|Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival! It is also known as the Moon Festival. It is a very big holiday here in China. I love the festivals here in China because I get to hear many stories, tall tales and plenty of folklore. But instead of starting off by telling you some of the folklore of the Mid-Autumn Festival today, I wanted to give you a little background story. Bring your slippers and your favorite drink and come join me!
The Chinese believe that the Mid-Autumn Festival takes place when the moon is the fullest all year long. Traditionally, the Chinese get together with family; celebrating and eating mooncakes. When I asked a good friend why, she had to pause. I found my simple question had a very long answer.
In Chinese, the word for round or full sounds very similar to the word reunion. So when the moon is at its fullest, the Chinese all have a reunion. I must admit, I was a little surprised. I knew that family was important to the Chinese people, I had just underestimated how much family is valued. If a family for one reason or another is unable to get together during the Mid-Autumn Festival, they will watch the moon on the same night and take comfort in the fact that they are both looking at the same sky. Because I am so far away from my own family this year, I find it a little bittersweet. I can relate to the longing.
And now, for the fun part of today! The folklore! Are you comfortable? Good, because this story is fascinating and one of my favorites!
A very long time ago, Earth was beautiful, green and the people were prosperous. One day, instead of one sun rising into the sky, ten suns rose, scorching the land and burning the crops. The Emperor asked many brave men to help save the kingdom and protect the land.
A very skilled archer named HouYi heard of the Emperor’s desperate plea. He picked up his bow and quiver full of arrows and walked into a scorched field. The plants were so burnt, they rattled as he passed. He raised his bow and one by one shot the suns from the sky until there was only one left. He returned home to much celebration.
The Emperor was so pleased, he rewarded HouYi with medicine that would grant immortality to HouYi and his wife, Chang’e. HouYi excitedly ran home and presented the Emperor’s gift to his wife. Chang’e placed the medicine in a treasure box on her dressing table for safe keeping. Unfortunately, their greedy neighbor, Peng Meng, saw this.
One day, when HouYi went hunting, PengMeng broke into the house and demanded the medicine from Chang’e. Chang’e was very frightened but she knew she could not give the medicine of immortality to such an evil man. She snatched the medicine from her treasure box and swallowed it. Because the medicine had meant to be split between two people, it caused Chang’e’s body to become very light and she began to float into the sky.
On his way home, HouYi saw his wife floating into the sky. He knew what had happened but because he loved his wife so much, he could not bare to shoot her out of the sky. He watched as she floated all the way to the moon.
Each year, HouYi would set a table of his wife’s favorite foods in honor of her. He would sit and watch the moon, where his wife now lived. It is said the moon is brightest during that time because Chang’e has the Moon Palace cleaned in memory of her time on Earth and to show her love for her husband.