The Moon of Middle Autumn

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One day in every year, Chinese around the world celebrate a very special festival – Middle Autumn Festival.

Today is the day!

One of Chinese legends tells a story of Hou Yi (后羿).  Once there were ten Suns showing up in the sky simultaneously to emit heat over crops on the Earth.  A powerful hero, Hou Yi, sympathized the people who were struggling under the burning heat and decided to offer his help.  He climbed onto the top of Kung Lun Mountain (崑崙山), relied on his superhuman strength and an bow bestowed from the God to shoot down nine Suns.  He then regulated the times for sunrise and sunset on each day to let the people be able to cultivate and harvest the foods.

Afterwards Hou Yi not only gained admirations from the people due to his braveness, but also captured the heart of a very beautiful lady, Chang Er (嫦娥) due to his generosity.  They got married, and followed the traditional daily routine that husband was outside hunting while wife was inside maintaining their home.

One day Hou Yi visited Kung Lun Mountain to study Taoism, and ran into the Goddess (王母娘娘). The Goddess offered him a pack of medicine, which could transform him into one of the Gods in the heaven and achieve his immortality.

After Hou Yi got back home, he trusted his wife, Chang Er, to keep the medicine.  She hid the medicine in her jewelry box.  But unfortunately her action was accidentally peeked by a guy, Peng Meng (篷蒙), who was evilly expecting the medicine for his own immortality.

A few days later, Hou Yi went out hunting as usual.  Peng Meng sneaked into Chang Er’s room and threatened her to give out the medicine.  At that time, Chang Er didn’t have choice but immediately swallowed medicine herself.  Soon after she felt her body getting lighter and lighter, lifting over the ground, floating out of the window, finally she flew towards sky, higher and higher.  Being willing to stay with her husband as close as possible, she chose the closest planet from the Earth to land herself on – the Moon.

After Hou Yi got home at that night, the servants told what had happened during that day.  He became desperate due to losing his beloved wife, Chang Er.  He looked at the sky while whispering her name.  To his surprise, the Moon at that night was especially full and bright.  There seemed to be also a moving silhouette of a lady on the clear background of the Moon.  Knowing that his wife was already at the Moon, Hou Yi once again used his superhuman power to chase the Moon.  However, no matter how hard he had tried, he couldn’t bring himself an inch closer to his wife at the Moon.   With a broken heart, Hou Yi set up a table with incense and his wife favorite food, – a type of round cake with patterns on it, to express his deepest love for his wife.  After hearing the story, other people nearby also started the same worship to offer blessing to Chang Er on the Moon.

Since then it was gradually turning to a tradition that on the 15th day of Lunar August people from different places celebrate middle autumn festival by sharing Moon cakes with friends and family in moonlight.  It is also a time for a couple to show their passion to each other, because moonlight is the best media through which lovers can exchange their hearts and souls.  A perfect full Moon illustrates love, unity and eternity.

Here is a part of a poem from one of Chinese legendary poets:

“We wish each other a long life so as to share the beauty of this graceful moonlight, even though miles apart.” (“但願人長久,千里共嬋娟。”)



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