turns to be on the sky for duty, decided to go out together to have some fun. They were in the form of three-legged birds, normally residing in the mulberry trees in the eastern sea.
When on duty, one of the sun birds would have to travel from the east to west, across the sky. It was fine when just one of them was there. But when the ten of them appeared together, the earth began to burn, plants scorched, streams dried up and the animals and people hid in the caves, starving and dehydrated to death.
Upon seeing the disastrous consequences, Hou-yi was angry at the suns whom he knew when he was in heaven. He went out to asked them to go back. But they just jeered at him and continued to have fun. Hou-yi was furious and tried very hard to restrain himself from shooting them down.
When the situation continued, Emperor Yao summoned Hou-yi, asking him to make use of his superb archery skills to change the situation.
Picture at left is Hou-yi shooting the suns.
Without another choice, Hou-yi took out his bow and arrows. Less than 20 seconds later, nine of the sun birds fell from the sky, and the only one who was left alive vowed to follow the old schedule. The only deference was that he would be out to travel across the sky everyday, in the place of his fallen brothers.
Life gradually came back to normal after that. Plants were green again. Hou-yi was respected and loved by all the people and the one he loved, Chang-e. They got married soon afterwards.
In the meantime, many young men came to Hou-yi to ask him to teach them archery. Peng－meng was one of them.
The news of the shooting of the suns to benefit the lives on earth reached the heaven, too, despite the efforts of those who envied Hou-yi to clock the news.
Considering Hou-yi's contribution to earthly people, the heavenly queen talked to Jade Emperor and rewarded Houyi with a pill that granted the restoration of his immortality.
Hou-yi wanted to go back to heaven, but he also wanted to be with Chang-e. He couldn't bear the thought that Chang-e was left behind on earth. He gave the pill to Chang-e to keep.
Peng-meng got the wind of the pill. He pretended to be sick one day when all the men went out to learn archery with Hou-yi. After everybody was gone, he took a knife and went to the room where Chang-e was doing house work and command Chang-e to give him the immortal pill.
Chang-e refused and Peng-meng went to search the boxes, trunks and anything that might be a hiding place. Then he laid his eyes on the box that contained the pill.
Chang-e knew she couldn't resist him and quickly took the pill out, swallowed it the second before Pengmeng grabbed it.
Her body became instantly light, lighter than the air. She began to rise, higher and higher and couldn't return. She didn't want to go to any place that was far from her husband. When she saw the nearest place, the moon, she flew into it.
(Picture above is Chang-e in paper-cutting art.)
When Hou-yi came home that night, he was shocked and angry as well as heartbroken. He missed Chang-e so much that he called and called her name, looking upon the sky. Suddenly, he saw a moving figure in the bright moon looked just like Chang-e.
That day was August 15th in the lunar year.
Hou-yi missed Chang-e so much, he set a table out in the yard and put the snacks and desserts Chang-e usually loved on the table, gazing into the moon, thinking about how they could reunite.
Thus began the moon-gazing custom that express the feelings towards family and loved ones, especially when they are apart. The roundness and fullness of the moon became a symbol for the completeness of heart and life.
Gradually, Chang-e became the lady in the moon. People began to ask beautiful, kind and immortal Chang-e to bless them. Some even worship Chang-e as the Moon goddess. The Moon Festival is a time to celebrate life together with family and friends and also a time to express blessings.
But wait, what about mooncake? You haven't mentioned moon cake yet, Isn't the moon festival also called the mooncake festival like you mentioned on your moon cake page?
Yes. We just finished one legend associated with the moon FESTIVAL. Here is the MOON CAKE legend.
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