The legend associated with the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival, is a traditional festival celebrated in Chinese culture. Its history dates back over 3,000 years.
The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunisolar calendar with a full moon at night. On this day, the Chinese believe that the Moon is at its brightest and fullest size, coinciding with harvest time in the middle of Autumn.
Lanterns of all sizes and shapes are carried and displayed – symbolic beacons that light people’s path to prosperity and good fortune. Mooncakes, a rich pastry typically filled with sweet bean, egg yolk, meat, or lotus-seed paste, are traditionally prepared for the celebration.
A significant part of the holiday is Moon worship. The ancient Chinese believed in rejuvenation being associated with the Moon and water, and connected this concept to the menstruation of women, calling it “monthly water”. The Zhuang people, for example, have an ancient fable saying the Sun and Moon are a couple and the stars are their children, and when the Moon is pregnant, it becomes round and then becomes crescent after giving birth to a child. These beliefs made it popular among women to worship and give offerings to the Moon on this evening.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is based on the legend of Chang’e, the Moon goddess in Chinese mythology.
In the ancient past, there was a hero named Hou Yi who was excellent at archery. His wife was Chang’e. One year, the ten suns rose in the sky together, causing great disaster to the people. Yi shot down nine of the suns and left only one to provide light. An immortal admired Yi and sent him the elixir of immortality. Yi did not want to leave Chang’e and be immortal without her, so he let Chang’e keep the elixir. However, Peng Meng, one of his apprentices, knew this secret. So, on the fifteenth of August in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, when Yi went hunting, Peng Meng broke into Yi’s house and forced Chang’e to give the elixir to him. Chang’e refused to do so. Instead, she swallowed it and flew into the sky. Since she loved her husband and hoped to live nearby, she chose the moon for her residence. When Yi came back and learned what had happened, he felt so sad that he displayed the fruits and cakes Chang’e liked in the yard and gave sacrifices to his wife. People soon learned about these activities, and since they also were sympathetic to Chang’e they participated in these sacrifices with Yi.