To celebrate the launch of our new Eclipse tours going into China in 2009, blogmole thought we would share the fairy Tale of the Chinese Moon Festival (not strictly about the eclipse, but it's certainly moon related)…
Chinese Moon Festival
Moon Festival is one of the very important festivals in China, it falls according to the Chinese lunar calendar each year during which you will see very round and bright moon. Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving in the West, the Moon Festival is one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese. As part of the celebration you will also see moon cakes everywhere in China in different flavours, different shapes, like lemon flavor, walnut one, rose flavor and so on. It is also the gifts we take when we go and visit friends on that day. All the people in China will eat some moon cakes whether they like them or not as it is the tradition and symbolize the whole family reunion. So on the moon festival, the most popular thing is to do is eat moon cakes, but in some region we also set up the tables to do some offering to the God of Moon and watch the full and bright moon.
Like any other festivals, the moon festival also has its own history.
”In ancient china, the emperor usually offer sacrifice to the God of the Sun in spring, and to the god of the Moon in autumn”,
from the historical book from the Zhou dynasty (around 2500 years ago). When the Moon Festival arrived, they offered sacrifice to the Moon, looking at the full moon and drinking and writing some poems. Thus the convention spread to the common people and became a traditional activity. By the Tang dynasty (around 700 AD) people attached more importance to this convention, and then it became the fixed festival. It became more prevailed by the Song dynasty (around 1,000 AD). By the Ming and Qing dynasty (from 1368 AD to 1911 AD) it got the same status as the New Year and has now become one of our major festivals.
There are also many legendary stories about the origin of the Moon festival. The most famous and well-known one to Chinese is called Ms Chang Er flying to the moon. Long, long time ago it was believed that there was 10 suns in the sky that always rose and appeared at the same time. It was so hot that crops withered up and people found it hard to live on. One guy, called Hou YI, had massive strength and was very sympathetic to the suffering people. Then he climbed up to the peak of Mount Kun Lun, withdrew his magic bow with his strong strength, shot 9 suns down and adjured the last sun to rise and fall on schedule to benefit the people very well. Therefore, Hou Yi became respected and revered as a hero by all the people. Later he married a very beautiful and kind girl called Chang Er. Besides hunting and teaching, he was always with his wife. Everyone was envious of them. Gradually more and more people heard of this hero’s magic bow shooting skill and started to learn from him. A particularly bad guy called Peng Meng also joined in them. One day, Hou Yi went to Mount Kun Lun to visit his friend for more learning. On his way he met the Heavenly Queen Mother by accident who gave him the Elixir of immortality as his reward. It is said that one can fly to the heaven and become immortal once swallowing it. However, Hou Yi can’t leave without his beloved wife, and then gave it to Chang Er who kept it in the treasure box on the dresser table. Unfortunately it was seen by the bad guy called Peng Meng and he himself wanted the Elixir to become immortal. Three days later, Hou Yi went out for hunting with all his followers except Peng Meng who pretended to fall ill and stayed at home. After they left for a while, he, holding the sword, walked into the backyard of the residence area and forced Chang Er to take The Elixir out, but she knew she couldn’t win him if they were fighting.
Then she turned back, opened the box, took it out, swallowed it herself and flew off the ground and out of window towards the sky. Chang Er was so caring on her husband that she decided to fly onto the Moon that was closest place to the human world to become immortal. In the evening when Hou Yi was back to home and her maids told him crying what happened in the daytime. He rushed out angrily to look for Peng Ming , but he had already run away. Looking at the dark sky and calling his wife’s name, he was so frantic with great grief. Suddenly he found that moon was extremely bright tonight and some shadow that looked like his wife was shaking in it. He was running like crazy towards it. But when he was running forward, the moon was moving backward and he just couldn’t catch it anyway. He missed his wife so much, but he can’t do anything else. So he asked some maids to put one table in the garden where his wife loved a lot, prepare some fruits, cakes and some snack of his wife’s favorite and leave it on that table, watching Chang Er in the moon who also missed him a lot. When the news that Chang Er had become immortal spread to the other people, a lot of them started to set up the table in their own yard and offer the sacrifice to her in the moon, praying to get good luck from her.
Gradually the convention of offering the sacrifice to the moon has spread nationwide.
This is the fairy tale familiar to many Chinese. So now wait and see during the next Moon festival look at the bright moon for the pretty girl called Chang Er. You may need binocular to find it and you may also see two lovely rabbits that was her pet companying her all the time.
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